Avoiding the Failure Chasm: Gaining The Most Value Possible From Digital Transformation

Whether you are a CEO, a CIO, a CTO, a CMO or the head of Customer Experience, Customer Service or Digital Transformation, you know software can be an amazing invention. It can be part of the key to digitally transforming your businesses in so many ways. In fact, here’s just a few of the ways digital transformations can take shape…

Digital Transformation and Software can help in the area of human capital by:

  • Increasing employee engagement, creating a passionate culture, increasing productivity and motivation
  • Attracting the top talent, making your organization the sought after place to work and an awesome culture to be envied
  • Reducing attrition of talent you want to keep to make sure you are able to produce the best possible business results.

Digital Transformation and software can help business generate revenue by:

  • Developing incremental innovation of products or services from receiving feedback from employees and customers
  • Co-creating new products with input from customers and employees
  • Developing new business models by creating new products and services that didn’t exist in the company’s line of business
  • Generating new applications and uses for existing technology, products & services, i.e., moving them from the core business and finding adjacent/new markets
  • Increasing the customer lifetime value, i.e., increasing the amount and frequency of purchases per customer over the lifetime of a customer
  • Increasing customer acquisition by increasing market awareness of the company, it’s products and services by engaging customers and brand ambassadors through delivering content at the top, the middle and the end of the funnel through two-way texting, email, digital ads, banners, digital and social media… and
  • Increasing the brand’s equity, reputation and preventing a PR crisis and brand intervention projects and so much more…

Digital Transformation and software can help business reduce costs by:

  • Creating new products and services with more agile processes (vs. waterfall processes)
  • Improving an exiting process or eliminating redundant processes / steps
  • Reducing the cost of products or services that fail in the marketplace because now they have feedback from customers and employees way before the product hits the market
  • Reducing the cost of bugs or flaws in the product or service because of using more agile processes and outcome-based thinking
  • Reduction in contact center costs by increasing first contact resolution (FCR) by using the most innovative ways to engage customers and
  • Reduce customer churn by increasing customer satisfaction by better customer experiences and hence increasing customer retention….

Why Do Company’s Fail At Digital Transformation?

So just from that short list it’s clear there are so many ways software can enable a business to function at it’s very best. However, there is something that can get in the way of the effectiveness and efficiency of the actual software’s ability to deliver on the promise. What might that be? If the software is good, then it’s not the software. So what is it? How can you realize your company’s vision through digital transformation when over 80% of digital transformations fail. Nobody wants to spend the time, the money and the effort getting a project approved, implementing it only to find a year or five later that it didn’t produce the results it was supposed to. But surprisingly, this still does happen. Some of those reasons include:

  • The absence of a clear plan to achieve digital transformation
  • Lack of alignment between business and IT
  • Legacy systems
  • Siloed data
  • Gaps in talent and skills
  • Cultural resistance to change and
  • Group think (seeing the problem from the same perspective.)

How Smart Companies Are Avoiding the Digital Transformation Failure Chasm

Smart leaders need all the efforts of all their employees, as well as, feedback from their customers so they don’t fall into the digital transformation failure chasm. However, often times they are so busy doing what they have always done, they they might not see a new way of looking at things. That’s where another pair of eyes or hands or even a team can help. You’ve experienced this probably yourself. You are trying to solve something. You feel you’ve looked at it hundred different ways and nothing really new comes about. You might even show a friend or a team mate and they are stuck, too. Why does this happen? You are not alone. In fact, it’s quite common.

1962, Abraham Kaplan, then a Professor of Philosophy, was giving a speech to scientists in which he urged scientists to carefully consider their methods for their research. He emphasized that – just because certain methods happen to be handy, or one has been trained to use a specific method or trained to look at a problem from a certain perspective -it doesn’t mean that that method will produce the best outcomes. Sometimes people formulate problems that reach solutions by using those techniques they are especially skilled in. In other words, we tend to formulate our problems in ways that make it seem the solutions to those problems demand precisely what we already happen to have at hand. In Abraham Maslow’s The Psychology of Science, published in 1966,  stated, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The issue is the reliance or over-reliance on the familiar or the habit of using the same perspective.

Taking this concept into software development and implementation, José M. Gilgado, wrote a law  that is still relevant and highly applicable in 21st century. He observed, often times software developers and implementors, “tend to use the same known tools to do a completely new and different project with new constraints.” Why? They blamed it on what he calls the comfort zone, a state where we don’t want to change anything to avoid risk. What’s the problem with using the same tools every time? We get good at those tools and we like using what we are good at, right? The issue can become that you don’t have enough diversity when discussing the problem (because you are using the same perspective you’ve always used) so the exchange of diverging or opposite views is limited and the choices to look at the problem from different points of view are limited because there’s nothing new to compare it to. What would be better if is… to look for the best possible choice with varying perspectives, even if we aren’t very familiar with them. But we rarely do that. Rather, we fall into group-think.

There’s some very interesting research by a professor at the University of Michigan, Scott E. Page who studies complexity theory. In his book, The Difference, he shows how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms and business outcomes. We all differ in how we see and interpret the world. How we code things is our “perspective.”  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have studied how people and groups make breakthroughs. The bottom-line? Encouraging and working with diverse perspectives. For example, do you know how pins came to be manufactured? Adam Smith ran one of the first brush factories. Someone saw that the bristles could be cut off and made into pins. That’s what I mean about seeing things differently. Most people would have looked at a brush factory and saw a brush factory. But the first pin factory was imagined by seeing that diverse perspective – seeing the world differently – seeing the world as a forest of pins – provided the seeds of innovation.

