Interface

how would you tell your customers that they matter?

NOTE: this is more than another "I Love Dell" Story

Impressions_water Everyone is applauding Dell for trolling the blogosphere for negative feedback.  But the far better story is their 180 degree customer-first service turnaround.  The key here is this: Dell isn't solving problems, they are creating positive impressions by generating positive experiences.

Trolling the blogosphere is like thanking a burglar for only stealing your television but leaving the stereo system. It's reactive marketing. Customer support needs to be as proactive and delightful as possible.

  • Customers are paying for your product.  Customers expect not to face any problems.  There often are problems, and even if the user is at fault, brands need to create a positive user experience. 
  • Re-active blogger outreach and response is a negative PR/brand equity stop gap, not a solution. 
  • Active branding and successful marketing require more than satisfaction, they deliver delight.  And delight can only occur if the customer feels valued.

How do you know if a brand really cares about their customers?

Visit their websites.  Where is the contact form?  Where is the contact phone number?  How long does the average user have wait on hold before getting through to customer service via online chat or a phone call?  Is your customer service representative empowered with the ability to deliver timely and satisfactory resolutions to potential issues?

Jeff Jarvis wrote a fantastic article in last week's Business Week outlining Dell's customer service turnaround.  Michael Parekh recently posted about his own experience with Dell.  While Dell has come a long way, it still took a blog post from an influential blogger to get an executive response and a timely solution. Dell's customer support wanted to help, but their internal system was crippling their support personnel.  And this is coming from a market leader.

Dell_4Nevertheless, DELL WILL SUCCEED BECAUSE THEY COMMUNICATE THAT THEY CARE! Dell's website prominently features Support & Help with the same equal prominence as their products.  This makes a clear statement: customer support is an integral part the Dell product. 

This alone would be reason enough to buy a Dell - even if I haven't had YEARS of horrible experiences with HP.

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KEY TAKEAWAY: Too many companies are looking at the shiny object that is social media, viral PR, positive buzz and blogger outreach without reconsidering the basics.  New Media isn't about what's new, it's about doing everything that you should have been doing all along, and doing it better than ever before.  Don't just say that you care, market that care.  Feature that sentiment throughout your product marketing, be it the product, promotions, messaging, design or sales.  Dell will succeed not because they are minimizing negative buzz, but because their service and support is a featured part of their product offering.  Computers are frustrating. Dell sells more than a machine, they sell ease of use and peace of mind.


the beta phenomina

Beta The much hyped beta launch of Hulu has lit up the blogosphere.

- Introduction-
I understand why Hulu deserves the hype.  The technology for web based television/video viewing has been around for some time.  The bandwidth is there.  The last missing piece of the puzzle is content.  Hulu promises to begin filling in those missing puzzle pieces.

- Post -
More interesting however, than the content offering itself, are the reviews being written.

Reviewers are writing editorial as if Hulu was a finished product with a finalized content offering.  What ever happened to the days when beta releases were meant as a debugging and testing tool?  Aren't beta releases supposed to be somewhat unfinished?

Beta testing began as a way to route out bugs, to catch and fix glitches.  Beta testing was also a great way to build hype by giving influentials early access to a limited product.

But Beta Releases have come to represent something else.  Beta tests are now often public and at times extended releases, such as was the case with gmail.

So what does beta really mean anymore?  Should a beta be an almost finished product?  Should a beta be a finished but as yet unreleased product?  Is the term beta really even relevant anymore?


digital media jam

Just picked this up off Scobelizer.  This may be a very long video, but I found much of it to be a worthwhile listen.  Check it out below:


Key Takeaways:

  • Users want to control all their digital media in the same way they control their DVDs. 
    • I can watch watch my DVDs at a friend's house without leaving a copy there.
  • BitTorrent has been successful because it enables and empowers content portability.  It's not all about the piracy, it's about access and delivery.
  • Your content is yours.  You want it to live as such.

For previous coverage of free-flowing-DRM (or liquid DRM) click here.

On that note, this Media Master System looks promising and truly liquid (liquid?).  If the pricing, connectivity and user interface are there, this could be huge!

