October 17th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

As Marc Benioff and the rest of the thousands of Salesforce.com employees close the book on another hugely successful DreamForce user conference, the event was eye-catching for a number of reasons. First and foremost, one couldn’t help but being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the event: More than 145,000 attendees on site at the Moscone Center and other venues nearby and more than 5 million online viewers; more than 1,400 sessions, and keynote addresses by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Tony Robbins.

Then there was the technology, and Salesforce has a lot of it. Product launches, like the  Wave Analytics Cloud, and new versions of many long-standing products, are a staple at events like this. And then there were the customer case stories, and there were lots of those as well. And then, let’s not forget the social events. This year’s event featured concerts from Bruno Mars and Cake.

And that’s just the beginning. On Wednesday night, Black-Eyed-Peas frontman Will.i.am introduced his Puls smartwatch to the DreamForce crowd.speaker-william-250

pulsThe music icon-turned entrepreneur, though, was quick to point out that his new wearable device is not a smartwatch. “This is not a watch, by any means. Watches don’t have SIM cards. This is a new type of communication.”

The Puls, which has been backed by Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, will be able to make phone calls without being tethered to a smartphone. It even has its own personal, voice-enabled assistant called AneedA, which will allow you to text, search online, get directions, and more, using simple voice commands. Nuance Communications is providing the speech technologies that power the device.

Other technology built into the Puls includes 16 gigabytes of memory, 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity, a pedometer, accelerometer, and a full QWERTY keyboard. It also comes with a number of apps pre-installed, such as Facebook, Twitter, maps, music, and fitness tracking, and with an open API, developers can add their own apps to the device or make them available for download through an integrated apps store.

On Thursday, it was aging rocker Neil Young’s turn. The 68-year-old musician officially introduced his Pono music system to a much smaller crowd of about 14,000 Salesforce.com die-hards who stayed till the very end of the four-day user conference.speaker-neil_y-250pono

Pono is a triangle-shaped music player that comes with 64 gigabytes of storage, a microSD card that can store an additional 64 gigabytes of data, a 2.5-inch touchscreen, and two external speaker jacks.

Young will support the device with a music store that, when opened in December, will provide access to more than 600,000 songs that are expected to cost about $1.50 each.

So what’s Niel Young’s connection to Salesforce.com. He’s been coming to DreamForce events for several years now, and in 2008 used the conference as the launching pad for the Lin zero-emissions car that he was hoping to get off the ground. (Apparently, he’s still waiting for that to happen).

Young’s connection to Benioff’s baby goes even deeper, though. The Pono site is built on top of Salesforce.com cloud apps, and Young uses Salesforce.com’s Chatter app to collaborate with others involved on his projects.

So a word of advice to all the future techies out there: Instead of calling InventHelp, just come to the next DreamForce in 2015, which will be held at the Moscone Center Sept. 15-18.

October 16th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

It’s been a busy week for TV streaming. HBO announced that in 2015, the company would be offering its HBO Go as a standalone option to users that don’t have a cable subscription, and earlier today, CBS introduced its own Video On Demand site called CBS All Access. Apparently, CBS is trying to beat HBO to the punch because their service is available immediately, and allows viewers to stream full seasons of current and some past CBS shows, as well as stream local programming live. (I wonder where they got this idea. Cough, Aereo, cough.)  Though there are limitations to the service–you can’t watch past episodes of ALL shows and the live streaming doesn’t apply to football–this is a pretty exciting move for CBS.

Maybe it’s just the timing of these announcements that makes it feel like there’s a lot of momentum behind the trend, but it seems to me like it’s only a matter of time before experts are going to start proclaiming that TV is basically dead. And there are some pretty compelling arguments out there to support that. For example, there’s cost. Gizmodo’s Leslie Horn does some enlightening calculations in an effort to determine how much cheaper it would be for consumers to “cut the cord.” Even if viewers were to sign up for HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon prime, it would total out at about $40, which is “more affordable than your $70/month (or more) cable bill,” she says. She also points out that with streaming services, there’s the strongly frowned-upon option of sharing a log-in with friends or family. That can save money, too.