What does your team need? You’ll want to engage and partner with a new set of diverse senior advisors and specialists who are dedicated to your success, who use unrivaled expertise, processes and methods to make your business more agile. You’ll want to make sure they are the kind of people who thrive on guiding your team so your team learns the key principles to create and sustain change. And you’ll want to choose the most powerful technology platform to be the basis to fuel your transformation for today and far into the future. With all of that, and a collaborative team culture you can:

  • Align key leaders around a digital transformation strategy
  • Implement the right framework to move forward
  • Create the agility needed in today’s digital environment and
  • Adopt new technologies faster to keep pace with change.

Often it is –outside, diverse points of view– that are just what is required to steer you clear of the failure chasm, and instead have an immersive engagement based on a proven approach that combines people, expertise, culture, and technology. You want to be working with people who are uniquely able to help a business realize their visions and co-create the future by:

  • Exploring the art of the possible by
    • Leading with out-comes based thinking (OBT begins with defining a desired outcome, no matter how bold or provocative. It’s fundamentally different from problem solving, which looks at the current state and attempts to improve it)
    • Inspiring design-led thinking (instead of solving a problem, your team becomes solution-focused and action-oriented towards creating a preferred future)
    • Testing new strategies (vs. setting a plan and sticking to it for a year and then realizing they’ve wasted a year or more on something that isn’t going to work; maybe even trying a little experimentation to see if something could even work)
    • Sparking agility throughout the organization, igniting the whole culture’s motivation in whole new ways, giving them a renewed sense of purpose and outlook on the future and feeling they have the dream job and a reason for showing up other than a paycheck!
  • Building your digital capabilities by
    • Improving your operating model (and maybe even shifting the revenue model to something you’ve never considered, but it was the innovation that was needed to grow the company exponentially)
    • Growing the competitive advantage; as the Blue Ocean Author’s would say, you’ll want to create new, uncontested market spaces making the competition irrelevant
    • Stimulating breakthrough ideas that transform business as usual and
  • Creating sustainable transformation by
    • Creating a customer-first culture
    • Managing complex changes and
    • Continuing the processes required to innovate, iterate, pivot and grow.

How do you find such a group? Look at their DNA. Is it digital? Are they a natively global, mobile, social, cloud, community-oriented company? Are they trusted advisors who put the customer first and teach them to fish? Do they experiment, try new things, iterate and pivot quickly when it doesn’t work and tweak things till they hum? Do other companies desire to be like them and wonder what technology they use to be so innovative and wonder how is it, they do what they do? Are they super customer focused? As my friend and colleague, Peter Coffee would say, “Do they create a sense of urgency, hope and glory? Or conviction, belief and desire in your team? Are they all about (and seriously about this, it’s not just some words on a website or a brochure) connection, collaboration and innovation?” If you want to learn more about how one group guides business through digital transformation, here’s more info on that!

Until next time, here’s to realizing your vision and the best possible future for your company, your employees, your stakeholders and the planet. It’s all of our jobs to make the world a better place. And what better place to do that than starting with businesses? That’s where people spend a great deal of their time! So make it a fabulous experience for employees and the customers will feel the love. You will be their go to source for all your customer’s products and services. Don’t give them reasons to leave you, Give them reasons they can’t possibly give you up. Because… at the end of the day, that is what drives customer lifetime value. No customers, no business. It’s really that simple.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, Innovation and Transformation Center, Salesforce.com

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Guest Post: 4 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Customer Service Experience

In a mobile-oriented society where consumers thrive on social media and have come to expect instant communication, technology has become an increasingly important key to delivering effective customer service. Companies are using technology to meet customer demands for omnichannel support and access to online knowledge bases with a goal of differentiating their brands through customer service. Eighty-eight percent of companies feel they’ve made good or excellent progress toward delivering modern customer experience. Telephone support, online service and mobile service are some areas where companies are increasing their technology investments. Here’s a look at some technology tools you can use to improve your customer service experience and boost customer satisfaction.

Cloud Contact Centers

Today’s foundation for delivering effective omnichannel support is the cloud contact center. Cloud contact center solutions such as 8×8, Altitude and Aspect provide a single platform companies can use to centralize online, chat, phone and email support. This type of central platform enables your support team to deliver a seamlessly-integrated experience to customers even when a ticket moves from one channel or agent to another. Cloud centers also make it easier to deploy remote representatives, giving you more agility and cutting your expenses for on-premise support.

Self-service Tools

The most important customer service option you can provide to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction are tools for self-service like online knowledge bases answering frequently-asked questions. Seventy-five percent of consumers see self-service as an effective way to address customer service issues, and 67 percent prefer self-service to speaking to a company representative, a Nuance survey found. Only 40 percent of consumers contact customer support to resolve their issue after consulting an online knowledge database, meaning you can reduce your service volume by more than half by providing self-service options.

Live Chat

For service issues that don’t lend themselves to self-service, live chat is one of the best contact channels you can offer. Live chat delivers the highest satisfaction rate of all service channels, with 73 percent of customers coming away satisfied from live chat experience, compared to 61 percent for email and 44 percent for phone. Chatbot tools such as Pandorabots can also help you streamline your customer service workload by automatically handling many of your support tickets and improving the efficiency of ticker routing to human representatives. 1-800-FLOWERS found that deploying a chatbot to place orders on Facebook and direct other inquires to human representatives, used in conjunction with voice-command tools such as Alexa and Watson, boosted revenue in addition to increasing efficiency.

