Customer Experience

“Click to Skip this Blog Post” – why disruptive “in-experience” advertising hurts more than helps

We’ve all been there…

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make”
– William Bernbach, founder, DDB Advertising Agency (for you Mad Men fans, Sterling Cooper’s main competitor)

If this is true, Mr. Bernbach, then why is it that every 3rd video I click on YouTube forces me to watch an advertisement? Why is it that, as I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see a video for a VISA card I have no intention of acquiring? How about when I click a link on espn.com, instead of the article, I get an autoplay advertisement for the latest iteration of “Paranormal Activity”?

The answer is unfortunate for those of us who appreciate high-impact, creative marketing:
In-experience advertising in it’s current state is broken. In fact, it is counterintuitive. Advertisers have failed us – instead of coming up with creative ways to capture our attention and inspire action, they have chosen to force us to consume their messaging, at the expense of our time and more importantly, our trust.

Ultimately, the goal of any advertiser is to inspire action – their ads should motivate consumers to read about, talk about, and ideally buy, their product or service. Advertisers continue to stretch their imagination when trying to structure the timing and location of their messaging for the highest possible impact. As an example, this is precisely why SuperBowl ads come at a premium. Presumably, consumers are tuning in with the intention of being sold to. It’s why the “ad inserts” in your local paper contain 3x the content during “Black Friday” week. It’s a no brainer – consumers are in their most impressionable state of mind during these times, so naturally, advertisers are there to pounce. Consumers say “sell to me during these times” and advertisers respond in kind.

However, in recent years, we have changed the way we consume information, which has resulted in a very challenging position for advertisers. The pace of this change is accelerating at an amazing rate. Consumers are spending less time in front of their TV’s, and more time on their iPads. Less time reading Home & Garden, and more time reading their customized Home & Garden page on Flipboard. Content is instantly accessible from a variety of sources, and those sources are growing every day, making it increasingly challenging for companies to ensure their advertising dollars are being maximized.

So what’s a Marketing team to do? As with any other form of industry disruption…the answer is to panic. To bombard us in our most “vulnerable” state. The in-experience advertisement is a modern day version of the 7PM “do you want to sign up for the Washington Times?” phone call that comes right as you sit down to dinner with your family.  We’re better than this, folks.

If you wish to increase the effectiveness of your marketing/advertising spend, the first thing you should do is determine how and when you will reach your target audience during a time they are most receptive to your messaging. Take a tip from one of the best “experience” companies in the world – we were brainstorming this week around this very topic, and the theme for our direction centers around one statement:

“Our outreach should be immersive – not intrusive”

The next time you think about disrupting a user or customers’ experience to force them to listen to your pitch, ask yourself one question. “If I was the user, and all I wanted to do was access this content and <company x> was blocking me from doing so instantly…would I be more or less likely to utilize their service or buy their product?”

Consumers trust us to not waste their time or money – who wants to create or enhance their relationship with a brand that devalues either one of those assets regularly? The least lucrative of all demographics – no one.

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The iPhone 5 is the latest example of “The Apple Effect” – how do they do it?!?

New product launches are like walking on thin ice. Same goes for service providers and retailers entering new markets. You can never truly predict how the market will react. You can have the best marketing campaign in the world supported by all the statistics money can buy, and still come up short. You could gather a lineup of Obama, Michael Phelps, Justin Bieber, RG3 (!), and Oprah jumping up and down on trampolines with big signs saying “greatest product in the world”, and still people may not be so quick to engage.

Enter the iPhone 5. Apple continues to be a marquee brand that other organizations aspire to be like. Regardless of industry, people look at what Apple has accomplished in terms of Customer Loyalty and constantly ask – how can we generate that same loyalty and enthusiasm within our industry?

Check out this video – can you imagine someone walking into a Volkswagen dealership and having the same reaction to a “new car”…that it turns out they already own?

Jimmy Kimmel: What Happens when we “Introduce” the iPhone 5 to the public – with an iPhone 4s?

