The long vision of SpecSavers versus the short-sightedness of Boots

If Satisfied...

I’ve always believed that it’s the little things that really matter when it comes to excellent customer service.

I’m talking about the types of thing that don’t require a huge effort by an employee of a company, or a conscious thought that an action is required because of customer engagement training or a policy about customer service. It’s more about the willingness and ability of the employee to know instinctively that what he or she does to address a customer need, request or concern will have an effect in some way on the relationship with that customer.

In sum, it’s all about an employee with confidence – in his or her abilities, knowledge of the company and its whole ethos – to make a positive difference in how the customer feels about that employee and the company he or she represents, and vice versa. It can have a positive impact that lasts for years.

I have a perfect example to share with you, two contrasting experiences of my own.

Boots

A week ago, I visited a Boots store, one of the large out-of-town stores, looking for a case for my sunglasses. I wanted a soft case not one of those hard shell-type cases. They seem to be very hard to find but I figured surely Boots must have such things. They do glasses, after all, although this particular store didn’t have an opticians department.

But sure enough, I found precisely what I was looking for in a pretty logical place – the section in the store with a big sign above it saying ‘Sunglasses.’ The items had no price tags I could see but I thought they’d tell me at the checkout how much they cost.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the checkout and the cashier said he couldn’t let me have a case unless I bought a pair of sunglasses. It turned out that the cases were promo items, giveaways with the sunglasses. I asked him if I could just buy a case. That wasn’t possible, he said, as there would be no price reference to the case when he scanned the barcode.

As I was buying a handful of other products on this visit, I asked the cashier if I could have the case anyway. I said it with a big smile, even if it was a bit cheeky. But he said no, he wasn’t allowed to do that.

I noticed he hesitated before he said that – and I’ll swear he really wanted to say yes.

But it was ‘No’ that I heard so I paid for the items I had and left the store. On my drive along the motorway, I mused on that experience, one that will remain with me when I think of Boots and the service offered by its employees. The store cashier was polite and friendly enough but unempowered and without confidence, it seemed clear to me. Maybe such behaviour might be a major improvement focus after Walgreens completes its £6 billion acquisition of Boots.

Maybe they’ll import some good old-fashioned American style of customer service! Mind you, that doesn’t look like perfection at Walgreens either.

SpecSavers

Wind forward to Friday and a visit to London with my wife. Walking along Cardinal Walk, Victoria, my wife spotted a SpecSavers store and said “I bet they have a case!” It wasn’t entirely a random suggestion as SpecSavers is where we both had eye tests and bought new glasses (including sunglasses) in July, although not at this specific store.

So we went in and I asked the young man who approached us if he had a soft case. And he did. He asked me if I was a SpecSavers’ customer; my reply, of course, was yes although not this particular store, to which his response was, “Here you are, with our compliments” referring to the case. And he included a soft lens cleaning cloth for good measure.

Now that’s what I call service! Especially that final gesture, adding the lens cloth. Nothing earth-moving in terms of galvanising resources, a cost implied or otherwise, or making a huge fuss. Just one empowered employee with lots of confidence, a natural ability to engage and a winning smile.

These are two different experiences in two different stores from these two different firms. Each firm suggests excellent customer service is what each offers in all its stores, as you’d expect them to do, even if the corporate structure of each firm is different: SpecSavers is more of a franchise model than Boots. So I’m not suggesting my experiences reflect what you might expect in every store at each company, all the time. This is people we’re talking about, after all.

What I am saying is that these were my experiences with Boots and SpecSavers last week and on Friday respectively, experiences that, believe me, will influence not only my own behaviour when it comes to visiting a pharmacy or an opticians in future, but also in what I may answer to anyone who asks me what I think of each firm.

Like I said earlier, it is the little things that really matter.

(Photo at top via Frank Gruber under Creative Commons License)

Sprinklr adds Branderati advocacy to its ‘social at scale’ offering

Sprinklr + Branderati

Enterprise social media company Sprinklr is certainly making big moves in the enterprise social space with news this week of another acquisition as the firm consolidates a credible position at the leading edge of the emerging business of enterprise-level social relationship infrastructure development.