Phone Tools

While automated tools such as knowledge bases and chatbots can help you reduce your service workload, it’s also important to have live phone support for tickets that require a human response. Being unable to reach a live person is one of the most frustrating customer service experiences, and failing to provide this option will greatly reduce your customer satisfaction levels. To optimize the efficiency of your phone support, you can use an 800 number in conjunction with a menu system that automatically routes calls to the appropriate department. Structuring your menu options based on your customers’ most frequently-asked questions can greatly improve the efficiency of your phone service. To identify your customers’ most common concerns, monitor your site search bar and online knowledge database’s most frequent search terms and design menu options that correspond to these topics.

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

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Innovation & Disruption In Delivery: Could Your Next Amazon Delivery Be By a Drone?

Ever Had a Package Delivered Late, Not at All Or To the Wrong Address?

One of the most irritating issues with ordering online is whether the package gets delivered and to the right address and on time. I know I’ve experienced this a number of times and what’s interesting is that, as customer’s we don’t always think about the delivery service as the issue, but rather it reflects poorly on the company we by the product from. How to fix this customer experience issue? One option is to deliver packages to consumers’ homes using drones. Could this allow companies to bypass the challenges with that last step of the delivery? It might be for delivery to people’s homes. It might not work at apartments, though, because the drone can’t get into the apartment building. Or can it?

What customers may not know is that the last leg of the delivery is the most expensive and inefficient part of parcel delivery. Customers don’t often think about that the product has to go from a store or warehouse, to the shipper’s delivery center and then from there, be deployed to the customer’s address. It is often not the place you bought the product from that is having the issue. It maybe who their delivery service or services are. It could be the individual who works for the delivery service. I know I personally had package delivered to an address that was similar to mine, but not mine. The individual was new to the delivery route and got mixed up. I had to run after the delivery truck, stop them and tell them they delivered to the wrong building. (I had gotten a text my package was delivered, but it was not on my doorstep or at the post office boxes for my building.) And since this happened more than once, I knew what had happened.

What’s the Solution To Better Customer Experience Delivery?

E-commerce companies, like Amazon, are using drones to speed up the this last part of the delivery process, while cutting costs. The result? Improving the customer experience, customer satisfaction and loyalty. And what’s interesting is even legacy retailers could take advantage of a similar process to grow online sales.

So What’s the Hold Up?

While there are many obstacles to overcome for instance, drone regulations, the development of autonomous flight and traffic control systems for drones, as well as consumer acceptance, there are companies actively trying to figure this all out. For instance, Amazon is working on drone delivery, depending on when and where they have the regulatory support needed to safely delivery packages. They want to use drones to deliver packages to customers around the world in 30 minutes or less. In fact, they have Prime Air development centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, France and Israel.

Amazon Prime @drnatalie

Photo Source: Amazon

They believe the airspace is safest when small drones are separated from most manned aircraft traffic, and where airspace access is determined by capabilities. To learn more, you can look at Amazon’s airspace proposals here: Best-Served Model for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Revising the Airspace Model for the Safe Integration of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Disruption to Delivery Logistic Firms

As e-commerce providers like Amazon look for solutions within their own company, many logistics providers are experimenting with drone delivery. These firms also seek to cut costs as well as ward off competition, whether it’s from startups, technology companies or e-commerce companies. In fact, FedEx is betting on automation to Fend off contenders like Uber and Amazon. The shipping giant is investing in autonomous trucks and is interested in delivery robots, drones and an Alexa app. And while there are attempts to get this right, those of us in the innovation space know that #failfast – iterating and pivoting is the key. In my book, it’s ok to fail. You can’t learn what you don’t know, you don’t know unless you try. Trying means you learn something each time. Though the concept of failfast is very popular today, if we look back at Edison, it took him 9,999 times to get the filament for the lightbulb to work on the 10,000th time. What if he gave up? We’d all be in the dark!

How Is Amazon’s Prime Air Trial Drone Deliver Program Progressing?

Amazon have started with a private customer trial, to gather data to continue improve the safety and reliability of their systems and operations. As they gather data, this will bring them closer to realizing this how to use this innovation for all their customers. Does weather affect the delivery? Currently, Amazon is permitted to operate during daylight hours when there are low winds and good visibility. However, they are not using it when it rains, snows or in icy conditions. They feel they need to gather more data to improve the safety and reliability of their systems and operations to expand the offering. They are working with regulators and policymakers in various countries in order to make Prime Air a reality for customers around the world.

Video Source: Amazon

Where Can you Find more Information On the Disruption and Innovation Drone Delivery Can Provide?

In a new report, BI Intelligence examines the benefits drone delivery can provide as an e-commerce fulfillment method. In the report, they look at the different approaches companies are taking to experiment with the new technology and processes involved in this new delivery process. In addition, they look at the key players working in the drone delivery space. And have researched the challenges drone delivery faces in reaching mainstream adoption.

Will Your Industry Be Disrupted? Every Industry Should Be Thinking It Will Be Disrupted!