While Apple detractors can use this as proof that Apple products aren’t all that great and it’s all about the “mystique” associated with the product, savvy marketers watch a video like this, their jaw sinks, head shaking, asking “wow how do they do it?”

Apple has a different approach than most organizations, one focused on what should be, not what can be. Jobs’ team is famous for running through boundaries when others are frozen by them. Let’s break it down by talking about the Apple experience in the context of Who, How, and Why.

Who?

Let’s focus on their 2 most high impact organizations – Design/Development and Marketing.

Apple does not develop their products based on what people WANT. They develop them based on what people don’t know they want…yet. Here is a great quote from Jobs that summarizes:

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”

– Steve Jobs

People are inspired by innovation & change…and ultimately, that’s what any strategic marketer wants to do to grow their customer base and take market share – motivate their promoters to keep buying and promoting while activating the need to change amongst their competitors’ customers.

As great as their design team is, Marketingis where Apple really shines – some may say it’s easy when you’ve got great products, but the main thing Apple does better than everyone else? They believe in the Customer EXPERIENCE, not Customer SERVICE. What makes the people in that video so inclined to trust their emotions over their actual physical senses, when they are holding this iPhone 5 imposter? Apple has set the expectation that their brand is associated with innovation, improvement, and agility…regardless of if it actually is.

How? Apple does a better job of communicating with the consumer than nearly anyone else, in any industry. Whether it’s communicating with you via an interactive digital experience (App Store updates, iOS updates, iTunes, etc), or via an in-person experience (retail stores, call center, etc), they focus on 2 things – adding value, and measuring your experience while doing so. Just like a puppy who jumps when they hear the treat jar lid spring open, consumers jump when they are alerted to a pending Apple Experience…and they want in.

Why? Confidence. Consumers are confident that every Apple experience will meet their expectations, or exceed them. Apple builds confidence amongst consumers by constantly delivering on their promises. When they don’t – they want to hear about it. Heck, when they do, they want to hear about it. I have never seen an organization so dedicated to their engagements with consumers – if Apple could ask you every day “give me one word that describes Apple” (shout-out to BrandTags) and track that sentiment, taking into account all of the external variables (seasons/weather, market share, spend, product releases, etc) to measure the reasoning behind customers’ feedback they would. Apple has a level of respect for consumer sentiment that is unmatched in any industry. This allows them to align their delivery to their customers’ expectations, and ultimately drive consumer confidence and loyalty through the roof.

So to recap – how does Apple create a culture of loyalty so strong that anticipation, emotion, and promotion takes precedence over features and functions? Thank goodness for simplicity and flowcharts.

Disruption–>Innovation–>Commitment–>Engagement–>Experience–>Confidence–>Loyalty–>Revenue–>Profitability–>Shareholder Value–>SUCCESS

Simply put by Jobs himself:

“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply”

Nice job Apple. Like my man Aziz Ansari said, “that’s how it’s done son!”

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Why not???

You know when you come across a great quote in a book that makes you stop reading and say “wow, that was concise and hits the nail on the head!” I wanted to share one of my all-time favorites from a book that many of us consumer-experience-geeks have at arms’ length at any given time. The reason this resonates with me so much is because it addresses the very essence of human relationships, and speaks to a very positive approach you can easily refer to in every meaningful interaction, every day. From our friend Fred Reichheld at Bain:

“It always seemed to me that success in business and in life should result from your impact on the people you touch – whether you have enriched their lives or diminished them”

For whatever reason, my brain processes information chunks at a time, much in the same way I eat (slowly, enjoying bite by bite), so quotes like this that deliver a range of applicability in 10 seconds or less really put me in my place.

Yes you have to make a conscious effort. So why try to contribute positively in every interaction? Why make an effort to add to each others’ success and enjoyment as often as possible? Why break down the barriers and get to the root of what matters?

When you think about it, whether individually, or as a business…WHY NOT? Why operate any other way? The most innovative companies in the world have adopted a methodology to implement and manage this within their day to day interactions, to maintain the fundamentals of a consumer-centric culture. We as individuals can do it for free.

