Category Archives: Social Influence

One Smart Page

The most disruptive page on the Web.

We believe in fewer words, more action. But we also know that the flood of innovation – and change – all around us can be overwhelming. It’s nearly impossible to keep up, or to focus intently on one idea.

To help you spot opportunities, we offer One Smart Page. Think Drudge Report meets Fast Company, and you get the idea. Click on over and see for yourself.

You’ll find hundreds of links to innovators, disruptors, researchers and entrepreneurs. The links will keep changing, because we want this page to represent the most promising initiatives in the race to make everything smart.

The Disruptive Innovation Machine

Identify, Differentiate & Interact with… Everything

Look out your window. Thanks to four disruptive forces, everything you see has the potential to be a business opportunity, if you keep three words in mind: Identify, Differentiate, and Interact.

The Disruptive Innovation machine lists these four disruptive forces around the edges (not coincidentally where disruption happens first) and has three empty boxes for you to add a phrase to correspond with each essential word.

That is, what can disruptive innovation help your customers IDENTIFY? How can it help them DIFFERENTIATE this person… place… thing… idea… event from all else? What options can it offer them to INTERACT with it?

Let’s walk through an example of how you might use the Machine.

You could start by thinking of a specific segment of customers. For this example, let’s imagine you run a busy doctor’s office and the segment you are targeting is busy tech-savvy patients.

The Machine will help you figure out how your office could leverage wireless devices and one or all of the disruptive forces that are starting to rip apart existing business models. These forces (Digital Sensors, etc.) are shown at the outer edges of the Machine.

Write a noun in the first box, which stands for Identify. You are trying to combine three words to describe an innovative new service you could provide to your patients. Let’s use “DIET.” This means your service will be identifying proper diets for patients.

Now, we need an adjective for the Differentiate box, which means on what basis will you be helping patients differentiate between diet options? We could write easiest or cheapest, but for now we will write “HEALTHIEST”.

Finally, we need a verb for the Interact space, which represents how patients will access the results. You could write demonstrate (for video demonstrations by a nurse). Let’s stick with “DEMONSTRATE”.

As you use this tool, try various combinations, and try to include the disruptive forces in your answers. For example, a doctor’s office could list different ways to use Digital Sensors (noun, in the Identify box) to better serve patients. It could encourage certain patients to wear a wristband or other device that monitors the patient’s health and reports any anomalies to the healthcare provider.

Likewise, the physician could leverage Pervasive Memory to utilize patient’s sensors data over a period of months and years. This doesn’t have to involve more work for the doctor; numerous apps are flooding the market that accomplish such feats. The trick is mostly for healthcare providers to recognize these disruptive forces and incorporate the best of them into interactions with patients.

The Digital Innovation Machine can produce countless possible innovations, and many of them will generate millions or billions in profits over the next few years. At first glance, you might underestimate the power of this tool. We’d be happy to discuss it, if you like. This sort of thinking is also described in detail in our book.

7 Ways to Radically Improve Customer Service


Outsmart your competitors. Buy the book


What if …

1. Your customers booked customer service time through an online calendar, and reps contacted the customer at the scheduled time?

2. When customers opted to leave a message rather than wait on hold, they could choose a specific call back time (and actually get called back)?

3. You connected each product customers used to an analytical service at the company, so that reps could more quickly diagnose problems and offer customers relevant guidance?

4. Using such a service, you solved customer problems remotely, minimizing or eliminating the need for a call? Even better, you solved problems before customers were aware of them.

5. You could eliminate data silos, so that all customer information is instantly accessible to any rep?

6. Ratings and specialties of specific service reps were posted online, allowing customers to choose (and rate) who serves them? What if rep compensation was tied to these ratings?

7. Voicemail trees were posted online, and you allowed customers to click at a specific point in the tree to initiate the call, thus skipping the entire navigation process?

Of course this list could be much longer, but this gives you the basic idea. Now that you have a starting point and a roadmap, where can you disrupt your industry?