As I was giving a talk on disruption and innovation, I had many questions from what would be considered very standard legacy firms. What they need to be careful of is being aware of the fact that somewhere, in someone’s basement or garage, someone is probably working on a project that will disruption their industry. It’s customary to do the ostrich: stick you head in the sand. But doing so will only make you a dinosaur, (extinct) if you are not careful.

Disruption and innovation are all around us. Just look at what happened to the taxi industry. Not only did Lyft and Uber transform how customers’ order, receive and pay for rides, but they disrupted an age old industry that had not changed for years. And take GM for instance. They make cars. But they decided to look at cars as a service and invest $500M in Lyft to be part of the cars-as-a-service industry.

Disrupt Yourself or Die

Instead of being one of those industries or companies that waits until an upstart disrupts their revenue model and takes marketshare, why not start innovating within your own company. Too many companies are complacent or don’t have the skills to think outside the box. If you don’t, it may want to seek out a firm that can you help you think through this new and confusing new frontier of design-thinking, innovation and disrupting yourself — as a company and as a person. No one wants to be the company that had the leg up on IBM and caused it’s own demise: i.e, nobody wants their story to go down like Digital Equipment Corporation: DEC.

“Digital Equipment Corporation achieved sales of over $14 billion, reached the Fortune 50, and was second only to IBM as a computer manufacturer. Though responsible for the invention of speech recognition, the minicomputer, and local area networking, DEC ultimately failed as a business and was sold to Compaq Corporation in 1998. The  fascinating modern Greek tragedy in book form by Ed Schein, a high-level consultant to DEC for 40 years, shows how DEC’s unique corporate culture contributed both to its early successes and later to an organizational rigidity that caused its ultimate downfall.” Don’t do a DEC.

@drnatalie

Natalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, Innovation and Transformation Center | Salesforce.com

 

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Guest Post: Increase Your Social Media Engagement with These Proven Strategies

How-to-Create-a-Brand-Identity-Using-Social-Media-04

There is no question that social media has earned its spot in every business’ digital marketing strategy. The rise of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have forever shaped the way users express themselves online.

Nowadays, almost every business has some type of social media account. 83% of fortune 500 companies have a presence on Twitter and over 3 million companies have LinkedIn profiles. However, simply having a social media account and posting content is not enough. What makes the difference between good brands and great brands on social is not only the quality of content, but also the level of interaction and engagement they devote to their audience. Are you replying back to users who comment on your photos? Do you regularly like trending posts within your industry? Have you developed an online personality for your brand?

Follow these guaranteed strategies and you’ll be well on your way to connecting with your target audience and increasing engagement on all of your social media platforms.

Facebook

4 million likes are generated by Facebook users every minute.

Liking is one of the most important aspects of social media. So hop on the bandwagon and click the thumbs up button! It’s important to like something when you see that it pertains to your business because you’re not only engaging with your industry, but you’re also connecting with accounts who share similar interests. Over time, social media platforms will start to see patterns in the content you’re liking and expose you to more related items. The great thing about Facebook is that if you have a particular reaction to a post, you can choose that instead of just thumbs up. Choose the laughing emoji when something is funny or the angry face when you’re upset. The important thing is when you react to a post, you begin to get filtered into a particular niche. What you discover in that niche is other users who belong there as well.

Those users are your target audience. So be friendly and say hi! Put a huge emphasis on liking content in your social media marketing strategy. Give users a like on their posts and explore what you have in common. These users will start to recognize your name and become familiar with your online presence. With one click and some curiosity, they could end up on your page! Don’t be stingy with likes, spread the love and watch it return back to you.

Instagram

Instagram generates over 3.5 billion likes a day and its usage has doubled in the last two years.

Much like Facebook, the way you’re able to connect with people through Instagram is by liking photos. Some users will exercise proper etiquette and like one of your photos in return for your like, but other times it just might not happen. That’s okay though, there’s no limit on the amount of posts you can like, so go ahead and double tap on posts that are relevant to your industry!

YouTube

100 million people take social action on YouTube every week in the form of likes, shares, or comments.

Commenting is just as important as liking for the same reason that you get to interact with your target audience and engage in your community. The difference with a comment versus a like is that you have the opportunity to communicate your unique perspective on a topic.

You can answer questions on trending posts, offer insight, or type something reactionary. This will help increase your engagement because users can actually see what you’re thinking.  They can go off on your ideas or like your comment in agreement with what you’ve said. Comments provide another opportunity for users to engage with your brand. Be social and leave a comment!

Twitter

500 million Tweets are sent every day, which translates, to 6,000 Tweets a second.

Twitter is all about the short and the sweet. Essentially, Twitter is a string of comments. The way you get your brand to increase engagement on Twitter is by participating in the never-ending dialogue. You can do this by liking, commenting, and most importantly, retweeting.

Twitter is a little different from other social platforms because it has a higher frequency of posts. According to Neil Patel (social media marketing maven and co-founder of KISSmetrics) the optimal amount to post on Twitter to increase engagement is 1 – 5 posts a day. Plan your posts beforehand or retweet other authorities within your industry. Keep up with the pace of Twitter so users can recognize your effort.

LinkedIn

The 14 most popular posts on LinkedIn are all about advice in the workplace.

LinkedIn is the platform business professionals go to in order to apply for an internship, look for a job, or expand the range of their professional network. What users are looking for on LinkedIn is the means to gain a better standing in their career. This can be in the form of acquiring a job or the knowledge to gain better skills. Your posts on LinkedIn should be about interesting water cooler topics professionals can read in their downtime. It’s perfectly acceptable to be on LinkedIn during work, so keep your content related to the workplace if you want to see engagement from this audience!