Speaking of which, looking at the expression on my wife’s face as I type this over a longgggg slowwww breakfast (naturally),  it looks like I’ve got some enriching to do myself. Sorry babe, off we go!!!

Categories: Customer Experience, Life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

“Our Mission” – get it right and stick to it

Mission statements have come a long way. Remember back to your first exposure to business plans and the concept of entrepreneurship – “what does your company stand for?” The mission statement was this cold, mechanical message about delivering “value” and “the best products for ____ in the world.”

Over time, these statements often became another channel for marketing, leveraging “the mission statement” to attract consumers. Unfortunately the quality of their artificial content conveyed that intent.

Today, consumers have more access to data than ever, and we can now qualitatively evaluate the validity of these mission statements. Ultimately, organizations are losing credibility by claiming to deliver an experience that they simply aren’t backing up. We as consumers have the power to hold these organizations accountable for the experience they claim to deliver, and when they don’t….well, we feel cheated and in turn defect to the competition, or even worse become detractors.

Social media has exponentially multiplied the impact of that sentiment. When a company promises to deliver something and fails, that failure can, in seconds, be exposed to over 2.2 BILLION people worldwide with internet access.

Alternatively, when a company has a well defined mission statement that they clearly back up, it can drive customer loyalty and turn passive promoters into walking referrals. Take Philz Coffee, my favorite spot to grab a 6AM coffee & blog sessh in Palo Ato:

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Hey, they are playing Billy Idol right now while we’re having a great early morning conversation about the best single on Green Day’s “Nimrod” (Clearly Haushinka, by the way) Doesn’t get much more random, and that’s exactly how I like it. My day is off to a great start, thanks to the great culture of positivity here.

When you think about it – a mission statement should not be some long sentence filled with 12 letter words and complicated cliches. The purpose of a mission statement is for an organization to identify what they want to be, communicate that desire to employees so they uphold the intended values of the company, and communicate that to consumers so they know what to expect from their experience. “Expectations” – the most dangerous word in any B2C OR B2B transaction – for the provider, choose your words carefully; for the buyer, you have every right to demand authenticity and alignment to the expectations that were set up front.

Take a look at some of your favorite brands’ mission statements – are they upholding their end of the bargain, or have they lost their way?

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Delighting the Customer Episode 1: Filson

Identifying the most effective way to take consumers down the buying path is something every organization on the planet spends a tremendous amount of time and resources accomplishing. Every promise of growth to stakeholders/shareholders is dependent upon not just retaining current customers, but finding new ones. For any organization focused on their brand, the tremendous effort to take prospects from unaware–>aware–>interested–>purchaser–>loyal–>promoter requires a sound strategy and flawless execution. However the top .01% of  companies…the cream of the crop…they are focused on simplifying the above maturity path. They constantly ask themselves “how can we take someone from being unaware to being our biggest promoter immediately?”

Most land on the same fundamental approach that got them to where they are in the first place – go above and beyond for your customers. Succeeding in delivering a phenomenal experience requires a dedicated focus on the areas where a direct connection exists between your brand and your customer – advertising, web experience, the ordering process, store experience, and customer service. That’s a lot of areas to address – so what’s the common theme? Your people!

The people you choose to represent your brand either reinforce or take away from the principles you hope to convey. Every single person who interfaces with the customer should be trained as a problem solver. Not a rule follower and certainly not a standard call-taker. Yes, the top companies in the world actually advocate navigating around policy, and put their margins in the hands of their customer service teams. It’s not all that crazy when you think about it – if you as a company invest in anything, shouldn’t it be your customers? This is the model that wildly successful companies like Amazon and Zappos have embraced as a vehicle for growth acceleration and brand loyalty.

Every week on the blog, I’m going to do my best to point out an example of a company, team, or customer service professional who really gets it, delivering an exceptional customer experience that drives brand loyalty and accelerates the path to becoming a promoter. 

This week I am going to focus on Filson, the retailer best known for offering some of the most durable and high quality luggage and outdoor clothing on the market. To better identify with their customer-centric approach, just check out their warranty:

“We guarantee every item purchased from us. No more, no less. Your satisfaction is the sole purpose of our transaction.”

