June 26th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

Though data and dollars typically tend to be the stars of the brand strategy show, this year’s Forrester Customer Experience Forum shone a light on the importance of corporate culture, the power of design, and the need for companies to be more “true.” Sounds a little vague, yes, but TRUE is actually an acronym that represents a pretty powerful message. In a breakout session on Day One, analyst Tracy Stokes discussed what it takes to for a brand to be considered “truly TRUE”: it has to be Trustworthy, Remarkable, Unmistakeable, and Essential, she explained, and the extent to which it exhibits these qualities orients it according to Forrester’s True Brand compass. Stokes also went on to highlight brands that are heading in the right direction (pun intended!) and scold those that have fallen behind.

Car service company Uber earned praise for excelling on all fronts, with Stokes noting that its cab tracking display and its moving black car icons make it “remarkable” and unlike any other service. The business model is unique as well–Uber cars can’t be hailed like a yellow cab, but don’t have to be ordered hours or days in advance like a town car. With a few taps on the Uber app, customers can order a car, pay for the ride, and track the car in real time as it makes its way to the pick-up location. The company is a disruptive force, Stokes pointed out, because it didn’t set out to take on taxi services or limousine services, but rather completely shake up the space and bring together the best of both worlds.

JetBlue, on the other hand, is struggling. When JetBlue emerged as a major airliner, the company stood out thanks to its promise to not nickel and dime people. Customers were treated to a full complimentary can of soda rather than half a cup (looking at you, Delta!), a free snack, live television already built into the price of the fare, and other amenities that set it apart. But in recent years, the company has changed.

Not only are prices of basic flight essentials like headphones and pillows getting outrageous, but employees are also becoming downright nasty, and customers are noticing. Just weeks ago, a woman on a flight from New York to Boston was almost kicked off for non-compliance after a flight attendant didn’t allow her three-year-old daughter to use the bathroom while the plane waited on a taxiway. The little girl had an accident, and instead of offering to help, the flight crew argued with the passenger and threatened to have her removed until an off-duty pilot intervened. The accident is, unfortunately for JetBlue, one of many. The company is losing its trustworthiness, the first pillar of being a TRUE brand, and that could hurt it in the long run if things don’t change, according to Stokes.

Consumers’ expectations of brands are rising, analysts unanimously agree, and with little to differentiate their products, customer experience is what will make the difference. For companies that are well-aligned along the TRUE Brand Compass, the goal is to keep moving forward. For ones that are losing their way, the time to get back on course is now.


June 20th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

I am a huge New York Rangers hockey fan, so it pained me to watch the L.A. Kings beat up on the Blueshirts to win the NHL’s coveted Stanley Cup. I have to dislike the Kings to some extent based on that fact alone, but I also can’t just dismiss the team’s accomplishments in the past few years, both on and off the ice.

stanleyOn the ice, the Kings did away with the Rangers in five games to take their second NHL title in three years. Not a small feat by any means.

Off the ice, the Kings have a great CRM story to tell. Using Adobe Campaign, the team was able to score a digital marketing hat trick: increased revenue, retention, and fan loyalty. Using Adobe, the team brought greater automation and efficiency to its marketing operations, and centralizing fan data in Adobe Campaign has allowed the team to increase targeting sophistication.

In one campaign designed around the team’s holiday pack, properly segmenting fans generated more than $70,000 in revenue.

The Kings are also using Adobe Campaign to drive online season ticket renewals. As a result, renewals are up 10 percent to their highest level in team history.

When the team launched a new campaign to acquire fans from Twitter, it generated a 6 percent to 7 percent response rate, yielding hundreds of new contacts in its database.

Aaron LeValley, the team’s CRM director, says the greatest benefit from Adobe Campaign has been the ability to automate campaigns. “We are able to interact with our fans in real time with messaging that is appropriate for them rather than having to worry about manual campaigns,” he states.

In fact, the implementation has been so successful that the Kings’ parent company, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), is planning to bring its Major League Soccer team, the L.A. Galaxy, onto the platform. I only hope it doesn’t yield the same results on the field. My fan loyalties couldn’t take another hit.