A Quick Recap

Social media marketing is genuinely about being social on the screen. If your brand is

participating in the social aspect of each platform, you will begin to see engagement rise because your account is active. It’s important to keep that part of social media in mind because it shows your followers you understand how to use their media! Let’s Recap:

  • Facebook – Like posts that are related to your industry
  • Instagram – Double tap appropriate photos in your niche
  • YouTube – Provide insight, leave a comment
  • Twitter – Keep up with the pace of tweets
  • LinkedIn – Make it about the workplace

 

About Author:

therese

Therese Palmere is a passionate content writer at Aumcore. Aumcore is a New York based digital marketing agency offering solutions from creative social media campaigns to SEO and web design driven by results.

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The Smart Home Race: Who Will Win?

Here are three main smart home contenders:

  • Apple’s HomeKit
  • Amazon’s Echo, Tap and Dot and
  • Google’s Home.

The main issues? Consumer confusion, which adoption follows. There is, unfortunately, technological fragmentation within the connected home ecosystem. Currently, there are many networks, standards, and devices being used to connect the smart home, creating interoperability problems (the ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the customer) and this makes it confusing for the consumer to set up and control multiple devices.

Until interoperability is solved, consumers will have difficulty choosing smart home devices and systems. So here’s how different companies are approaching the market place. Some make it really easy for the customer, while others require a more technical approach.

Apple’s HomeKit

Tim Cook demonstrated how he uses Apple’s HomeKit in his personal life to give potential or current users some ideas on how they can apply it. During Cook’s quarterly earnings conference call he talked about how he has integrated HomeKit products, and the iOS 10 Home app, into his home routine. There are about 100 HomeKit-compatible products available.

Ways to use Apple’s homeKit? When you wake up and say good morning to Siri, your house lights can be programmed to come on and the coffee machine can be started! Though there don’t seem to be any coffee makers on the market with integrated HomeKit support, it’s likely he may be using  smart plug. There are plenty of HomeKit smart plug options on the market— AppleInsider has reviewed both the Elgato Eve Energy and iHome iPS5 SmartPlug. There are two options For HomeKit lighting: bulbs and switches. Philips Hue is a popular option bulb option. It  comes in a starter pack with three bulbs and a HomeKit-enabled hub for ~$199.99.

As far as switches go, the Lutron Caseta Wireless in-wall dimmer kit is HomeKit compatible. Like Philips Hue, it needs a hub to be connected to a home router for HomeKit support— the hub is included in the ~$190 bundle. Smart plugs are only useful with appliances that automatically turn on and operate when they are connected to an outlet. If the connected device requires any sort of manual input, HomeKit and Siri integration don’t work. Cook also mentioned that when he relaxes in the evening, he asks Siri to adjust the lighting and turn on the fireplace. And upon leaving the house, Cooks says by simply tapping on his iPhone, the lights turn off, the thermostat turns down and the doors lock.

Using HomeKit to turn down the thermostat, a common device is the Ecobee3 second-generation model, ~$250. When it comes to door locks, you could consider the $215 Schlage Sense and $230 Kwikset Premis. These both have numeric keypad entry. The $230 August Smart Lock integrates with many existing door locks and makes for simpler installation. When Cook talks about the simple tap” on his iPhone, in “Apple language” he is creating a “Scene” with the Home app in iOS 10.

What is a “scene?” An example is when Cook says his “Hey Siri, good morning” greeting, it turns on the lights and a smart plug to brew coffee. How does that work? You’d open the Home app in iOS 10, tap the plus button in the top right, and simply choose “Add Scene.” Then you’d create a custom scene name and choose which accessories are powered on or off. For more on this, check out the AppleInsider.

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 10.18.48 AM Source: AppleInsider

Amazon’s Echo, Tap and Dot and Amazon Prime Services

Amazon’s Echo offers tiered-speaker in three heights – large, medium and small. Using Alexa, Echo is your personal, cloud-based assistant. Alexa has finely tuned automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) engines that recognize and respond to voice requests to add intelligent voice control to any connected product that has a microphone and speaker. In addition to Echo, Amazon offers Amazon Tap and Amazon Dot (which has been updated.)

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 10.21.00 AM                                     Echo                      Tap                      Dot

Source: Pocket-link

Echo

Why is Amazon considered by some to be at the helm of the smart home arena? Not only is Amazon cleverly locking customers into its wider Prime ecosystem, but Alexa adds additional value. It’s easy to set-up, on average about a minute or so. You just plug Echo it into a wall outlet using the included power adapter, wait for the spinning light ring on top to go from blue to orange and then Alexa will greet you. Amazon Echo is great if you just want to have a stationary speaker that doubles as an always-on personal assistant. It provides room-filling audio that’s good for casual listening. When it’s connected to Wi-Fi, you can ask it all sorts of questions and control your devices.

Echo works with devices such as lights, switches, thermostats, and more from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, Nest, ecobee, and Wink. Here’s where you can learn about how to set-up your smart home devices. Some products that work directly with Alexa and other smart home ecosystems require a compatible hub. If you are still confused, you can book an appointment with an Alexa expert. It’s free and you get:

  • Personalized smart home solution recommendations from a trained Amazon employee 
  • Home WiFi assessment to identify and troubleshoot any issues 
  • In-home demo of popular smart home products 
  • Appointment typically lasts 45 minutes 
  • But installation, troubleshooting, and setup of devices not included.

