Month: May 2013

VRM help is where you find it

As Dean Landsman tweets here, a lot of suff out there is VRM without saying so. (Which is cool; it doesn’t have to.) The example toward which he points is How can we provide better customer service? Create software that lets customers serve each other, by Ashley Verrill in Gigaom. The summary:

As consumers increasingly turn to social media to both praise and criticize brands, those brands can’t possibliy respond to all the feedback. The solution is to empower customers to speak on their behalf.

Her piece begins,

Recently I was asked a question following a presentation that suddenly made me realize social application developers are missing a big opportunity in customer service. I had just finished speaking at the global HP Social Support Summit, when an audience member took the microphone and asked, “Do you know of any software that lets community members respond on behalf of companies on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms?”

I do, and more on that below. Meanwhile, Ashley unpacks the problem requiring this kind of question:

The current customer service model is moribund

One of the biggest reasons this idea struck me is that the current model just isn’t working. In one study I conducted, major brands such as Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo responded just 14 percent of the time when they were asked questions via Twitter. This is a big problem when you consider more than half of Twitter users expect a personal response within two hours of sending a question or complaint, according to a report by Oracle last year.

This is a scaling problem that can be partially answered by equipping more employees to respond to requests from customers. Ashley sees customers themselves — “community members” — taking up the rest of the slack:

Existing, active community members can be the perfect candidates to respond for companies on social media for two reasons: For one, they’re already enthusiastic about your products and so can be good brand ambassadors; and two, they’ve proven their zeal for answering questions from other customers already.

Take this HP community member, for example. He spends upwards of 30 unpaid  hours a week responding to queries in their discussion forums. The software I’m suggesting would essentially empower “wb2001″ and thousands of other similar customers like him to respond to questions on social media (in addition to the community that exists already).

This hypothetical technology could still leverage all of the tools that make communities so effective – things like gamification and automated alerts. Also, social listening tools could filter out messages that would be better suited for an employee response. This could include messages from customers that are particularly angry, or questions that would require a technical expert.

This would lead, she concludes, to “empowering your brand advocates to create a sea of new discussions that never would have existed in the first place.”

What would do the empowering, exactly?

Among VRM developers, I see one company that does exactly what the HP audience member asked for. The company is Directly. Here is its mission:

A Better Way To Get Help.

Directly makes it easy to get fast, personal attention from experts who know different companies inside and out. Our community of experts work independently in their own free time. They earn rewards and reputation, and can cash out their rewards or donate them to one of the non-profit causes we support.

  • Our support site helps customers get better customer support — so customers can spend less time dealing with support and more time enjoying their life.
  • Our mortgage site helps homebuyers and homeowners — so more families can buy new homes or stay in the ones they love.

Directly launched publicly in December 2012 with a network that reaches 3.2 million customers monthly and has already helped 35,000 airline, bank, cable and wireless customers with a 97% response rate and an average response time of less than 10 minutes.

So whether you need to evaluate the best options, resolve an issue or just get things done, Directly is a better way to get help straight from the experts who can help.

As for software for making her scenario work, I think it would have to be independent of the world’s HPs, but would work with any or all of them.

For example, let’s say I wish to leverage my expertise with these things:

  • Canon 5D camera
  • 2000 Volkswagen Passat station wagon
  • Sangean ATS-909/Radio Shack DX-398 radio
  • Garmin eTrex Legend HCx GPS
  • Starbucks’ Saeco and Barista espresso machines

Rather than be empowered by each of those companies to speak for them, I might like one standard and non-proprietary way I could provide help for users of all of them. Or that would give customers a way of notifying the marketplace (including the corporate CRM systems, plus help systems such as Directly, plus anybody interested in helping without an intermediator) of a need for help.

Is that way out there yet? There are a zillion fora for a zillion products and services already. Some are hosted by the companies themselves, and some are out in the wild. But all I can name are to some degree centralized. What I’d like to see is something decentralized, but capable of working both with customers and with any of the CRM systems already in place from providers like Salesforce, IBM, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and the rest of them.

Maybe something like that is out there already. If so, let us know.

Loose links

I’ll be flying shortly to Italy, for the State of the Net conference in Trieste later this week. (Here’s the English version, the program, the hashtag: #sotn13.) I’ll be on a couple of panels and giving a keynote on personal clouds, which are emerging as center of control for individuals doing VRM. Meanwhile, here are some links I’m accumulating around VRM topics…

Mainstream Media

Webstream Media

Tweets

BTW, while I’m glad that copying and pasting linky text from a browser window into the composing space here in WordPress mostly works, I hate the way all kinds of formatting cruft comes along with it. Normally I make the time to de-cruft out all the <div> and <span> jive, and maybe I will later today or tomorrow; but I don’t have time right now so I’ll let it stand.

VRM at IIW

We had a packed house yesterday at VRM Day 2013a — more than fifty people — prepping for IIW , which starts today and runs for two more at the Computer History Museumin Mountain View.

