Every year, JD Powers publishes the results of the surveys it receives from consumers about which brands delight them with their service. More than 600 brands are evaluated in many categories from airlines to banks to automotive manufacturers.
"The 50 companies we've recognized as Customer Champions demonstrate the highest levels of service excellence, not just compared with their direct competitors, but also across all facets of the customer experience. Not only does satisfaction encourage customer loyalty, but happy customers also become advocates of the brand to others. Particularly given the ability of today's consumers to easily communicate their experiences far and wide through social media and online reviews, customer advocacy can be critical to a company's bottom line," the JD Power Customer Champion announcement states.
This year, I was struck by the selection of mobile companies that made it to the list.
- Boost Mobile
- Straight Talk
- US Cellular
- Metro PCS
The positive experience customers have with non-contract carriers is important, and the timing of this announcement no doubt played a huge role in the T-Mobile announcement around the same time to end contracts.
In his recent analysis posted in my LinkedIn Today feed , Michael Powell, President of the NCTA (a cable television trade association),praised the way Shark Week has become part of our "shared story."
Powell writes, "Shark Week comes but once a year. There’s no “Tiger Week” in January or “Snake Week” in April. Considering Shark Week’s success, it was surely tempting for the network’s executives to try and replicate their PR and content creation victory at other times throughout the year. But they recognized that there was significant long-term value in refusing to dilute the power of the Shark Week experience. Perhaps this sacrificed a few short-term conquests, but it was for the long-term good. They were right to do so.
Even when striking upon a successful venture, you can’t squeeze every last drop of creative juice in the pursuit of repeat results. Look instead to the future, and work out how to maintain and improve without undermining your own success."
From Max the Roomba Cat to Jimmy Fallon's Shark Week Pros & Cons, the meme every summer during the first week in August for the last 26 years has been sharks. The brand halo of Shark Week is now so big, other networks don't try to beat it, they just join it. How great is that?
I was raised on television and I consume a lot of it. I am not a couch potato, but rather a road warrior, who likes to see favorite shows when and where it is convenient for me. And, I subscribe to a lot of services that aspire to let me do that on my tablet, laptop or smartphone.
Admittedly, my family is not ready to cut the cord completely, but I have been evaluating several services that are meant to encourage just that. Unlike Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, services like Aereo and NimbleTV (currently in beta) are pushing the envelope of broadcasting by enabling subscribers to watch live TV channels on a mobile device over the Internet, and providing cloud storage for recordings of the shows that I want to time-shift my viewing.
Where Aereo struggled to provide the breadth of programming I receive on a full cable package, Nimble TV has chosen to address this issue by subscribing users to a Dish Network account, which then streams most major basic cable channels in my area. This opens up an array of programming that starts to make this solution truly viable as a cord cutting option.
Unfortunately, the quality of the stream has been sporadic, and this is particularly true of the recorded content. Quality control tools appear in the UI (Low, High, and Auto) but, as of the beta, do not seem to allow toggling between SD or HD recordings.
Both Aereo and NimbleTV seem to struggle with executing robust DVR capabilities, one of the most essential experiences of my current home television provider. As an inaugural TiVo user, DVR features have become integral to my TV viewing. On NimbleTV, programs appear to be available to be recorded in the guide even if they have already aired, but in fact can’t actually be recorded once they have aired. Episodes appear in the “recorded” list, but actually won’t play back. When I have been able to watch a recording, the image is pixilated, blurry and often unwatchable, even with full wifi connectivity. Riffing on what Seinfeld said about rental car reservations, scheduling a show to be recorded is only half the battle. Being able to actually view the recorded content really is the whole point.
Which brings me back to my point about being a TV junkie and a road warrior. Streaming services are fine when coverage is strong, when there is wifi, and when data caps aren’t a limiter. But as a traveler on trains, planes and subways, they fail to service my addiction. Plane, rail and hotel wifi often provide me with inadequate bandwidth for uninterrupted streaming (and in some cases the airlines, Amtrak and wifi providers prevent streaming video services altogether.) Many media players don’t effectively throttle to changing bandwidth, and my history with both Aereo and NimbleTV is that they have yet to perfect the user experience for variable bandwidth conditions.
Without a complete solution for enabling quality television viewing when bandwidth is constrained, I find I still revert back to the dependability of purchased programming downloaded from iTunes paired with a streaming service from Hulu, Amazon, Netflix or a broadcaster’s own mobile app, like HBO GO. Television substitute services may provide the convenience of aggregation and the benefit of smaller monthly bills, but if it is at the expense of quality and usability, they don’t feel like a better deal to me.
Editor's note: In fairness, I used both products in beta, and have assessed these experience based on my interest in switching from my existing services based on the interactions I had in beta.
I have yet to integrate Quora in any regular or habitual way into my daily professional life. But from time to time, I dip back into the site and am delighted by the interesting insights I find buried among the snarky retorts and unanswered questions.