Tap

Amazon Tap provides a similar sound experience, but uses a charging cradle in order to be portable (there’s no cord.) Because it’s not always plugged into power, always-on Alexa isn’t available though. You have to push a mic button to access the service. Tap is great if you’re going to the beach or are always on the go.

Dot

Amazon Dot is basically the top section of Amazon Echo. Dot supports always-on Alexa, connects to the cloud to stream music, controls your smart home devices, and does all the same stuff as Echo. The main difference between Dot and Echo is that the full-size speaker is gone. Instead, customers would hook Dot up to their own audio setup (via out jack or Bluetooth), so they can use Alexa with their existing speakers. That tiny speaker doesn’t output much audio; it’s only for Alexa voice feedback (which requires Wi-Fi.)

Amazon Prime and Alexa

Amazon’s Echo products are designed to be an access point to the Amazon Prime network. The monetization strategy is not really on the hardware of the Echo devices. Instead it’s really focusing on connecting users directly to the Prime network without having to go through an iPhone or Google search engine. And Alexa is the brain behind Echo. It’s smart because the more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. And because Echo is always connected, updates are delivered automatically.

What can Alexa do? Alexa has skills. While I’ve given a list, you will find over 4,000 here. Alexa can help you find things on yelp, give you movie showtimes, order a pizza from Domino’s, request a song from Spotify or Pandora, request a ride from Lyft, open your garage with Garageio, provide Samsung SmartThings support, play Jeopardy, update your Google Calendar, read you Audible audiobooks, convert text-to-speech for Kindle eBooks…

Alexa gives you a guide on great things to do in some of your favorite cities like New York, London, Boston, act as a travel guide, be your vacation rental virtual concierge, give you the next arrival for the route and stop you specify in a city like San Francisco, tells you door buster hours and sale hours for Black Friday for major retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, Staples, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco, Gamestop, Home Depot, Lowe’s…

Alexa gives you interesting relevant health and nutrition information, ask beer snob to look up a specific beer, get information like a price, rating, location, or a short description from a Wine Sommelier, quickly review your task lists, find out what is due, and add tasks, give you an inspiration quote or provide a mediation…

Alexa also gives you based on the weather of the location you request it will recommend what to wear so that you don’t feel too cold or too hot, switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or space heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie and order the right products that work with Alexa.

With the free Alexa App on Fire OS, Android, iOS, and desktop browsers, you can easily set-up and manage your Echo. With the app, you can view shopping and to-do lists while on the go as well as control your timers and set custom tones for your alarms…

Google’s Home

Google Home is a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own Google, always ready to help. Just start with, “Ok Google.”

The Google Home is centered on targeting users with ads. Google is one of the largest companies in the world to rely on ads as its primary stream of revenue. They garnered $79.4 billion from its AdSense division on its earnings, with the overwhelming majority of the Alphabet parent’s total revenue. While Alphabet bought the device makers Nest and Dropcam, Google Home doesn’t have the built-in user base that Apple has with iPhone.

What does Google Home do? A simple voice request triggers Google Home to play music, podcasts or radio from services like Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora and TuneIn. Thanks to Google’s rich history in search, Google Home is ready for your questions. Get real-time answers including the latest on weather, traffic, finance, sports, local businesses – you can enjoy entertainment, manage tasks, plan your day, control your home, get information like nutrition information for ingredients or food or ask about current individual stock prices or current points of an index, like the NASDAQ or ask for scores, live updates, or next game date, location and time for your favorite sports teams.

Their compatible smart home partners include nest, Phillips, IFTTT, WEMO, Honeywell and SmartThings. Streaming devices include: Google Chromecast, VIZIO, TOSHIBA, PHILLIPS, Sony, Bang and Olufsen, BO & Play, Grundig, polk, RUAMFELD. You can watch videos and photos on youtube, NETFLIX, and Google Photos.

If you want to learn more about how to use Google Home, click here. Essentially there are three main steps:

  1. Plug power cable into your Google Home device
  2. Plug the cable into a wall socket
  3. Download and run the Google Home app on a phone or tablet.

The newly-designed Google Home app is your one-stop destination to discover all of Google Home’s content and features. DayDream is Google’s VR headset and controller that lets you explore new worlds, kick back in your personal VR cinema, and play games that put you at the center of action. When your phone’s screen becomes your big screen, you can get fully immersed in your favorite shows, movies, VR videos…

It will be interesting to see who wins in the smart home race! What’s your choice? And why?

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP, Program Executive, Salesforce ITC

 

 

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AMAZON: Virtual ‘Dash’ Buttons for One-click Buying From the Homepage

How could it be easier to order from Amazon? Amazon just launched One-Click buying by adding dash buttons to its homepage and mobile applications. The dash buttons help Amazon Prime customers order their most frequently used items more easily. Amazon Dash buttons allow for quick reorders without hassle.

So what’s new? The original dash buttons were  physical, Wi-Fi connected buttons  users place around their home. When they realize they are running out of something like dish soap, they can place an order on the Dash button by tapping on the button. So what’s new is Dash buttons are now virtual Amazon Dash buttons that allow one-click purchases on it’s homepage.

