Teenagers as “Teamagers”

teenagers2web.jpgWill Richardson over at the education-oriented blog Weblogg-ed had an interesting post today about a recent FastCompany interview with Gartner researcher, Tom Austin. In the interview, Austin makes a pretty compelling argument for implementing and using social tools in the workplace and suggests that the real value from IT departments of the future will come not so much from their technology knowhow, but rather from an ability to facilitate relationships (the fundamental element of business) through social tools.

The interview gets into a number of topics regarding the changing structures in some corporations (and not in others) and Austin suggests that Facebook and MySpace will become models for business interaction.

Look at teenagers today. They’re teamagers. They work on projects as a group and think nothing of doing it that way. I expect to see that kind of thing percolate through the enterprise as an unstoppable force over the next two decades.

Will Richardson asked his readers if they thought today’s teenagers have group collaboration down as a part of the way they do their business. Speaking for my on teenager, I would say yes, absolutely.  What do you think?

Look Who’s Talking

social_bum_rush.jpgWhat happens when you give 100 of the world’s leading marketing professionals, writers, thinkers, innovators and bloggers a book title and an invitation to write about that topic in 400 words or less?The Age of Conversation happens. The collaborative project organized by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan started as an off-hand comment, grew into an e-book and ultimately a printed book, The Age of Conversation takes the individual musings of 100+ authors from all over the world, many of whom have no connection other than shared belief in the power of social media, and turns them into a collection that overflows with creativity and insight.

And just for today, March 29, The Age of Conversation is more than a book. It’s part of a social media experiment. And you can be part of it.

Join the Age of Conversation Bum Rush on March 29thThe idea is to generate as much web and Amazon activity as possible on a single day, both to drive the book’s ranking on Amazon upward and to create momentum for the book’s sequel (more about this in a moment…hint: I’m involved). If you use this link to buy it today, you’ll create a win-win-win:

  1. You get a terrific social media and marketing book.
  2. The book’s editors and contributors get the thrill of seeing it sail up the Amazon charts.
  3. Variety, the Children’s Charity receives all proceeds, including those from the book’s Amazon affiliate link.

The momentum’s important, because editors Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton are at it again. And this time I’ll be one of the contributors! I’m excited to be one of the 275 marketing and social media writers and bloggers selected to be part of The Age of Conversation ’08, now in the works. I hope you’ll click on some of the other names in the list to see the diversity of backgrounds and experiences represented:

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Beeker Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

[via mediatortech.com]

It’s the Little Things, Part 3

handshake-recruiting-sepia.jpgIn a recent post on her excellent blog, “Customers Rock!”, Becky Carroll told a tale of two experiences. The last paragraph of the post focused on how “Little Things”  can make all the difference in a customer experience; a concept I have discussed here on several occasions. Becky said:

I heard an interesting quote on the radio today which sums this all up: “The little things aren’t a lot – they are everything.” Little things like looking a customer in the eye, greeting them, smiling, and carrying on a human conversation go a long way towards marketing a company/store as friendly and welcoming. And it is cheaper than all those advertisements, right?!

Right! So why is it that, generally speaking, the larger the retailer, the larger the spend on messaging and the smaller the spend on the human capital who interact directly with customers and can have the biggest impact on the experience?

In large retail chains, store and call center employees are usually viewed as expenses that must be closely managed. The experience that results from a focus on cost vs quality is often inconsistent and usually unremarkable (unless of course it’s really bad). Some companies recognize their experience problem and try to address it with training and/or initiatives to “change the culture”. But when you have turnover of 40 – 50%, the results of those initiatives quickly fade. The old adage “you get what you pay for” certainly holds up here.

Treat Me Like I Matter

Contrast this with the individual proprietor who’s competitive edge comes from their ability to deliver a more personalized experience. Finding and keeping quality employees who can deliver the same experience as the owner is the top priority. They don’t have the time or the budget to replace and retain employees every couple of months so they often pay a little better and treat the employees like family resulting in lower turnover.   More importantly, the relationships those long-term employees build with customers over time are a big part of the loyalty equation.

Without long term employees interacting with customers every day, it’s very difficult for big retailers to build those personal relationships. They try to compensate with CRM systems and loyalty programs, but in the end, “personalized” marketing is not substitute for the personal touch.

D-Link: Customer Experience – Opportunity Lost

nodlink2.jpgMy D-Link wireless router died this past weekend. Again! and I’m not a happy customer.

I purchased the D-Link DIR-615 router last September after a lightning strike took out my cable and just about everything attached to it. After mail-in rebate, it cost about $50.00. Two months later, it stopped working. I tried to return it to Office Depot, but was that told that they only accept returns within 15 days of purchase and that I would have to call D-Link to get it repaired or replaced.

I worked with a D-Link technician to troubleshoot the router and eventually a Return Authorization was issued. I was then told that I would have to ship the defective modem back to them at my expense. I tried to argue that they should send me prepaid UPS tag, but did not prevail. I sent the router back costing me about $12.00. A week later, I had my replacement.