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- PS - Can anyone out there please explain what happened to Orb?  They nearly had a similar system built out YEARS AGO and haven't yet taken off!


more than one war may be decided by customer service

Hung_2 Isn't it a shame that one of the most innovative products of the year, the iPhone, is being talked about not for it's amazing features, but the many ways Apple has messed with their loyal customer base? Whether it be paper bills of encyclopedic proportions, refund-gate or most recently iBrick-gate, Apple's marketing engine seems to have lost their mojo.  Their sales will continue to climb because of their amazingly engineered products; but this growth is not due to their marketing efforts but despite them.

With the next generation of broadband connectivity (and all the IPTV goodness it brings) finally making it into our homes, it looks like customer centric marketing may very well determine the victor in what is already a fiercely competitive market.  While Comcast has driven an elderly woman to open a can on their merchandise at a retail store, Verizon is touting a new age of home connectivity that empowers customers by delivering a better, stronger consumer experience.   With Verizon it's all about the customer, and this is why they already have a leg up in my mind.

A few months of slow access with DSL and years of satisfactory experience with cable connectivity have created an affinity that is not easily erased.  However, the forgettable customer service I've encountered with cable companies to date may very well lead me to try out Verizon's latest offering in FiOS.

But that's just me, how about you?


future visions: when the web lives beyond the browser

The Web is a place where possibility meets reality.

Believe it or not, the web really is a series of tubes. 

When many of us think of the web, we think of the browser.

But the web is greater, the web is stronger.  The web is the connection.

The web delivers newer, smarter, free-er, independent abilities beyond both our hardware and software manufacturer's greatest imaginations.  The web is open, massive and offers unlimited opportunity.

The web residing application powers our social networking, our browsing, our publishing, our communications, our lives.  The web takes the stationary and makes it mobile, makes it portable, breaks down walls and smooths out mountains for newcomers while generating new ones for traditional giants.

Towards this end:

  • Twitter isn't anything new, it's just another connection that works within the limits of our mobile connectivity.
  • A Metaverse is nothing new, it's just a graphical representation of the text (and at times flat-2D video) world we lived in.  The Metaverse is to the traditional browser as Windows 3.1 or the Apple II was to DOS.
  • The iPhone is revolutionary in it's design but it's greatest strength lies in web developers' embrace of the platform to distribute the web as an experience, as an interaction, as an open ended connection - not as a browser. 

Widgets may live today in our personal and social network pages largely within browser, but the distributed web will fuel the 2.0 - 3.0 transition.

So in a sense, web 3.0 isn't about the destination, but the experience of the living and breathing organism that is the web - the connectivity, the openness, the power of the (distributed) interaction that is the web experience.


NBC readying for BIG October

NbcSo it's October 1st, the beginning of a big month for NBC.  Hulu is set to launch in private beta, NBC is now iTunes-free, and NBC Direct is rumored to take off any day now.  So what is NBC going to be doing with their network sites?

From the looks of it, the NBC.com redesign is presenting with a more "youthful" (read widgeted ala MySpace) look.  Everything lives in widget like windows that upon activation will either spillover onto the page or redirect you to a new page.  This is all part of an effort being called "My NBC" that will feature social networking, video viewing, etc. 

I get where NBC is going and it's refreshing to see a mainstream media juggernaut really trying to reinvent their home site just before the beta launch of their new video offerings.  My only question is this: do most users go to NBC to get their schedule (which now has much higher prominence on the homepage, NBC gets a star for that one), to watch complete episodes, to view clips, or to interact with programming in a whole new "social" way?

From the looks of it NBC's new redesign is seeking to keep their streaming audience while pushing users to register and join the "hardcore" fans who care to interact with their programs and characters all week long. (side note: I've heard too many "2.0"ers ripping on broadcast media's character blogs.  What seems to be forgotten is that not every feature on every site is meant for everyone.  Just because I want a passive video viewing experience doesn't mean that networks shouldn't have added features for hardcore fans.  Now back to the show.)