The digital Dash buttons are for products such as groceries, pet supplies, diapers… with reorders one click away. Now Dash users don’t have to clutter their homes with actual buttons. To use the Dash buttons, a shopper can go to the Amazon site and select the option to “Add to your Dash buttons.” Perhaps these Dash buttons may even lead to more impulsive shopping.

Amazon Prime Dash Buttons

You just click on “Your Dash buttons”, see the figure above, and then buttons for things you’ve ordered before pop up.

Dash buttons

Here’s more about on how the buttons work to the video from Amazon: https://youtu.be/w1lrQgXa6pY

Amazon knows a lot about its customer’s shopping history and preferences so it has a good idea on which items to display.

Amazon is betting seeing a favorite item on the homepage will prompt users to buy it. This is an interesting innovation in e-commerce. Will it make shoppers order more? That’s the big question at hand. Only time will tell.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, Constellation Research

VP and Principal Analyst, Covering Customer-Facing Applications

 

 

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Guest Post: 5 Tech Solutions That Will Help You Exceed Customer Expectations

In a time where the world is more connected through technology and social media, providing excellent customer service is crucial. The reputation of your business is built on its effectiveness, including the customer experience.

Exceeding customer expectations creates loyal customers and it differentiates you from the competition. In addition, word of mouth is now more powerful than ever, as customers can easily share both positive and negative opinions online.

Here are 5 powerful tech solutions that will help you exceed customer expectations and provide exceptional customer service:

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  1. Vision Helpdesk 

Serving businesses of all sizes and levels, Vision Helpdesk is a leading customer support software that comes in 3 different products. There’s the Helpdesk software, which enables customer support agents to receive, process, and respond to service requests. On the other hand, the Satellite Helpdesk software provides a multi-company customer support management solutions.

Additionally, all features from Helpdesk and Satellite Helpdesk combined are provided by the Service Desk software which follows the discipline of IT service management.

Unique features of these software include task management, ticket billing, asset management, and release management. Vision Helpdesk allows you to stay on track as you serve clients, creating a client portal that is convenient for both customer and company.

There are multiple pricing plans offered, varying by the specific software and the hosting plan. Pricing starts at $7 per month to host Helpdesk on your server with a recurring license, or a one-time license for $150.

  1. TeamSupport

This customer support program allows teams to collaborate better by eliminating miscommunications and quickly addressing customer issues. Improving customer communication helps teams handle the customer service process better.

The program has some key unique features that help with the delivery of cohesive customer support. There is ticket automation, which allows support staff to flag messages by word or type. For example, a staff could add a flag for any support request that contains the word “upset” or “frustrated.” This allows the team to prioritize the more urgent requests that need attention.

Another key feature is the Knowledge Base tool. This allows clients to try to solve their own minor issues, which enables support staff to handle bigger challenges that may arise. With TeamSupport, customers can have their needs prioritized and met with efficient responses. Pricing starts from $40 per month.

  1. Office 365 

Another top solution that will help you exceed customer expectations is Office 365. This cloud-based service features a number of different tools that can be beneficial. One of the newly debuted services is Bookings, which allows customers to schedule appointments with a company using online software. This makes a convenient process for customers as it eliminates the need for a phone call.

Dynamics is another Office 365 software tool. The CRM package brings a line of integrated business management solutions that allow your staff to make important business decisions with a greater sense of confidence. Key features of Dynamics include lead management, contact management, and territory management.

Pricing for Office 365 starts from $5/month per user, for the Business Essentials plan. Microsoft Dynamics pricing plans start at $4 per user/month.

  1. Samanage

If your company is seeking a more advanced, user-friendly help desk solution then Samanage is the option for you. Making life easier for both your team and the customer, Samanage has comprehensive functionality that allows you to quickly respond to service requests. This results in improved support for your customers.

The intuitive service desk ensures that your team will deliver exemplary support. Clients use their email or the powerful self-service portal to submit service tickets. Users can even search for a solution independently by using the system’s Knowledge Base.

In addition to submitting a new service ticket, your customers can easily track the status of a pending issue.

Samanage allows for a desk data integration and can be used on the go from any smartphone or tablet with web browsing capabilities. You can experience the convenience and up-to-date reliability of Samanage for an affordable annual subscription based on your software needs.

  1. AmoCRM

AmoCRM allows you to manage your pipeline and sales team. The sales management service is a web-based platform enables businesses to manage customer relationships more effectively. You can directly link platforms such as Facebook, Dropbox, Xero, and Zendesk to AmoCRM.

Valuable features include sales analytics, lead scoring, and email integration. The software supports custom field creation and provides a user-friendly approach to managing your company’ interactions with current and potential customers.

AmoCrm allows you to upload existing customers from contact databases such as Gmail and Outlook. There are also follow-up tasks to keep you up-to-date on meetings and calls, and these are attached to the contact or lead cards.

AmoCRM is free to try and plans start from $15/month.

There are many excellent technological solutions available that help businesses thrive in managing their customer service by maximizing efficiency and enhancing communication. However, technology can only take you so far. In order to provide a stellar customer service, your entire business should be customer-service oriented. Strive to exceed customer expectations whenever you can and this will definitely take your business a long way in terms of longevity and reputation.

 

About the Author:

heather

Heather Redding is an avid reader, freelance writer, coffee snob and a tech enthusiast from Aurora, Illinois. When she is not working, Heather enjoys swimming and hanging out with her friends. You can reach Heather via Twitter.