I recently visited Filson’s site to order 5 duffle bags – 1 for each of the groomsmen in my wedding. Much to my dismay, the bags were listed as “sold out” with an estimated ship date 2 months out. Ouch. A quick glimpse into my personality – I don’t accept failure well at all, in fact it just pushes me to work harder…it’s like a game. If something is impossible…well I want to make it possible. Not on a soapbox here, this can be as much of a deficiency as it is an admirable trait…just ask my wife who has to deal with my maniacally stubborn pursuits.

Anyway, I had my heart set on these bags, and I was going to find them! Lucky for me, Zak @ Filson was up to the challenge. Upon calling Filson’s customer service line, Zak informed me that they were indeed sold out for the next 2 months. He then proceeded to check their system inventory to see if any Filson retail locations had the bags in stock. According to him, what he saw in the system “didn’t add up” so he wanted to make a few calls. In the meantime, he provided me with the numbers for my local authorized retailers to call them while he was hunting. At this point, I’m loving this. I just picked up a partner! Zak and I are on a mission, we are determined to find these bags, the dynamic duo of duffle bags – Zak & Nick!

Zak and Nick preparing for battle

Side note – one thing you may be thinking – “why didnt Zak just call your local retailers himself if he’s so good?” Simple – because I didn’t want him to. Zak could hear I really wanted these bags, he was trained well to understand that I wanted to remain part of the process. Think about it – I didn’t trust the information on the website, so I called customer service. I have already established that I am the type of consumer where “just checking” isn’t enough for me, so Zak did us both a favor by taking the lead and assigning responsibilities. I put up no argument and in fact was energized by the chase.

So after my assignment resulted in all my local retailers being out of stock…I get a phone call from Zak. He’s red hot on the trail of the LAST 5 BAGS in the country. My eyes lit up…a crack of light! He found 3 in Portland, and had the store manager holding them, and was just about to walk down to the Seattle store to get his hands on what may be 2 bags hiding out in the stockroom. Fast forward an hour, I get another phone call from Zak saying he’s got all 5 bags, truly the last in the country, and will have them sent to me before the day is done.

The bags were on my doorstep less than 72 hours later. From zero to hero.

Zak probably broke 6 or 7 rules along the way, simply to make me happy. I have told this story to dozens of people since this transaction, resulting in numerous new customers for Filson. Message – go above and beyond for your customers and we will do the same – it truly works!

What’s the best part about this story for Filson? Just 6 months ago I didn’t own a single Filson product. Guess how I found out about them? A recommendation from a friend. In 6 months and over the course of 3 transactions, based on his recommendation and my experiences, I have gone from unaware–>brand promoter.

Do you want to create a customer base filled with promoters? Do you want to accelerate the pace of promoter development? Invest in your customers. We will repay you. Way to go Filson, this is how it’s done.

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What’s the iPhone worth to you? For mobile carriers…a lot.

If you’re a bit of a tech geek like me, you are probably checking in on the Apple v Samsung drama from time to time. Some interesting accusations and facts have come out, but one in particular caught my eye this morning.

What does Apple really charge carriers for the iPhone?

Thanks to documents released Friday, we have a pretty good idea.

For those of us who grew up during the peak of the Nokia/Sony Ericsson/Motorola days, remember when mobile carriers introduced the “free phone” concept? There was a period where quality service was expected, and carriers differentiated with their devices and associated marketing campaigns. That’s how AT&T scored the iPhone exclusively…at the time, even though Apple was a bit of an anomaly, as a whole the carriers called the shots. It was normal for carriers and device manufacturers to cozy up and work together exclusively.

Wow, how times have changed in just a few short years. Device manufacturers now rule the yard, as it’s their product that interacts directly with the customer…the service is a commodity, it’s the device that creates the relationship and maintains loyalty (quick plug for the power of the consumer!!!) Mobile plan costs have skyrocketed 2x and 3x from past pricing. The carriers claim its the advent of the smartphone and the need to invest in the bleeding edge technology that these devices require, and consumers expect.