Here are three of my favorite recent reads on product innovation.
Because they are a hardware company they knew that letting details out about new products would kill sales of existing products, so they built that into their culture early on...Everything is on a need to know basis." In this world of agile software development, I would agree it is often hard for technologists to remember that hardware product lifecycles are not so short or very nimble. Manufacturing lines have to be set up, tooling has to be done and re-done, chipsets must be assembled, durability tested.
Scoble continued, "This [need to know] extends even into meetings. If you are in a meeting and you aren't on the disclosure list for something you'll be asked to leave. Generally people don't bring up stuff in meetings they aren't allowed to discuss with the group." This, too was my own personal experience. If you don't believe security is a part of a company's culture, you haven't been asked to sign an NDA when you enter a meeting with your own colleagues in your own office building.
My former CEO at RealNetworks, (and once again Real's current CEO), Rob Glaser wrote in a "
(b) Integrated Hardware/Software/Service device plays monetized both by selling the device and then selling services on top of the device (Apple, RIM) (c) Social Network Platforms that are free to consumers, based on user-generated information put into highly integrated and extensible structured frameworks, monetized a few different ways (Facebook)"
Scott Berkun, the author of the Myths of Innovation, pointed out, "
Every local news station in the country has a consumer advocate who rights the wrongs of their audience, from bad dry cleaners to absentee landlords. The stories they recount are also personal ones, painted with tears and broken hearts of consumers' dreams shattered. Over time, these white knights have filled the air waves with maudlin, ratings enhancing tales.
And then there is The Haggler. The New York Times' answer to "7 On Your Side" or "Ask Jesse". And like the venerable Times, The Haggler takes a higher road in his literary explorations of consumers' woes. Well written, insightful, and focused in his upbraiding of wireless carriers, cable companies, rental car agents and countless inhospitable customer service reps, The Haggler's columns are a Sunday must read for me.
This Sunday's column, readable here, epitomizes what I love about this righter of consumer wrongs. It all boils down to "The Catch."
Your holiday gift list may be filled with gadgets, but right after you've opened all your presents the friendly people who made them will tell you that your newest tech toys are very shortly going to be too big, too slow or just too limited in their capabilities.
Each year in early January, consumer electronics manufacturers, automotive companies, and entertainment industry deal makers converge on Las Vegas by the hundreds of thousands for the annual gadget-lovers' answer to Burning Man, the Consumer Electronics Show.
Click here to find out what the Consumer Electronics Association previewed to press and analysts before the next edition of this (in)famous industry trade show.
From drop testing to stain removal, the tests conducted by Consumer Reports for their annual buyer's guide have yielded an array of predictable brands and popular products. That shouldn't be a huge surprise in that quality and durability tend to drive consumer satisfaction, which is the bedrock of strong brands.
But before you start adding these items to your bridal registry or birthday wish list, keep in mind Consumer Reports notes,"The whopping bill [for these products] was $4.1 million: $1.6 million for products and $2.5 million for cars."
So, do you agree with Consumer Reports these are the cream of the crop in electronics, applicances and automobiles? What don't you see on this list?
I have to admit it...I'm a Shark Tank addict. Even though I wouldn't buy a lot of the products on the show, one of the things I love about it is how the program champions the value of the "speed pitch", a concept most entrepreneurs struggle with. Getting quickly to an easy-to-understand value proposition is the first place most pitch folks trip. I always know when the Sharks ask a presenter, "what are you actually selling?" that things will go south fast.
Another common refrain that forebodes "no deal" from the Sharks is "what you are saying is that you want me to work for my money?" Sharks then go on to lament that the entrepreneur is merely a poseur, and not adequately driven to make their potential business successful.
For more lessons to be learned from watching Shark Tank, click here to read the Fast Company rundown.
Two of my new favorite obsessions are Fab and Quirky, so I was delighted to learn about their new partnership. If you have an idea for an Apple accessory, then you can submit your idea and in lightening fast time, with the support of the online community, your idea can become a reality. And as if that wasn't enough, you might even earn a perpetual royalty for your genius.
To kick off the company's new focus on Apple accessories, Ben Kaufman, Quirky's CEO, described the all night online design push that kicked off this partnership on his blog, "The launch of this project (and specifically the events that close out this week) is a bit of a throwback for me, having first run a live 24-hour product design sprint at mophie after a Steve Jobs keynote in September 2006, and another shortly after the launch of Quirky in September 2009 (see PowerCurl). These events produce great products, and are amazingly inspirational to watch."
Fab, a rising ecommerce star on a mission "to help people better their lives with design," will feature the results of the launch sprint in a sale on their site within a week from inception. On his blog, Betashop, Fab's CEO, Jason Goldberg writes, "Wednesday September 19, 3pm EST, just 7 days after the iPhone 5 was announced, Fab launches a special sale featuring the newly design accessories. Smile, you’re designed to."