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

Three More Ways to Disrupt Your Industry


Outsmart your competitors. Buy the book


Sensors make dumb products smart, gathering information from the environment that you can use to gain competitive advantage and to better serve your customers. Through sensors you can learn how customers actually use your products, and guide them in gaining greater benefits from them. For example, instead of just building a thermostat to control the heat in a building, you could add additional sensors to determine the way air circulates through the building and identify energy inefficiencies.

Sensors can detect minor problems in your products before they become major problems, and allow you to fix a problem before your customer is even aware of it. This could reduce your average response time for a problem from four hours down
to immediately.

Sensors can create additional revenue streams from existing products. An appliance company could add weight sensors in a refrigerator and create a new business automatically replenishing food items as soon as they run low. A B2B manufacturer could install sensors in its distributors’ warehouses and do the same.

2. Let customers make or assemble their own products.

The disruptive forces we write about in Smart Customers, Stupid Companies push each industry closer to personalization, because tailoring services for customers is just part of acting smart. The closer you move production to a customer, the greater the opportunities to personalize.

Lego toys have often been used as an example when explaining mass customization, since standard pieces can be combined in unique ways to create unique products. But even Lego realized some years ago that it could allow customers to design their own products online, then have the necessary piece shipped to them. The more modular you make the pieces that combine to create your products, the greater your ability to allow customers to combine individual parts in unique ways.

There’s a whole spectrum of possibilities. You can manufacture a product yourself, and then allow the customer to superficially customize it. You can make a product and design it so that customers customize it in a substantial manner; this describes perfectly how customers install apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers. The challenge is to conceive of ways to leapfrog your competitors and generally accepted industry standards.

At the same time, technologies such as 3D printing raise the increasingly real possibility of locating mini “manufacturing plants” at the customer’s location. You could literally have your customers make the entire product.

3.) Sell an ongoing service, not just a product.

In recent years, printer companies shifted their focus from selling printers to selling ink. But most customers still have to remember to buy more ink. What if printer companies sold printers that never ran out of ink, and charged on a per page basis?

Our not-so-secret wish is for a smartphone service that sells guaranteed phone service, rather than a phone that stops working eight months before your contract expires or the phone is “eligible for upgrade.”

Many people would gladly pay 30 cents a mile for car transportation, rather than have to buy a car for $35,000.

From your company’s viewpoint, selling a service locks in an ongoing relationship and revenue stream. In many industries, the manufacturer has no relationship with the end user and simply makes a sale every few years, at best.

This is an extremely vulnerable position in which to be, and turning products into ongoing services may offer significant benefit not only for your customers but also for your firm.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

A Perfect Storm of Disruptive Innovation


Outsmart your competitors. Buy the book.

Smart customers want to talk to, access, interact with, and ask questions of your company. Right now. From wherever they may be.

We live in a world in which whether you are out in the woods, at a client’s business, or in your living room, you can connect information and processing power with people and devices that need it right here and right now.

This is a giant departure for everything that has come before in business, life, and the world. Today, unless there’s something wrong with our phones or computer, we are almost never without access to guidance, to others, to ideas, and to possibilities.

As the word “disruptive” suggests, this change is not happening in a steady and predictable way, but rather in a manner that most threatens established organizations, which are slower to change. The main question is pretty simple: Can your firm anticipate the impacts of these forces so that it gets smarter faster than competitors and customers?

These four forces are not operating in isolation…the opposite is true: They are building on each other. This creates countless opportunities – but also dramatically raises the bar for delivering “ideal” (much less truly differentiated) customer experiences:

▪ Social Influence means that the opinions and experiences of countless other people come between your firm and its customers.

▪ Pervasive Memory makes it inevitable that companies will begin to profitably leverage the data generated by the trillions of interactions and transactions made through digital devices.

▪ Digital Sensors expand exponentially the scope of actions, events, and behaviors firms can sense…and to which they can respond.

▪ The rise of the Physical Web has begun. Today, we are linking objects and locations in the real world like we do on the Web.

These forces will require every business to rethink, and in many cases reinvent, their business models. They are not unpredictable, but potent and unavoidable.

“What level of customer experience must we provide, and how will we do it?” becomes a life or death question for senior executives, and the time to answer it is now.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

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.