June 19th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

In an announcement that surprised basically no one, Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 4.56.54 PMJeff Bezos introduced the Amazon Fire during a presentation in Seattle yesterday. The phone is designed for “Amazon’s most engaged customers,” and is the company’s first stab at competing with Apple and Android devices, he said. With fancy features including a 13 MP camera sensor, unlimited photo storage, and Dynamic Perspective display (which mimics a 3D display by tracking your head movements to show content at the optimal viewing angle), it sounds like a great gadget. Its coolest feature, and the one that’s generating the most buzz, is Firefly–a tool that’s sort of like Siri, but with a lot more shopping and a lot less talking.

Firefly is easy to access with a designated button on the side of the phone, and once it’s called up, the service can see barcodes, hear music, and recognize most physical products sold on Amazon. It’s got over 100 million items in its data bank, and can help consumers purchase every single one with just a few taps. If you’re watching a How I Met Your Mother marathon and engage Firefly, for example, it will listen to the audio, determine where the audio is from, and send you to a page where you can buy an entire season on DVD. The device is not a phone; it’s a “shopping machine that calls itself a phone,” Quartz’ Dan Frommer wrote.

So what does this mean? It means that Amazon might get even better at doing what it already does best. “Firefly will make it even easier to pursue a habit that has proliferated in the smartphone age and driven brick-and-mortar stores crazy, ” CNN’s Doug Gross writes. “A user will presumably be able to walk into a store, pick out a product they like, zap it with Firefly and, within a second or two, find out whether it’s available on Amazon for less money. (And then maybe even order it right there from their phone.) ”

But it’s not all bad news. Critics argue that it’ll be a long time before the device becomes popular enough to be a threat, largely due to its price ($199 with a two-year AT&T contract for a 32GB model) and the limited availability of popular apps. The phone doesn’t support apps from the Google Play or Apple App stores, so Fire users are left with only Amazon apps until developers start actively building apps for it. And of course, there’s the obvious caveat: the phone makes it easier to shop, but at just one store. Just one Web site, rather.

Already getting mixed reviews, the Fire phone could be a hit or a miss for Amazon. Still, its release emphasizes the urgency with which brands should be building their m-commerce strategies. With targeted couponing, location-based marketing, and other deeply personalized experiences, brands can combat showrooming. The birth of mobile shopping doesn’t spell certain death for brick and mortar stores, but it does call for major changes. Who knows? Maybe the launch of Amazon Fire could be the push that brands need. 

June 16th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

Mobile security is only going to become more important. This morning, while speaking to managing director of CSO Insights Jim Dickie about an upcoming feature about mobile CRM, I asked him about the kinds of questions he fields from people exploring mobile apps. “There are a lot of concerns about security,” he told me. “If there are sophisticated apps, with pricing information” and access to back-office systems, “there have to be ways of making sure it’s the right user, and remotely wiping information,” he said.

The Vysk case.

The Vysk case.

Enterprises that may have been reluctant to add in mobile apps will eventually have to in order to keep up with the competition and a workforce that demands mobile access. And consumers like me, who once opened up their laptops on the couch to access the web or purchase products, find it easier to do the same tasks through the mobile device.

Entering into this landscape of mobile security is Vysk. What looks like a very thick phone case is actually a sophisticated piece of hardware designed to offer a high level of mobile security to enterprises and consumers alike. CEO and Co-Founder of Vysk, Victor Cocchia, came to CRM Magazine’s office with the prototypes in a locked metal suitcase (“People freak out when I bring this on a plane,” he said) to discuss the product and drive home the importance of security in today’s day-and-age.

“Criminals are ingenious. They know how to use technology to gain an advantage,” he observed. Both legitimate apps and malware have the ability to do things like turn on your microphone and camera. Facebook, for example, has announced that its app will activate a smartphone user’s microphone, hear the sounds of a song or television show, and use that to allow someone to update their status with that information. Many consumers felt uncomfortable with the feature. The implication is also that in the future, the app could also listen to ambient noise and use that for more precise advertising messaging.

Cocchia also brought up a number of instances where hackers were able to capture naked pictures of women by hacking their webcams, or by blackmailing them into stripping for the hacked webcam. One such victim was 2013’s Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf.

