Monthly Archives: May 2012

Reward Employees

CVPS Smart Grid, Stupid Paperwork

How to Annoy Customers While helping Them

The smart grid is coming to Vermont, and Central Vermont Public Service Corp (CVPS) has offered rebates to its customers who use either Rate 11 or Rate 13 power-saving meters. These are older technologies that will be rendered useless unless a new device is added, so CVPS is reimbursing customers for the expense.

So far, so good.

To get the rebate, you have to fill in a rebate form and mail it with a copy of your expenses. But if you use both Rate 11 and Rate 13 meters, you have to fill out two different rebate forms, with exactly the same information.

By the way, only one of these forms is available on the CVPS web site.

Why is CVPS forcing customers to essentially fill out the same form twice? Because, says one of their customer service reps, “We need both forms.”

Thanks for the explanation.

(In the spirit of complete disclosure, CVPS has some very nice people working there, and in most cases they are very accommodating.)

Digital Sensors

Throw your keyboard out the window

200 times more accurate than Kinect?

Leap Motion, a San Francisco startup, just pre-announced its 3D motion control system. It sits on your desk or counter or table (in the photo, it’s that little thing in front of the laptop) and allows you to control your computer with your hands. No keyboard or mouse needed.

They say it is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market, which means Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360. It seems to detect tiny motions made by the tips of your fingers, which would allow you to write, draw or paint in thin air – or to highlight very small sections of a page.

And thus the race to reinvent the world begins.

Put one of these in a store, and customers no longer need to touch the same surface as 400 people before them.

In the same way that toddlers often figure out how to use the iPad immediately, using your hands to control a digital device can become utterly intuitive.

If you like something, touch it, grab it, pull it, or slide it into a bucket. Don’t like something? Swat it away.

The device will cost $70 and should be available “early next year.” You can pre-order one now.

Leap is looking for developers.

Nuff said.

Anticipate Customer Needs Reward Employees

JPMorgan Chase investor/customer disconnect

Who matters more: investors or customers?

“Just because we’re stupid doesn’t mean everybody else was,” said CEO Jamie Dimon in announcing that JPMorgan Chase had lost at least $2 billion in some very big, very stupid “hedges” against risk.

During the bank’s annual meeting yesterday, Dimon was generally supported by investors. One even told Dimon, “We think you are doing a fabulous job.”

But I suspect customers might not agree.

If you have your life savings of $27,408 sitting in the bank, it might not comfort you to hear the CEO simultaneously say a $2 billion loss was manageable and argue against regulations designed to force banks to take less risk.

You might yearn for the days when bankers were cautious, and community-minded, and perhaps even humble.

You might wonder how a bank could lose that much money protecting itself against risk.

You might wonder what could happen if a crisis happened unexpectedly, when the bank can incur losses this big even as our economy slowly gets better.

You might wish the bank spent less time trying to make even more money each quarter, and more time protecting your savings.

But most of all, you might yearn for better service.

Saving Best Buy

How to turn imminent failure into lasting success

Last week, RetailCustomerExperience.com interviewed me for an article on Best Buy, and it got me thinking about the retailer’s plight.

Best Buy’s biggest mistake has been to fail to look far enough down the road, and this is a problem that it shares with most management teams. They did not realize how fast disruptive forces would turn their stores into liabilities instead of assets.

Their second mistake was failing to segment retail customers. The big box retail sales model will increasingly only work for the customer segment that could be called Premium for Now. That is, they are people who will pay a premium to get an item now.

But all the other customer segments – and there are many potential segments – are now using Best Buy as a showroom for Amazon and other merchants. In fact, Best Buy is doing Amazon a great service by accommodating the needs of segments such as See Before I Buy.

Innovator or not?

Best Buy has been the leader when it comes to succeeding in a category that is doomed. They are the best at selling electronics through big box stores. Their fate may be similar to those of the former best suppliers of dry ice, kerosene lanterns and black and white TVs.

It’s a mistake to think of a company as being innovative when in fact they have been superb at execution. Innovation and execution are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Innovation requires the ability to ignore convention. Execution requires the ability to ignore distractions.

Best Buy focused brilliantly on its business model, but has not spent enough time thinking outside of the “box.”

How can Best Buy better compete with the Amazons of the world?

Best Buy has to segment its customer base, and develop value-added services for each segment. For example, they might convert some stores into membership clubs for the Premium for Now customers who will pay more for instant access to products. For cautious or nervous buyers, they could offer Instant Replacement of any product that breaks. They could become a Learning Center at which customers could learn programming, edit videos, or even play games against each other.

This would require a massive cultural shift, from that of mass market retailer to a nimble and highly responsive customer experience provider. It’s not at all clear Best Buy can accomplish this change. But cursed – or blessed – with their real estate holdings, this is what Best Buy has to do to thrive. In other words, they have to start acting a lot more intelligently about the needs of their customers.

Anticipate Customer Needs Reward Employees

Welcome Baseline readers

How stupid companies treat customers

Baseline Magazine did a great job of turning some of our key messages from the book into a web-based slide show.

Take, for example, their #5 slide, shown at left.

I’ve been extremely disappointed to see many companies use CRM as an opportunity to automate old marketing strategies, instead of launching more effective new strategies.

I once helped conduct a study of CRM that was sponsored by CFO Magazine. We learned that the number one indicator of CRM success was whether a particular CRM initiative had specific benefits to customers.

This may sound obvious, but it turns out that financial executives concluded most CRM initiatives have zero benefits for customers. Those that do, succeed. Those that don’t, fail.

It really is that simple.

Digital Sensors

50 sensor applications

50 examples what you can do with digital sensors

Want to better understand what your company could do with digital sensors? Libelium has a solid list of 50 sensor applications.

The applications fall into the categories of Smart Cities, Smart Environment, Smart Water, Smart Metering, Security & Emergencies, Retail, Logistics, Industrial Control, Smart Agriculture, Smart Animal Farming, Domestic & Home Automation, and eHealth.

The list is a bit slanted towards B2B applications; there are countless more applications that could be of service to individuals. But it’s a great start, and the list has numerous links to related articles.