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Genesys & Interactive Intelligence Acquisition Is Complete

Genesys has completed the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence. Why acquire Interactive Intelligence? The idea is that the addition of Interactive Intelligence will enable Genesys to accelerate its mission of powering the best customer experiences in more industries and more countries – over any channel in the cloud and on premises. The acquisition also means that Genesys now has over 10,000 customers in more than 100 countries supporting over 25 billion customer interactions per year. Genesys will continue to offer support and invest in best-in-class solutions, including PureCloud®, Communications as a Service℠ (CaaS) and Customer Interaction Center™ (CIC), in addition to our core Genesys products.

In terms of how the company is run, Paul Segre will continue to serve as CEO, providing leadership that best supports the needs of customers, partners and employees. Genesys will maintain its headquarters in Daly City, as well as key offices in Indianapolis, Indiana and Durham, North Carolina.

This acquisition is one of many that are being seen in the customer service and customer experience world. It gives Genesys a larger customer base and integrates many of the features and functions Interactive Intelligence brought to the table. As customer experience becomes one of the most important differentiators in a brand’s overall experience, choosing the right vendor to deliver on complex customer service and customer experience interactions will be key. While there are vendors that are part of a larger marketing, sales and service suite, there are other vendors who remain focused on the customer service marketplace. Time will tell how organizations see the need to go with solutions that service part of an organization vs having the capability to connect to the back office as well as other lines of business.

Below is a snapshot of Genesys’s capabilities:

Overview of Genesys

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

www.constellationr.com

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Jacada Announces Private Equity Investment

Jacada Ltd. (OTCQB: JCDAF), a global provider of customer experience technology designed to simplify the interaction between businesses and their customers, announces that Israel Growth Partners (IGP), a Private Equity investment. Jacada’s visual IVR is a key asset to their capabilities has other digital transformation solutions aiming to reduce the cost to serve customers while driving a seamless customer journey. The visual IVR transforms the typical “press 1 for….” Press 2 for…” type of IVR and instead uses a touch interface. Companies looking toward digital transformation of the customer experience are using the visual IVR as a cornerstone of their digital transformation. This investment should be helpful in Jacada’s future growth.

Jacada Visual IVR@Drnatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Covering Digital Customer Experience Transformation in Customer-facing Application

Constellationr.com

 

 

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Video Advertising: Key to Getting Customers Attention As Ad Blocking is Increasing

Searches for Influencer Marketing have grown 5x in 2015 according to a study from Google Trends from January 2016. Nearly 40% of Millennials are using ad block applications and their use is growing fast according to a study by PageFair & Adobe. So how does a company get their target customer’s attention? And with content marketing a #1 priority for most CMOs as more and more sales are decided upon before even talking to a sales person. And sometimes a salesperson is never contacted, so getting the customer’s undivided attention has never been so important. Perhaps the answer is video marketing. Video consumption has exploded across all devices and is one of the fastest growing advertising category.

Adobe, a the leader in video content creation and delivery, announced it’s acquisition of TubeMogul which will enable brands to capitalize on the huge shift to online video. The acquisition of TubeMogul  strengthens Adobe’s leadership in digital marketing and advertising technology. The addition of TubeMogul will enable Adobe’s customers to maximize their video advertising investments across desktop, mobile, streaming devices and TV. TubeMogul’s video advertising platform. In addition, this allows their customers to build upon their capabilities in search, display and social advertising planning and delivery using Adobe Media Optimizer with Adobe Marketing Cloud. This combination will give customers access to first-party data and measurement capabilities from Adobe Audience Manager (Adobe’s data management platform) and by using Adobe Analytics.

Why is video advertising so important? Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager, digital marketing, Adobe gave this statement, “Whether it’s episodic TV, indie films or Hollywood blockbusters, video consumption is exploding across every device and brands are following those eyeballs.” Adobe feels the acquisition of TubeMogul, will give customers a ‘one-stop shop’ for video advertising, providing even more strategic value for the use of the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

TubeMogul is a video demand-side platform (DSP) leader. Brett Wilson, CEO and co-founder, TubeMogul said, “The combination of Adobe Marketing Cloud with TubeMogul’s software creates a uniquely comprehensive platform that will help marketers always know what’s working — and act on it.” And what’s key is measurement – to know what is working and not working, and obviously do more of what is getting a result.

There are so many choices for Marketers today, as far as software and it is only getting more confusing with all the choices. When a software company can show you how to get results, you know you are going in the right direction. Education and learning to use all the features and functions of what the various software platforms provide is of growing concern for most companies to obtain the highest ROI possible for the investment they have made.

It’s key that Marketers are clear on what their strategy, goals, objectives and tactics are and have a strong measurement program to be able to show that the software purchase enhanced the brands ability to drive more awareness, increase customer acquisition and turn more leads into sales. And with ad blocking increasing, there’s got to be another way to get customer’s attention. Video seems to be a prime candidate. This is just one example of how early adopters and innovators are taking hold of the market place and making their competition irrelevant. And like the BlueOcean authors said, that’s the key to financial success in today’s marketplace. Cross the chasm, join the digital transformation and digital disruption evolution or expect to be disrupted. Disrupt or be disrupted. Those are the choices to being innovative leaders and using design thinking to transform your business revenue model.

@DrNatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, www.ConstellationResearch.com

Covering Customer-facing Applications to Create Great Customer Experiences

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