Despite the cost saving opportunity, TV isn’t dying. Yet. In terms of advertising, marketers still see it as the most effective way to reach consumers. “During the first three quarters of 2013, global advertisers spent more money on television ads than any other media type by far–even despite massive growth in Internet ad spending, according to Nielsen’s quarterly report,” Inc.com’s Abigail Tracy writes. And there’s a good reason for all that spending–live TV is still big! Just this week, the season premiere of The Walking Dead broke the U.S. cable viewing recording with over 17.3 million viewers.

Still, this doesn’t mean that TV isn’t changing, or that TV programming and advertising models don’t have to change. For one thing, the introduction of standalone network subscriptions means that the move towards customer experience personalization is finally reaching the television industry. Increasingly, legacy providers like Time Warner are going to have to develop more personalization-friendly packages that give their customers the freedom to choose what networks they want to pay for in order to compete with standalone subscriptions. Eventually, cable packages are going to have to “unbundle.”

And advertisers will have to change their approach too. As devices, including televisions, become more connected, advertisers will have to approach TV advertising as precisely as they approach online advertising. Targeting viewers and personalizing ads based on viewing preferences will eventually become possible and necessary. For now, though marketers/advertisers continue to invest in TV spots, there’s no denying that Internet video advertising is the future. But what worked on television isn’t necessarily going to work on the Web. Interactive online video advertising, which we discuss at length in one of our October features, is a more effective strategy than traditional linear advertising when it comes to reaching the online consumer. Banner ads, too, are on the decline.

Long story short, it’s an interesting time for television. Stay tuned, as they say.

October 10th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

I am not all that fond of business travel, but I want to single out hotels.com for making it a lot less of a hassle, or at least eliminating a few pre-trip concerns.

I never know how to pack, and so I am often bringing extra things that I don’t really need, making my luggage heavier than it needs to be. I’ll pack an umbrella, along with a few extra pairs of socks, t-shirts, a pair of jeans, and some extra personal items, just in case. Then I’ll go home with a suitcase half full of clean clothes. What a waste for a two- or three-day excursion.

So today I received a confirmation email from hotels.com to let me know that my hotel reservation is secure and a room would be waiting for me when I arrive in San Francisco on Monday. Whew! That’s a relief, especially given how scarce hotel rooms are in San Fran during the annual Salesforce invasion of the downtown area.

Then, as I looked through the email further, right there was a breakdown of the weather  for San Fran during my stay. Nice! Now I know how to pack without having to load up on the little extras in case the temperature isn’t what I expected.

Sure, I could get the forecast myself by going to weather.com or any number of other sites and keying in a few minor details, but I didn’t have to, and that’s the point. I got the information without having to do a single thing.

I’m sure this is an easy thing for hotels.com to provide, but proactive customer service like that makes a huge difference for me. I have enough other things to worry about before a trip, and one less thing to think about, one less chore to complete, goes a long way.

Granted, it’s not the same as a phone call, but it shows a real commitment to make sure that I am somewhat prepared for what usually winds up being a hectic couple of days. It was a small, personal touch that has had a huge impact on my customer experience. I went into a colleague’s office and told him about it, and he was also mildly impressed.

October 9th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

Pinterest has pretty much become the go-to social network for recipes, fashion inspiration, and fun DIY projects. As a result, holidays and Pinterest go hand-in-hand.

Well aware of their reach and popularity around this time of year, the social site has rolled out a new initiative earlier this month called Pin Picks, a collection of boards put together in collaboration with several media companies including eHow and Funny or Die.

Pinterest has been experimenting with this for a few months, and the current version of the project is centered around Halloween–the first of the big fall/winter holidays. Each of the Pin Pick boards features themed content from the media outlets. During the first week, the content was centered around costume how-tos. Next week, the theme will be heroes and villains, followed by comic relief , and last-minute ideas. Similar to Twitter’s sponsored tweets, Pin Picks push content in front of users, but what makes Pinterest’s approach different is that these pins aren’t integrated directly into users’ feeds, and they aren’t exactly “sponsored” either. In other words, Pinterest has made it clear that these are strategic partnership, and no money was exchanged.