Today, you sign up for new service via your preferred carrier, be it VZW, AT&T, Sprint, etc. you typically pay $199 for your shiny new iPhone. If you’re used to FREE, well, $199 can be tough to swallow. After all, those evil carriers are charging us $100-$200 a month, can’t they hook us up with a freebie device? Well, yes, if you’re willing to use the modern day version of the Startac. If you want that iPhone, pony up!

However, while the iPhone has literally changed the face of multiple industries, impacting our lives in many ways…who is footing the bill? Ultimately it’s us, but taking a look at their sales figures, there is more to it than that.

How much do you think VZW, for example pays for that iPhone?

Try $590.

Yes, Mobile carriers take, on average, a nearly $400 hit every single time a customer signs up for their service and chooses Apple’s one button wonder. Furthermore, if you look at costs over time, they are increasing steadily.

2007 (the iPhone is introduced) – $428 average revenue per device
2010 – $563 average revenue per device
2012 – $621 average revenue per device

These numbers raise a few observations and of course many questions. Before we draw conclusions, we need to point out some variables here:
– Firstly, there is no way to distinguish between the people who paid the $200 intro price, versus the $650 non-upgrade price either via Apple directly, or a carrier. So while the price per device numbers are direct from Apple, we can’t tell for sure how many devices were sold directly to consumers without a plan which would impact the overall profit loss carriers have experienced. Go conservative and cut it in half if you want, it’s still startling.
– Second, Apple still sells older iPhones at a discount. So in reality, if we are talking strictly their latest 4S model, the average cost per unit is actually HIGHER than what is above.
– Finally, Apple’s sales claims are quite contradictory. In 2011 Jobs claimed Apple had sold its 100 millionth iPhone. In 2012 analyst estimates were around 250m units sold worldwide. Per recent court filings, that number is approaching 100m iPhones sold…what number is correct? We will use the 100m number to be conservative.

OK, on to the commentary and analysis:

– Kudos to Apple for turning an industry upside down and completely changing the way their
partners think…and doing it by delivering what customers want, before we know we want it. This has ushered in a whole new era of customer focused companies who create the path forward versus simply copying others. Last night a friend of mine mentioned the new Sony Ericsson phone that “looks like a Droid 1.” If you aren’t innovating and driving consumer demand, you are the punchline. Companies have been dong this successfully for years, but Apple deserves their credit for recent contributions.

– Assuming 100m iPhones sold, at an average ~$400 loss…over the last 5 years mobile carriers have experienced nearly $40 BILLION in losses via iPhone pricing. That is one hell of a commitment to this technology and this device.

– For comparison purposes, in 2012 Samsung received $316 per device (Galaxy S2). That results in a much more cost effective proposition for carriers. Another testament to Apple that carriers actively market more profitable devices, yet consumers still choose Apple more than half the time versus dozens of other options.

– I would love to see someone do an analysis/chart of the major carriers’ R&D investment over this same time period. Has it truly risen parallel to the cost of service plans? Furthermore, how has profit risen/fallen over that same time period?

– Clearly the carriers feel this whole situation, at a minimum, is egregiously acceptable, or they wouldn’t be scrambling to get in on the action. However the trend here just isn’t sustainable long term. Something has to give. Plan prices obviously are increasing (and now we see a big reason why), one has to imagine Apple will continue increasing their prices as their own R&D costs increase. They are facing more legitimate competition than ever. I’m no Tim Cook, but I would venture to guess their strategy is to do what they have always done, but do it better, and faster. Well, for you automotive gearheads out there, you know the old adage – “cheap, reliable, fast – pick two”? Yep. There is also that little commitment they have to shareholders to grow profitability quarter over quarter.

My guess? Price hikes are coming…with regards to your plans…and your device. Carriers have to draw the line somewhere. If the iPhone 5 is released and Apple expects carriers to take a $500+ hit again and again…what will they do? My guess is charge the consumer more…maybe a $249 price point for the device, and some iPhone feature-specific pricing, if things get really hairy.

After all, someone has to pay for it 🙂

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The rise and fall of internet browsers – what is the trend consumer-driven organizations should take note of?