Sprinklr adds a further dimension to its offering with the acquisition of Branderati, an advocacy influencer marketing firm, to give Sprinklr a major addition to its Social @ Scale product that manages the key and increasingly complex social channels of large companies.

Branderati’s service offering is focused on helping companies build their own advocacy networks on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels by enlisting fans and customers to market those companies, their brands, products and services.

In its news release announcing the deal, Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas said with 92 percent of consumers trusting recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising, “advocacy now must take a more central role, not only in marketing but also in the overall business strategy.” Thomas added:

Branderati has unlocked the key to sustained brand advocacy at scale and having their technology and know-how on board will mean big things for our clients.

The news release also includes some interesting metrics about Sprinklr as it now is:

Sprinklr now employs more than 500 employees in five countries and serves more than 650 enterprise brands worldwide, including:

  • Four of the top five U.S. banks
  • Three of the top six insurance companies
  • Three of the top seven hotel chains
  • Four of the top six retailers
  • Tech titans such as Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and Dell

With Branderati marking the firm’s third acquisition this year, Sprinklr has doubled in size in numbers of people. Sprinklr raised $40 million investment capital in April. Now there’s more speculation about a potential IPO sometime very soon, even this year according to some opinions.

Whether an IPO is on the close horizon for Sprinklr or not, this acquisition looks a logical step for Sprinklr if you believe that social media will become an increasingly important element in the business strategies of large companies.

If you look at many large companies and what they’re doing with social media and social channels – just check the four names mentioned above – it seem quite clear to me that a firm that can offer a holistic approach to social at scale – two very key words – is in a pretty good place today.

Sprinklr brings social media convergence to global brands

Paid Owned EarnedSince acquiring the Dachis Group earlier this year, social media SaaS vendor Sprinklr has pursued a clear path towards offering its clients a converged social media solution.

The convergence of paid, owned and earned social media would, Sprinklr says, provide significant benefits to global brands in four specific areas:

1. Maximize reach across paid, owned and earned social content
2. Integrate planning of content and campaigns across paid, owned and earned channels
3. Conduct automated optimization and amplification of organic content with paid budgets
4. Rapidly determine and close the loop on the ROI of digital advertising

Sprinklr released an integrated paid social media module in April and raised $40 million investment capital.

With news today of its acquisition of paid social solution TBG Digital, Sprinklr looks set to continue its onward march into the marketing departments of more global brands.

The only way is ethics #PRethics

The debate in Committee Room No 10 / pic by Kate Matlock

Committee Room number 10 in the House of Commons in London was the setting in the evening of July 7 for a vibrant debate on a big topic, formally titled “Wearable technology is an ethical nightmare for the communications, marketing and PR professions.”

Organized by The Debating Group and sponsored by the CIPR, the motion was proposed by Stephen Davies and seconded by me; and opposed by Stephen Waddington and seconded by Claire Walker.

About 100 people formed the audience, many of whom contributed opinion and running commentary on Twitter as each of the four speakers made their cases for the motion and against it. Once the formal addresses had been made, debate chair Alastair McCapra opened the debate to the floor where 18 people offered their perspectives to the debate.

It was a most interesting few hours. Opinion during the motions seemed pretty evenly divided, which seems to me to be fairly reflected in the commentary on Twitter. But when it came to the moment of voting, we were firmly defeated – 55 votes against the motion with only 28 for it.

Yet those stark numbers hide one reality, which is that it’s clear to me that this topic is not as black and white as it seems, offering only agreement or disagreement as your options. It is phenomenally nuanced, with so many shades of grey, and where almost everything you might say needing to start with “It depends.”