So what’s the big deal?

The company’s strategy is in line with what other social networks, such as Facebook, are doing: pushing valuable content higher up in users’ feeds, thereby squashing content that’s of a lower quality. But this has additional value for Pinterest. It’s their first foray into co-marketing, which could eventually end up being a promising way to extend its reach. The site has become a haven for DIYers, and it is considered a highly gendered network, with a predominantly female user base. By partnering with media companies that perhaps have wider audiences, Pinterest may be able to expand its own.

If Pinterest is serious about competing with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, this is an important move, and a well-timed one at that.

October 6th, 2014 by David Myron

How do you build a customer centric culture? It’s a question that has a simple, and more complicated, answer.

The simple answer is to always put customers first. This is also known as taking an “outside-in” approach to customer relationships, which means that before investing in a new company initiative, ask the following: How will this investment affect customer experiences?

The outside-in approach to customer relationships might sound obvious, but it was woefully absent from early CRM initiatives. It didn’t help that the majority of early CRM solutions addressed customer relationships from the opposite direction—with an “inside-out” approach—which put the company’s needs first (e.g., cut costs, increase productivity, grow revenue, etc.). These sound like reasonable goals. After all, a company goes into business to make money. But should a company adopt a revenue-generating initiative if it is deemed harmful to customer relationships? Of course not.

Yet, often, many companies still do this. A call center manager, for example, might be asked to lower average call handle times to cut costs. However, this could encourage call center agents to rush customers off the phone, whether or not callers are completely satisfied with the interaction. Naturally, this doesn’t bode well for customer satisfaction scores.

The converse is also true. If call center reps are incentivized to discourage customers from closing an account, these retention specialists might try to bully customers into staying. And, in today’s socially connected society, this can backfire, as Comcast learned earlier this year. Former tech editor Ryan Block recorded a segment of the phone call with a Comcast customer retention specialist, who tried to wear Block down and prevent him from canceling his Comcast service. This resulted in an exhausting verbal duel between the two that, when posted online, quickly became a viral public relations nightmare for Comcast. (For expert analysis of this faux pas, read the story “How Comcast Failed its Customer—And its Agent” on SmartCustomerService.com.)

While putting the customer first should serve as the foundation for your customer centric efforts, there are other important considerations. That’s why I’ve included these essential tips to help you build a lasting customer-centric culture.

Customer Centricity Tips

  1. Listen. Get relevant feedback from customers that will help improve overall and individual customer relationships. Consider asking the following questions: How would you like to interact with us? How well did we serve you? Fans of Net Promoter Score might ask, How likely are you to recommend our company, product, or service to a friend or colleague?
  2. Find a CCO. Hire or promote a chief customer officer, whose sole job is to focus on customers and their experiences across the enterprise. If one isn’t appointed, then, at the very least, someone at the top needs to assume a CCO’s responsibilities.
  3. Communicate. Regularly communicate valuable and relevant information to customers. And, when you do, make sure all information is consistent across all customer channels.
  4. Personalize experiences. It’s pointless to capture and track the great customer data in your CRM system if your organization is not going to use it. Learn your customers’ personal needs and profiles and target your service to each individual.
  5. Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes. Do you want to find out first-hand why you’re getting so many customer complaints? Put yourself in their shoes by role-playing the typical customer experience. Once you suffer through what you dish out, you’ll be shocked into a more customer-centric mindset.
  6. Keep your promises. Similar to relationships with your friends and loved ones, relationships with your customers should be based on trust. Reminding customers of promises kept–and taking responsibility for promises unfulfilled–simply requires openness.
  7. Progress Reports. Every customer strategy needs tweaking over time, even the successful ones. Set goals, measure your results against those goals, and continually try to improve on them. Then repeat. This is how to ensure that you keep what works and toss what doesn’t.

These tips will help your organization create a customer-centric culture. But don’t forget the simple answer that preceded these tips. If you ask, “Will this initiative negatively affect customer experiences?” and the answer is “yes,” then come up with a new plan.


 

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival “Celebrating Customer Experience.” It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here.



 
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