The goal of every customer-focused organization should center around not just keeping your customers happy, but effectively developing them into promoters of your brand. It’s great if I enjoy Philz Coffee, but if I don’t speak up when someone says “hey where do you want to go to grab a coffee?” then the company is missing something in their efforts to develop me into a true promoter.

As I was reading an article this morning using Chrome, I started to think about the correlation between the rise and fall of web browsers, and what those companies could do, and are doing, in recognition of the above fact – making customers “happy” doesn’t cut it anymore. Happiness = the meeting of expectations for most. Promotion = exceeding expectations. If your customers are just “happy” that doesn’t mean they are loyal. There is so much technology out there that allows us to capture true customer sentiment, there is no reason an organization should sit back and allow their competitors to drive loyalty, while their internal efforts ultimately drive complacency.

Let’s take a quick walk down Web Browser Way to reflect…

Netscape

Remember this? If you’re a Millennial like me, of course  you do! Netscape was cool because it introduced us to the concept of a “portal” to this “world wide web” – a place where anything goes and information is accessible 24/7. Netscape was embraced as “THE” portal for years…mainly because there weren’t any viable options. Microsoft swooped in and said “we can deliver more” – which at the time meant mega-functionality and complexity. Which is what we wanted, interestingly enough. Our demand at the time was “ok we get step 1, we’re on the internet – now give us more of it!” Netscape couldn’t deliver…enter Microsoft.

MS Internet Explorer

We all know this product well. For years it was the standard, and we endured long load times, crashes, and other technical challenges…all because ultimately IE delivered way more functionality. MS did a terrific job of incorporating plug-ins and embedded video and whatever the latest buzz was….but often at the expense of usability and stability. So while consumers were demanding for functionality just a few years prior, and MS delivered…what was the latest demand? “Just make it work!” So while MS was focusing on building more functionality that no one wanted, Mozilla came along…

Mozilla Firefox

This is where things got really interesting. YES IE is the standard, it’s on 90%+ of all computers, everyone uses it and everyone knows it. The folks over at Mozilla knew there was a better way and decided to go against all odds (and a surging MS at the time), introducing Firefox. This was so very disruptive on so many levels at the time, it’s such a great story. The very nature of Firefox as an open source tool meant that the company could quickly deliver and maintain a product based upon what people wanted. This agility was a stark contrast to IE, and users began defecting in droves. Firefox also opened the door for Opera, Safari, and other browsers to get away from being platform or niche-specific browsers and welcomed them to the mainstream. Firefox (and its peers) offered stability, and started a trend that Google ultimately would pick up and run with….SIMPLICITY!

Google Chrome

Google banked on their corporate message of simplicity to bring out, in their eyes, the ultimate browser…one that is functional, stable, and just works. Your experience may vary, but the point here is to emphasize their intent…which was directly driven by what was going on in the marketplace at the time (think about all the automation we have been introduced to in the last 5 years aimed at simplifying our lives)…what CONSUMERS wanted was something that is simple and just works as advertised. Chrome is not without its flaws, but Google delivered and consumers (like myself) are responding favorably.

So to summarize, the demand went from ACCESS -> FUNCTIONALITY -> STABILITY -> SIMPLICITY.  The common trend here is right before every disruptive technology was introduced…something fundamental to the customer experience was broken and someone knew it. Someone, somewhere realized that IE was unstable and folks simply shouldn’t have to deal with crashes. So they developed a better way. Anyone who has been a part of this process will tell you – what’s the best way to find out what’s working and what’s not? TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS! Leverage every tool you have – online reviews, customer feedback/surveys, social media….use it all. Not just to enter data into a spreadsheet and present in your next weekly team meeting (which is a blog topic for another day)…do more with it. Make it actionable by embedding the analysis and response to this data into your organizations’ daily routine.

We as consumers are  very fickle (especially Millennials)…if you are not constantly improving your service (and letting us know about it) we will find another outlet…like we all did with web browsers. Innovation isn’t just about revenue, it’s about inspiring and motivating your customers to believe in your brand…moving them from happy customers to loyal customers to active promoters.