It’s also clear that the two opposing sides to the motion were far closer in thinking and belief than it may seem. Closer in the view that the topic is largely about people’s behaviours rather than about the wearable tech – meaning, what the tech enables people to do and so what they do or don’t do with it – and largely about providing codes of conduct that would be the roadmap for PR practitioners’ behaviour in how they use wearable tech.

I wholly support that idea although I’m far less optimistic that PR practitioners will simply abide by a code of conduct and not do bad things. If some PRs can’t get even the basics right, why should I have confidence that they can be trusted to do the right thing on their own with something far more important? Having a code is great, but it needs by-example leadership and professional behaviour to make it work at all.

Hence the “it depends” idea where I firmly believe that there won’t be an ethical nightmare as long as we – the profession, consultancies and clients, and individuals – take firm and clear steps to make the landscape anything but an ethical nightmare. We must do this, actively and proactively, collectively and individually.

Unlike my fellow speakers in the debate, I didn’t make a prepared speech. Instead, I prepared talking points from which I highlighted my perspectives to support Stephen. For the purpose of this narrative, let me highlight the bottom line of my argument:

Is there (or will there be) an ethical nightmare for PR, marketing and communication professionals?

I have 3 answers…

Yes, if…

1. Yes, if we do nothing to raise awareness and educate our publics on the SWOT of wearable tech.

2. Yes, if we fail to recognize the critical importance of the trust consumers place in our clients, in our employers and in governments that their behaviours are ethical.

3. Yes, if we fail to take advantage of the opportunities to advance our profession at the vanguard of understanding the ethics, scope and scale surrounding the enabling technologies that are before us, and what they will do – and do not – for our clients, our employers, consumers and businesses, and society at large.

Will we do this?

You tell me.

And here’s the argument in detail by the lead debaters:

My complete notes on Scribd:

I’ve seen some great reports and commentary about the debate, notably:

And of course, the curation of all the tweets, etc, in Storify by Gabrielle Laine-Peters:

And finally, credit where credit’s due – hard to resist a pun on the word ‘ethics’ as I use in my headline above. “The only way is ethics” is a play on “The only way is Essex,” a popular (?) reality TV show in the UK. So, full credit to Wadds for first use in the debate!

Is wearable technology an ethical nightmare for PR?

The Borg

Amongst the buzz and hype surrounding Google Glass, health and fitness monitoring wristbands, smart watches, implantable devices, talking cars  and the rest of the burgeoning field labelled ‘wearable technology,’ an important aspect is largely overlooked if not ignored.

That aspect embraces multiple issues, from privacy of personal or confidential information to ethical behaviours we expect from companies and brands who may use wearable technology in their marketing, communication and other activities that let them reach out to consumers and employees.

It seems to me that, too often, we’re overlooking a key point that technology, wearable or otherwise, is about what people do or not do, not the shiny new objects themselves.

So I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss such concerns as part of a debate that will take place in London next month at the House of Commons, organized by the CIPR:

On the evening of Monday 7 July in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons, the CIPR will be hosting a Debating Group event to debate the motion ‘Wearable Technology is an ethical nightmare for the communications, marketing and PR professions’.

Chair: Lord Clement-Jones

Proposing the motion: Stephen Davies, Founder, Substantial Digital Health

Seconding the motion: Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com

Opposing the motion: Stephen Waddington MCIPR, CIPR President, Digital and Social Media Director at Ketchum Europe

Seconding: Claire Walker FCIPR, Chief Executive, Firefly Communications

This a red-hot topic, in my view, one that’s swimming with “It depends…” elements, and one that we must debate and get on the attention agenda of public relations practitioners.

The debate is free to attend but you must request an invitation. Details on how to do that are on the CIPR’s event page.

Hashtag: #CIPRdebate.

Valuable insights in 2014 #InternetTrends report by Mary Meeker

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Last week, US venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst Mary Meeker published her 2014 Internet Trends report that offers a deep-dive look into the trends, possibilities, probabilities, scope and scale of what the global connected world will look like in the coming few years.