Often, when people are hacked, they don’t even know about it. He cited one example of the Australian government spying on meetings regarding a trade dispute between the United States and Indonesia, which came to light only recently, a decade after it happened, apparently from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. “People are giving up their privacy every day without even realizing it,” Cocchia warned.

Vysk is different than other security measures I have used, like installing anti-virus software, dialing up via a VPN, or even entering a numeric key generated by a cog on a keychain. Vysk is hardware. The case is bulky, but also helps extend the battery power in addition to providing security features. It allows people to manually close the shutter to their phone, preventing unwanted photos. The case also serves to block the phone’s microphones and instead go through ones in the Vysk case, where they can be encrypted using principles of quantum randomness that Cocchia says will take years of technological advancements to break. Metadata, those pieces of information the NSA used to monitor activities about who is calling who, cannot be collected using Vysk. The enterprise version is over 200 bucks and requires a monthly subscription, while the consumer version costs as much as similar devices that only provide the extra battery power ($130), a nice selling point.

Cocchia says the platform is good enough presidents in three countries are on waiting lists for the production model, which sounds like a pretty compelling endorsement. But the greatest benefit of security protections like Vysk may be in the awareness they bring to issues like mobile security. Many people have been scared or outraged by news ranging from the NSA data monitoring to the Target breach to the intellectual property theft companies like China are carrying out. But risks to one’s person or the enterprise can be hard to quantify. Figuring out what will protect you from attacks can be even more difficult. Tools like Vysk are a good step to providing enterprises and consumers with the ability to secure their mobile data.

June 11th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

The Internet of Things is upon us. Wearable technology, for example, has been generating tons of buzz recently–just yesterday, Salesforce.com took its first major step into the space by launching Salesforce Wear, a developer pack of customizable applications for Samsung Gear, Google Glass, the Myo armband, Android Wear, the Pebble Smartwatch and the Nymi device. Exciting as this may seem, the news got me wondering: how likely are people to purchase yet another piece of technology to do what their smartphone, tablet, and laptop can already do (better)? If you ask me, the Internet of Things movement will have more luck catching on if the focus shifts to Internet-izing things that are further away from smart phones on the tech spectrum.

Internet-enabled cars, for example, are already in high demand. According to a recent poll conducted by Capgemini, 43 percent of consumers would like their next vehicle to be a connected car, which the report defines as one “where the driver and the vehicle itself are linked to the world through the Internet and wireless networks.” So what exactly does that include? Anything from on-demand in-car entertainment to automatic alerts that can be sent to a mobile device when gas is low or it’s time for an oil-change. Though it’s tempting to assume that the on-demand entertainment would be the biggest draw to connected cars, Capgemini’s research showed that safety was actually the top-ranked feature of interest. Consumers want a car that can self-diagnose mechanical issues and alert the driver that maintenance is required–a whopping seventy nine percent of poll respondents said they were more likely to buy a car that offered this capability. But which ones do?

As I thought about this blog post on my way to work this morning, I realized that, despite seeing at least a dozen car commercials every day on television, I have yet to see one for a connected carAnd then (I know this sounds like a cliche but this totally happened this morning!) I heard an advertisement for Hyundai Blue Link on the radio. In a nutshell, Blue Link is pretty powerful stuff–the technology can help drivers discover new destinations, check maintenance and safety sensors, lock  and unlock their vehicle from their smartphone, monitor their vehicle from afar and enable geo-fencing, curfews and security alerts. Though some of these features have been available here and there, Blue Link brings them all together to build smart cars (lowercase s, lowercase c). It’s a pretty stark contrast from, say, NissanConnect, Nissan’s stab at creating a connected vehicle. But Nissan’s attempt doesn’t reach any further than a tablet does–it makes a variety of apps available through the car’s dashboard, but doesn’t integrate with the functionality of the car itself. It can’t, for example, send maintenance alerts or alert you when your teen misses his curfew. Isn’t that just like having a tablet in your car?

Long story short, the Internet of Things is ripe with potential. Hyundai is making the most of it–why isn’t anyone else? And if they are, why aren’t they advertising it?




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