Just ask me – I use Chrome. I literally have 18 windows open right now on a 3yr old Dell Lattitude laptop…and it’s humming right along – you should try it 🙂

Categories: Customer Experience, Technology | 1 Comment

Square Payments coming to Starbucks – EMBRACE DISRUPTION!

Square goes mainstream (updated link)

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We all enjoy disruptive technology as consumers. Developments like Square’s payment system are a perfect example of people realizing “there is a better way to do this” and actually doing something about it. Hey, small business owners, remember the days of those “payment system” companies robbing you right in front of your eyes?

“Yes sir, that will be $2500 for the credit card machine, payable in 100 installments of $25 a month…and we will also be taking 3% of every transaction for VISA/MC and 3.5% for AMEX, thank you”

I was talking to the owner of a local business the other day who told me that he gets a surcharge on every transaction he swipes that is under $10. Wow. It’s (ironically) a small coffee shop – how many transactions do you think are subject to this arbitrary fee?

The “experience” didn’t stop with hefty fees. Good luck getting a live person on the phone to assist with an inoperable machine or a billing issue. Your brand and your revenue stream rests on your ability to take payments via card, and if your machine is down, your world stops….yet you couldn’t hold anyone accountable to meet your expectations as a customer.

Credit cards are such a staple of our everyday purchasing routine, we as consumers expect businesses to accept any and all forms of payment. When they don’t, you kind of look at them funny like “is this a legit operation?” Small businesses need to accept credit cards, so unfortunately, they are taken advantage of in the process. Excuse me for being sentimental, but shouldn’t we be encouraging people to start local businesses, not discouraging them with unreasonable fees on top of unreasonable fees?

Enter Square – eliminate the hidden fees…charge a flat fee for any type of card. Leasing a credit card machine? History. Eliminate the proprietary hardware and associated challenges by making a simple device that works via technology you already own and use every day. Create a vast online knowledgebase where customers can get support immediately. Truly act as a service provider, taking pride in the service you are delivering. As with most technology today, Square is taking the details out of the equation and making it simple – pay us a flat fee, and we will provide the service you require….no fluff.

The deal with Starbucks (SBUX) is a terrific win not just for them and for Square, but for small businesses, consumers, and fans of similar companies who challenge conventional thinking and fix what’s broken. Howard Schultz (Chairman & CEO of SBUX) sitting on Square’s board makes so much sense as it strengthens their credibility in the eyes of other retailers, who certainly are taking notice.

Way to go Square, and way to go SBUX for believing in and embracing disruptive technology.

What’s next? Replacing cash registers with iPads? Equipping everyone at your big box retailer with their own scanner and payment system via iPhone, so you can “check out” anywhere in the store? It’s all coming…and as consumers, our transactions are about to get much easier.

Categories: Customer Experience, Technology | Tags: | 22 Comments

Bill McDermott…on Tim Tebow?

Bill McDermott on…Tim Tebow? SAP’s CEO on what his peers can learn from the Jets QB

Fascinating read for a couple reasons:

1) Classic McDermott – all about authenticity. I have never met a more inspiring, authentic, naturally enthusiastic leader in my career than Bill. Here is a great quote, right off the bat, where he immediately disrupts common thought and introduces the  basis for his whole approach as a leader:

“In business, people tell you to fit in, but it’s far better to be yourself, be different and contribute whatever unique talents you have. Most CEOs and executives have a “secret sauce”that makes them successful. It’s critical to stay true to who you are.”

2) One of the reasons I always enjoyed hearing Bill speak – he consistently conveys an undying passion for winning, and never under-emphasizes the importance of customer success in that equation. His entire organization and leadership team embraces the fact that in order to achieve their goals, they need to ensure their customers are not just satisfied, but enthusiastic promoters of their brand.

“In business you are your record. Do you inspire people, are your customers loyal, do partners trust you and your word, do you give back to society? For a company, culture is the foundation, and a culture focused on long-term sustainable winning is unbeatable”

Kudos to you Bill, your character and vision continues to make an impact on folks around the world.

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