It highlights trends to pay attention to, offering keen insights into what’s shaping this connected world:

  1. Key internet trends showing slowing internet user growth but strong smartphone, tablet and mobile data traffic growth as well as rapid growth in mobile advertising.
  2. Emerging positive efficiency trends in education and healthcare.
  3. High-level trends in messaging, communications, apps and services.
  4. Data behind the rapid growth in sensors, uploadable / findable / shareable data, data mining tools and pattern recognition.
  5. Context on the evolution of online video.
  6. Observations about online innovation in China.

At 164 pages, the slide deck is huge in its scope, and a challenge to decipher detailed meaning from just a deck without the benefit of hearing its creator talk you through it (she did that at the event last week for which she had prepared the deck).

Many others are filling the vacuum to do that. I have some thoughts, too, on a few areas from the 164 slides. I expand on that below, but if you want to just feast on all of Meeker’s data right now, here’s the deck:

Last year’s 2013 Internet Trends report was 117 pages, a slim volume by comparison. Indeed, I found it it a relatively simple matter to quickly glean and absorb insights from her deck to come up with what I saw in May 2013 as fifteen big trends for the evolving digital age.

A year later, how does the landscape look?

Here are three elements from the 2014 report that caught my attention (and imagination).

1. The rise of the mobile internet and the mobile devices that people want to use on the web are irresistible

The first aspect is the steady increase in shipments of smartphones (Wikipedia definition) worldwide since 2009 …

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…  and, in tandem, the rocketing growth in tablet (Wikipedia definition) shipments which overtook shipments of desktop and notebook PCs at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.

And notice the massive uptick in tablet shipments that started at the end of the first quarter in 2013 …

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… which makes it easy to understand in the context of the increasing numbers of people accessing content on the web via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in May 2014 compared to the same time in 2013. While there isn’t a slide to show how connectivity – whether wired, wireless or cellular – is growing everywhere, these figures surely provide convincing evidence that that is what’s happening.

And global mobile usage average has almost doubled year on year, broadly reflecting the detail in each of the regions measured.

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What these metrics say to me is this: if your presence on the web isn’t attuned to mobile – meaning, your site delivers the content people want and a great experience they expect when they come to you on their mobile devices – you’re in serious trouble.

2. The evolution of mobile apps

If using the web on a mobile device is increasing at a rapid pace as smartphones and tablets eclipse desktops and laptops, the requirement for mobile tools – apps – to let you do what you want on your mobile connected device is equally increasing at a rapid pace …

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… where those apps are evolving into tools of genuine utility for the user, that let you do certain things very well.

So instead of being all things to all men, so to speak, many apps are shifting into specific use formats …

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… that offer you context-aware interactions that, as TechCrunch notes, are purpose-built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors to interact with you in far more compelling ways than at present to maximize their usefulness to you.

3. Game changers for mobile TV and video consumption

Meeker’s slide deck has a great deal of content about the rise of personalized television where you the user define what the content is that you will watch and where you get it from (think of custom user preferencing in Netflix and Chromecast, as examples of this), and how you control it.

Consumers increasingly expect to watch TV content on their own terms.

I have a good example: watching a film that’s delivered from Netflix where I control its output with my smartphone or tablet to play on my digital smart television via wifi connection to the Chromecast dongle plugged in to the HDMI port on the TV. No traditional TV broadcaster in this transmission/consumption equation at all.

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For me, this text slide summarizes very well the key aspects of all this, the “televisual game changers.”

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And so, a small subset of the compelling content in Mary Meeker’s 164 pages of metrics and insights that make up her Internet Trends 2014 report. My focus has very much been on mobile. That’s by accident and by design – I didn’t plan this post to be like that, yet all the things that grabbed my attention that I’ve written about here are all to do with mobile.

Well, maybe not everything. Big data trends, for instance.

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Do review the full deck and see what strikes you as compelling. And some of the other reporting on it is pretty good, adding to the ways in understanding what the report is about:

Download the PDF report here: 2014 Internet Trends By Mary Meeker or view the deck on Slideshare.