Fast forward four months to this past weekend. The replacement dies and I start the process all over again. After roughly two hours on the phone, the Return Authorization was issued. When I asked the support rep about getting D-Link to pay for the return this time, I instructed me to call Customer Service.

I tried several times starting last Saturday to get through to D-Link’s Customer Service, but they were either closed or left me waiting in the queue for over 30 minutes (I refuse to wait any longer than that). If the wait times are any indication, D-Link has lots of customers with product issues. I finally got through to a Customer Service rep today after a 20 minute wait. I explained that my router was dead for the second time in six months and that I didn’t think it was fair for me to have to pay shipping a second time.

I was told that D-Link will pay for shipping only when the product is diagnosed as defective within the first 15 days. I explained that I understood the policy, but that considering that this was the second failure, perhaps they could make an exception. The CSR replied that she understood, but then restated the policy.

At that point, I asked to speak to a supervisor. I was told that the supervisor would give me the same answer, but after I insisted, the CSR transfered me. Sure enough, after pleading my case to the supervisor, I was politely told that D-Link would replace my router, but that I would need to pay for the shipping. I expressed my disappointment in having to pay nearly half of the purchase price in shipping costs for in-warranty repairs and ended the call.

When a customer needs to buy a wireless router, the best deal often wins. There are lots of choices in residential wireless networking products and there isn’t much differentiation in terms of price, quality or technology. In a marketplace with these characteristics, brand loyalty is difficult to maintain, but the ability to deliver an experience that exceeds expectation can make a customer for life. In my case, D-Link had the opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer in the a happy one. The cost would have been less than $10 (volume shipping discount). In return I would be writing a very different blog post right now. I would not have told friends and co-workers about my bad experience. I would not have told followers on Twitter not to buy D-Link products (OK, maybe that was a bit melodramatic).

Perhaps D-Link does have some larger quality issues and the cost of paying for return shipping for all that defective product would be cost prohibitive. I don’t know. I do know that I’ll never purchase another D-Link product.

Temkin: The 6 Gaps Between Intentions And Reality

temkin.jpgForrester Analyst and all-around smart guy Bruce Temkin commented on a CRM Daily article called “Customer Service’s Gap Between Intention and Reality”. He expanded on the article’s point by detailing six distinct gaps between intention and reality that companies need to pay attention to: If your company has customer service issues (and which one doesn’t), this is a great tool for identifying where those problems might lie.

Wal-Mart is Blogging Again and That’s a Good Thing!


A year and a half ago, Wal-Mart and marketing partner Edelman took a fair amount of heat from the social media and marketing communities for the fake blog “Wal-Marting Across America”. Another Wal-Mart blog, “Working Families for Wal-Mart” was also criticized as being nothing more than an extension of retail giant’s PR department. They were high visibility examples of the importance of Transparency.

Wal-Mart learned a valuable lesson from those failures: If you can’t be Authentic, you shouldn’t blog at all.

Despite the missteps, Wal-Mart seems to be committed to blogging. A NY Times story published today describes an active program in which various Wal-Mart merchandise managers (a.k.a buyers) are maintaining blogs. More importantly, the new corporate bloggers are openly encouraged to speak openly and honestly about their products and their lives, even it the result is not always complementary:

Microsoft is one of Wal-Mart’s biggest suppliers. But that did not stop the Wal-Mart employee in charge of buying computers from panning Microsoft’s newest operating system, Vista.

“Is it really all that and a bag of chips?” he wrote on his blog. “My life has not changed dramatically — well, for that matter, it hasn’t changed at all.”

His public burst of candor was not isolated. On the same blog, a video game buyer for Wal-Mart slammed a “Star Wars” film as a “debacle” even though Wal-Mart still sells the movie.”

This is really Wal-Mart? Yes, that was my reaction when I first read the article, but considering that Wal-Mart has always been a retail leader, it really isn’t all that surprising.  I also think this signals an important change in the traditional corporate approach to blogs and expect others to follow.

Wal-Mart isn’t the first to have corporate blogs, but historically they have been highly polished, filtered, lawyer-approved messages, ostensibly from CEOs and top executives. What’s different about the Wal-Mart blog site, called Check Out (checkoutblog.com), is that it turns that traditional model on its head. Instead of channeling high-level executives, it is written by little-known buyers, largely without editing.

The result is a much more personal look into the lives, opinions and tastes of the people who decide what stuff you can buy at the nation’s largest retailer:

“We are real people, and that gets lost in the to and fro of business,” said Nick Agarwal, a Wal-Mart communications official who helped develop the blog. “It puts real personality out there in a real conversation.”

…and that after all is the whole point isn’t.  Put a human face on your cold corporate exterior.

You should check out Check Out and then let me know what you think about it’s value.