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Is Your Business Transparent?

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment

For their September issue, Trendwatching revisited a consumer trend that is consistently growing in importance: Transparency. St. Maximas the Confessor believed that Adam and Eve were transparent luminous beings and that in the future transformation this luminosity would be restored. In our ever-growing socially-connected world, businesses are becoming more transparent (luminous or not). I’d say businesses and individuals alike would do well to pay heed to this trend, since I think we may be growing transparent in more ways than one (but that’s another topic).

I suggest you read the whole briefing.  Highlights from the September 2009 Trendwatching Newsletter include:

1. Reviews Revolution – The impact of customer reviews continues to soar. Trendwatching suggests (and rightly so I think), “Reviewing is the new advertising.”

Deluge – More people are online, thus more reviews are online. (And not all the reviews are on your website!) Some key sites to watch include: Bazaarvoice (their new ShoutIT integrates with FB et al); TripAdvisor (top travel review site); Google’s Rich Snippets; and a variety of local review sites like Yelp and GeoGraffiti.

Truthiness – As aggragated reviews increase, fake reviews (by tricky businesses and angry customers) will more likely be exposed, so if you’re doing that kinda of stuff: Knock it off!

Everything Reviewed – It’s not just books anymore. Everything from churches to childcare will be reviewed. I’m thinking about righting a review of my parents (5 stars out of 5 stars of course!)

Real Time – If the diner on the corner has a rat in their soup, people may know within minutes. This means companies will have to be more vigilant than ever and ready to respond (plan of action in advance) to crisis and mistakes. I suggest humility and honesty as the best policy!

Mapmania – With Smartphones bulging from everyone’s pocket, people more easily are pulling reviews via map searches.

Reviewer Trumps Review – Reviewer profiles are growing more important as more people will want to read reviews by people like them. (I must admit that I’ve always used the Amazon profile link to see what other books a person reviews before I blindly accept their words. Who knows? They may say Tomaato while I say Tomaeto!

Right of Reply – Reviewers no longer have the final say. Companies will and do have opportunities to reply on sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon.

Warning Will Robinson – Okay I added the “Will Robinson.” But the big deal for companies with reviews is the thing I harp on again and again when talking to folks about social media. It’s about listening! Social media is not another way to spam your message via Twitter, FB and more. It’s a change to listen. You can turn off the comments on your blog, but you can’t turn off the comments your customers are making in other places. So listen. Engage. Learn the art of responding to complaint with grace.

2. Pricing Pandemonium – I like this, “What else can we say about online price comparison than that full price transparency seems near?” Their right. Who doesn’t do searches for products when getting ready to purchase? More than once I’ve been shopping in a store, and done a quick comparison via my iPhone, then ordered the product I was looking at in the store online (and got it in the mail the next day to boot).

Niche – This is interesting. Trendwatching sees the emergence of niche pricing sites focused on a specific think like medication, skiing, bus tickets, elder care, medical tourism, and more.

On-the-spot – Like I said, I’ve used my iPhone for in-store price comparisons. Some shop apps include Amazon Android, Shopsaavy, and SnapTell.

Alerting – With GPS, there are all sorts of price alerting functions that will soon be commonplace.

Forecasting – How about apps that forecast the best time for purchases. Oh yeah! This is already happening with flights in apps like Farecast.

3. Inside Out – Finally, Trendwatching suggests (and rightly so) that transparency extends beyond pricing and reviews to corporate citizenship. So companies need to be more conscious about “doing the right thing” because everyone will know your deceptions. Who knows what employee might be posting stuff online, exposing your fraudulent and poor behavior. This is a great opportunity as well for companies to think and act more responsibly in the world. But it does have some potential problems in my opinion. What exactly does “Do the Right Thing!” mean? In our politically divided nation (and even more divided world), this has potential of politicizing actions by companies even more. How long before everyone gets sick of all the tattling and attack culture that is continuously bred in the left and right of our culture? In spite of the downfall, I do like the idea of holding people and companies responsible. So it just means we have a heartier conversation. Now let’s hope we learn (at some point) the fine are of civility.

Practical Ideas for Social Computing

October 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Last spring I made a presentation at the Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit about practical ideas for retailers in the social space. Looks like a quick summary of the presentation made it to their blog today. Thanks!

By naming the presentation “practical” I hoped to convey the idea of learning by practice. The best way to enter the social commerce space is not by reading books, blogs, and the latest banter online. It is simply to do it. We learn much more by doing than by thinking about doing.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” What?

His inverted aphorism was written to turn conventional expectation on its head by pointing out the value of acting and not simply watching others act. We jump into the middle of fray. We make mistakes. We learn. We perfect. We get better.

Einstein follows a similar appeal by suggesting, “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” While I am a great believer in market testing, I think we may sometimes drown in data while we could actually be throwing a lifeline to a drowning person. Knowledge and charts and graphs and profiles and ideas are not enough.