This report talks about today’s Internet growth and provides an in-depth look for the following new trends: 1) review of Internet stats and notes that Internet growth remains robust and rapid mobile adoption is still in early stages; 2) run through a number of examples of business models that are being re-imagined and re-invented thanks to mobile and social; 3) highlight mixed economic trends and 4) observe that while there’s a lot to be excited about in technology, there are things to be worried about regarding America’s financial situation.
"Any brand is simply the collective intent of the people behind it. To everyone your business touches, from employees to consumers, the brand deﬁnes who you are and what you stand for as a business. If you want great business results, you and your brand have to stand for something compelling. And that’s where brand ideals enter the equation.
A brand ideal is a shared intent by everyone in a business to improve people’s lives. The ability to leverage this ideal is what separates great business leaders from good, bad, or indifferent ones. A brand ideal is a business’s essential reason for being, the higher-order beneﬁt it brings to the world."
If you asked each of your employees, would they communicate a singular shared intent? How about your customers? If there is confusion about what your brand's intention is amongst your staff, don't be surprised if your customers reflect that in how they value their relationship with you.
According to a recent report from Booz & Co, there may be some truth to the theory that companies in the Bay Area have a distinct advantage in terms of cultivating innovation. The research Booz's team conducted showed, "[These companies] are almost three times as likely to say their innovation strategies are tightly aligned with their overall corporate business strategies." More than double the number of Bay Area companies in the normal population indicated their corporate cultures supported their strategies.
On closer examination, the evidence does not suggest that the reason is really geographically based, however, there are regional trends that seem to support the trend. As noted in the study, the Bay Area is home to some of the nation’s greatest scientific research capacity. In addition, the Bay Area accounts for more than a third of the venture capital investment.
While investment and infrastructure certainly are foundational to ensure innovation has a chance, the report emphasizes that culture is really the deciding factor in perpetuating a company's bias towards innovation. The Bay Area, it turns out, leads the nation in companies that follow the Need Seeker model of innovation, which Booz highlights as a significant differentiator.
You can read more about this study here.
"What do you see being the biggest trends in technology over the next three to five years?
I see a shift to a place where we won't be dazzled just because a product is well designed and works well. Our collective customers should be able to take that for granted, and it is our job to make it so. But that is not enough. The problems of design and complexity do not go away, even if we all surpass that bar. Rather, they just move to a different place: the complexity that is emerging in terms of how all of these (individually) easy to use devices work together. We need a comprehensive ecosystem that combines elements of each to produce an integrated set of experiences for people, so they don't have to manage each of the underlying separate devices."
Full post on Engadget
Video Advertising: How New Consumer Habits Are Driving the Advertising Community to Innovate, and the Challenges with Scale
Traditional television is moving to the Internet. Though today's consumer can effectively avoid watching advertising on TV through new time- and place-shifting technologies, the “opt-out” function and other choices make it easier than ever for consumers to skip ads online too. Yet when asked, 75% of consumers prefer advertising over paid subscription models. To keep up with these new consumer video viewing habits and trends towards watching video content online, content owners, advertisers, and technologists must turn into entertainers, or lose precious eyeballs and dollars. To keep audiences captive, advertising must become the new form of entertainment. As content owners, advertisers and technologists begin to better understand video advertising opportunities, one important challenge has come to light: SCALE. On top of creating compelling advertising content, the problem for video advertising isn't targeting or ad formats.
Join me and the fantastic line-up of panelists at Digital Hollywood 2012 in Marina Del Rey, CA.
Dmitri Lisitski, Commercial Director, 1+1 Group of companies (Ukraine)
Michael Knott, Vice President, Meredith Women's Network
James Citron, CEO, Mogreet
Michelle Cox, Vice President of Marketing, Metacafe® Entertainment Network (M.E.N)
Dean McCormick, Vice President, Advertising Solutions, BlackArrow
It is easy for a professional comedy writer to advocate making definitive time and space boundaries in your day to enable creative thinking, but before you completely dismiss the possibility that John Cleese is actually a voice of corporate reason, take a listen to this video excerpt from a several years old lecture that he gave.
In the full lecture, Cleese references a British psychologist's study of the "tortoise mind, [which is] a slower, less focused, less articulate, much more playful, almost dreamy" side of ourselves that must be allowed time to roam in order to be creative.
And what does Cleese really think is the enemy of creativity? "The widely held, but misguided, beliefs that being decisive means making decisions quickly, that fast is always better and that we should think of our minds as being like computers...The pressure on managers at all levels to act quickly is enormous." Cleese acknowledges that while we need to be able to multi-task, and let our "hare brain" dominate, we have to carve out time to balance our thinking with our tortoise mind. The book, and Cleese's application to business, are detailed more in this New York Times article.