This isn't going to be a MySpace killer, nor will it kill the many user controlled forums across the internet. It may however, serve as a base of operations for a broader distributed network of sites and offering from NBC as they diversify their digital strategy.  Overall, I would encourage everyone to check out their new redesign and then compare and contrast it with their old design (at this point still serving over at www.nbcdirect.com).   I  can't place my finger on it, but the design, coloring and layout just feel refreshing.  Aside from a couple of interesting (and I'm sure temporary) flaws including a large square of dead space on the far right corner of the screen (could this be a placeholder for Hulu or NBC Direct?), I'd like to thank NBC for speaking to all of their users - even those of us who only want quick and easy access to a schedule - in their redesign.

Here's to what is sure to be an exciting October!


when words say more than pictures

Stand_out Colloquial wisdom states that a picture is worth a thousand words.

While pictures can tell entire stories in a single image, words can emote, express and inform in ways that pictures cannot.

Rich media has it's place, but I personally oftentimes prefer the power, control, depth, simplicity, complexity and tactile nature of the written word.

If all ads were text heavy, graphics would be more impactfull.

But in the future depicted in the video below, in a future of rich multimedia, wouldn't the pure humanity and simplicity of the written word be most effective?

In a world where everything is bright any shiny, wouldn't silence speak loudest?


next steps: Veoh TV

FilmFirstly, if you have not yet checked out Veoh TV, I highly recommend you download this free beta.

Veoh TV is an online Tivo and cable box in one.  Veoh streams their own content AND re-streams content off other websites - including major network sites.

Veoh is red hot, and the buzz around the brand is amazing.  So where do they go from here?

Next Steps - Veoh

  1. Sign with Amazon.com, unbox, and Tivo
    • Deliver ad supported and for sale content to Tivo through Amazon.com
    • Enable plinking (product sales linking) on all 2.0 digital video assets - potentially form the living room!
    • Recommend streaming video based on Lifestream information based on user Amazon user history
    • Delivery the first truly viable longtail capable IPTV solution via TiVeoh (tivo + veoh)
      • This would also give Tivo a desperately needed leg up in the DVR/PVR market.
  2. Go for the fat belly while continuing to embrace the long tail
    • Enable streaming off of cable network sites (ex - Comedy Central) in addition to network TV sites
    • Enable ad-free subscriptions to network television content - think $30 for a season long subscription to a show - rather than one off purchases.
  3. Build out a better player
    • Improve current channel listings menu.  It's huge, cumbersome, and doesn't feature regular live scrolling, rather it loads up a new page.  For a desktop application, this is rather odd.
    • Create a better mini-player (think screen-in-screen functionality) for the multitasker in all of us.
    • Enable and encourage content portability - to iDevices, PMPs (portable media players), Media Extenders, etc.
    • Fix bugs (in all fairness this is a beta test) in streams off network sites.
    • Deliver custom web based player with access to home computer content through existing partnership with YourMinis.
  4. Build out stronger subscription model
    • Bake in RSS and Rich Media RSS (vodcast) functionality within the player, library and playlists - and make sure this functionality is easy to access and use.
    • Enable ad-free subscriptions to network television content - think $30 for a season long subscription to a show - rather than one off purchases currently available on iTunes.
  5. Partner with Orb to deliver Slingbox type place shifting to mobile phones, next gen gaming devices, media extenders, other computers and all other flash enabled internet devices.
  6. Become the go-to-media-guy
    • Become the streaming and downloaded content media center/aggregator for all of your digital content.
    • Playback locally stored content through innovative new software solution - mirror both iTunes and Windows Media Player content in a single integrated solution.  This would allow users to access both their Windows Media DRM and Apple DRM content within a single player.
    • By aggregating subscription content (podcasts and vodcasts), streaming content and new downloads (The Office off of AmazonUnbox and Greys Anatomy off iTunes) in a single window, the user has the ultimate control over their playlist. 
      • Streaming this content via Orb will allow users to take this playlist with them to go.

But these are just my thoughts.  I'd love to hear yours!
So check it out, download it, play with it, and please share your  feedback for next steps you would like to see Veoh take!