IIW is an unconference. No keynotes, no panels, no sponsors controlling the agenda. At the beginning of each day, particpants (who aren’t just “attendees”) choose the topics they want to talk about, and from there on it’s all breakout sessions in separate rooms. So here are some of the session candidates we put up on the whiteboard(and also on the wiki at the first link above):

  • Intentcasting
  • Governance
  • Personal Clouds in general
  • Interoperability mapping
  • How to get 4th parties interested in verticals, e.g. health care, government, retail) “Medicine cabinet” instead of wallets
  • What average joe/jane use case(s) will drive adoption?
  • Use case deep dive — An active session, attendees simulate the use case communications between the device, pcloud, vendor, etc.
  • standards/patterns
  • Next-gen SSO (e.g.Persona)
  • Legal Hacks & License harmonization
  • Wallets & apps for transactions, photos, etc. Bitcoin as a VRM money clip, safe deposit box… (see session from the last IIW)
  • Tracking and ad blocking, and harmonizing methods and experiences
  • Bringing 4th parties into verticals, e.g…
  • Health Care VRM — “medicine cabinets” rather than “wallets”
  • Real estate
  • Banking (including credit cards, payments, transactions)
  • Retail
  • Sovereign vs./+ Administrative identities
  • Terms and policies (Customer Commons’ work, plus Patient Privacy Rights)
  • Symbols (e.g. around privacy)
  • XDI + KRL, messaging & events
  • Internet of me and my things
  • Drummond, for Respect Network:
  • Discovery “DNSSIC for #pclouds”
  • Respect Connect “Facebook connect without the downsides”
  • Dictionary seminars
  • Personal data pain points, e.g. filling out forms
  • Collect useful techs/APIs

There are lists within that list, but my patience and connectivity aren’t up to it, so I’ll leave that be for now.

Identity is personal

It’s as simple as that.

Identity is not corporate. That means no company is going to “win” at personal identity, any more than any company can win at being you or me. It makes no sense.

But meanwhile, there’s this big war going on over identity, that Mike Elgan of CultOfMac covers (from the Apple side) in Why the ‘i’ in iPhone Will Stand For ‘Identity’. Writes Mike,

Google honcho Eric Schmidt came right out and said it: “Google+ was created primarily as an identity service.”

And Om Malik nailed it when he said: “The real power of Facebook lies in controlling connected identity.”

Both Google and Facebook made big pushes to turn their social networks into solid identity services. And both those attempts have largely failed so far.

But Apple can win, Mike says. Here’s why:

think Apple can succeed where the social networks failed.

The reason is that Apple has a better deal for users. The social network proposed both a small stick and a small carrot: Use one account and use your real name because then everything is better. That approach failed.

Apple’s proposition is much better: Use the Identity iPhone, and stop keying in passwords, credit card numbers, billing information and more. As you cruise through the Internet, all the doors will open for you and you can securely use and buy and access anything you want without any work.

How Apple Will Use the Identity iPhone

Once you’ve associated your actual fingerprint with your iPhone, your iPhone becomes you — better than a photo ID, better than a signature, better than a password.

Today, a swipe of the finger on an iPhone conjures up the 4-digit passcode lock. If you spend some quality time with the Passcode Lock page in Settings, you can see that you have an option to turn it on or off, require it immediately or after one, five or fifteen minutes or after one or four hours. It also allows you to access or not access Passbook and the ability to reply to a message when the phone is locked.

All those settings may be identical to the fingerprint scanning feature of the next iPhone….

I believe Apple intends to build both NFC and fingerprint readers into iMacs and iPads.

When you set your iPhone next to the keyboard of your iMac, all your online activity will identity you to various sites, which means that you’ll have an “E-Z Pass” right through password dialogs and credit card pages. You’ll just be able to log in as you and buy stuff without typing anything…

In the Real World, you’ll be able to authenticate purchases either via Bluetooth or NFC, skipping the line at the movie theater, department store and gas station. You’ll be billed, and be able to pay for your restaurant meal without the waiter’s involvement. (Letting a stranger take your credit card out of your sight is one of the weakest links in the way commerce works right now.)

As I wrote in Identity systems, failing to communicate,

What’s fucked up about identity is that every site and service has its own identity system. None are yours. All are theirs, all are silo’d, and all are different. For this we can thank the calf-cow model of client-server computing, and we are stuck in it. That’s why we are forced to remember how we identify ourselves, separately, as calves, to many different cows, each of which act like they’re the only damn cow in the world.

And I gotta say, Apple sucks at being an identity cow. I am three different calves to Apple right now. That is, three different AppleIDs. I have spoken to Apple people many times about their need to merge customer namespaces, and they give me the same answer every time: it’s too hard. Worse, they’ve screwed it up over and over. An Apple mail account that was once  foo at mac.com then became  foo at me.com is now also  foo at icloud.com.  On that basis alone Apple amply demonstrates the namespace problem, which might be the oldest problem (that’s still with us) in all of computing.

Einstein saidNo problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. The namespace problem was created — and worsened — by companies creating more namespaces. One more bigfoot creating one more way to leverage its own private namespace to the whole world is not a solution. It’s one more problem to solve.

The only way to solve the identity problem is where the most pain is felt: at the individual level.

This is a very hard fact for enterprise-level solution-makers to grok, because at their level the solution is always yet another namespace or yet another bigfoot company pushing yet another technical solution. That, in effect, is what Mike says Apple will do here. And they will fail, just like Facebook, Google, Microsoft (remember Hailstorm and Passport?) and every other bigfoot has failed. Because they can’t solve it.

Meanwhile, we’ve solved this kind of thing before at the personal level, over and over, and we will do it again.

If you want to help work on it, come to the Internet Identity Workshop next week in Mountain View. That’s where the real work is happening.

 

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