So enjoy the Bazaarvoice summary, but hopefully you also be willing to step out and trying some things. Who knows? You might even discover something the gurus haven’t stumbled on yet, and you might just create the future.

Get Satisfaction with the Help of Thousands

August 5, 2008 Leave a comment

Tapping into the willing spirit of passionate customers and dedicated online users, Get Satisfaction is a giant help forum for thousands of companies. Ask a question and get responses from thousands of customers. The idea is not new but the application of combining official company pages with employee and customer responses as well as tagging and sorting topics makes this a pretty cool tool for customers and companies.

Customer Service Disaster at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

June 25, 2008 3 comments

If you’re passing through the Bellaterra/Huntington Beach area in California, you might want to watch out for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. The Consumerist hits them with a downright horror show story in customer service denial.

Not sure if I can bear to even eat chocolate after that story.

Update: The COO of Rocky Mtn Chocolate Factory called and apologized to the lady. Rock on! And hand me another chocolate bar.

Brands as Tags

May 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Last year I gave a presentation to group of businessmen on tagging and why it had the power to change the way we think about information, categories and even people. I suggested that we could have a tagging profile for members of congress the might paint a clearer picture than simple left/right divisions. In fact, I thought and still think that tagging could be an interesting tool for 360 profiles on how people (friends and co-workers) perceive us.

Looks like has got the ball rolling with their brand tagging tool. Brand tags is great for brand researchers and fun for the rest of us schmucks to brand the companies we don’t like with words like

Emusic Wants Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Cell Phones

May 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Don’t throw out your discarded Cell Phones and MP3 players. EMusic is offering cash, paypal and even charitable donation options. That charitable idea is great, and I’m glad they’re offering it!

Anybody who offers Larry Norman downloads is already rocking in my book!

Integrating my interests and my work

November 30, 2006 Leave a comment

I wrote about the idea of integrity and integration earlier in the month. The divisions between our personal and public lives do not appeal to me. I want to live as a whole person whether in the workplace, the ministry, the home or even online. When working at Philips, I had the opportunity to use my interest in creativity and play to lead workshops among co-workers. This excited me because within the workforce, I found a way to integrate personal interests with work in a way the I believe benefited the company.

Another key interest in my life has been community/relationship building. That’s why I track social networks and trends in culture. I am interested in how these trends online and offline will impact the formation of relationships. I’ve had the privilege of bringing this interest in community building into several companies, but the focus has primarily been within a company not between the company and their outside stakeholders (customers, vendors, et al).

So I’ve tried to find connecting points between this interest and the company I’ve been working with most recently: Jewelry Television. We’re making some baby steps toward community/social networking. They recently gave approval for me to start a Jewelry Television blog. It’s very low radar right now. We’ve not promoted or mentioned it much at all.

This is still an ongoing experiment. While I want the blog to direct people to our site (so I post ads and videos from the site), I also want to blog to reveal the human side of the company and open the door for conversation with customers. Eventually, it is a step toward building a more socialnet based dialogue between JTV and customers as well as other folks online.

Take a look at it, if you have chance and give me any feedback. I’d appreciate it.

Boo for Bank of America

November 8, 2006 1 comment

Mark Hurst tells a powerful story of anti-consumer experience on his Good Experience blog.

Matthew Shinnick sold a pair a mountain bikes on Craigslist, but the check he received in the mail looked a bit suspicious. He mentioned this to the teller at San Francisco branch Bank of America. Moments later he was dragged from the bank in handcuffs and spent the next 12 hours in jail. The charges were dropped but Shinnick ended up spending over $14,000 in legal fees.

Bank of America’s response? We’re sorry this happened, and we understand your anger, but we don’t really have any liability. Wow! Now that is some customer service: we don’t owe you anything! Sounds like they’re really setting some “higher standards”–for customers that is! Consumer Advocate Clark Howard mentioned Matthew’s plight on his show and ended up starting a “BOA Meter” tracking how much money customers had removed from Bank of America by closing their accounts in response to the Shinnick crisis. It looks like it has topped over $50 million thus far.

Public Text Messaging

October 31, 2006 Leave a comment

Send your text messages to the public display in the restaurant, bar or airport near you. Wiffiti makes messaging public. Not sure how they would handle inappropriate message in a public display. I tested the demo and several folks in my department watched with excitement. This could catch on.

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Via Springwise

My Copyright Muse

October 25, 2006 Leave a comment

With excited anticipation that Hollywood was responding to the customer centric worldview, I posted news about My Movie Muse last July. After three months, I am disappointed to say that so far this supposed panel of movie goers has had little opportunity to offer real opinions on the content of films or the current film-making industry.

Instead, this has primarily turned out to be My Copyright Muse, giving us lessons (disguised as surveys) about why downloading movies illegally is so naughty. Oh well, so much for thinking and communicating with real people from Hollywood. Their surveys are just as two dimensional as an old Western set.

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