Why is Customer Feedback so Difficult to Accept

My wife and I are back in the states until July 27th getting a chance to see old friends and spending a few days at our home on the Lake in Brown County Indiana. We are also traveling quite a bit and are in Chicago for Fusion 2010 the e-learning conference hosted by Desire2Learn.  They are the last significant proprietary Learning Management System competitor to Blackboard now that Angel has been purchased.  They have an excellent product and are working hard to add new innovations which educators are requesting. It has been a long and difficult battle for CEO John Baker and his team. They compete with the market giant Blackboard, for customers as well as the courtroom over patents, To Desire2Learn’s credit, they are prospering, and gaining market share by providing an excellent product, and listening to customers, something Blackboard can’t seem to grasp.

Feedback from customers and prospects is always a challenge. No matter the business, be it a department store, restaurant, a  mom and pop operation, education facility, government or a multi-national corporation you are taught feedback from customers is essential. However why do so many only pay lip service to listening and responding?

 In my opinion for many CEO’s it’s about ego. You have people giving their opinions on your business who know nothing about what it takes to start and successfully grow something. Why should the CEO really pay attention to what they say and do something about their comments?  We all know the answer… if you don’t, someone else will eventually get our customers and put us out of business.

 I think getting feedback, listening to comments, both good and bad and then acting upon the data is extraordinary difficult.  You need to have very thick skin and be willing to adapt. You as the person in charge need be smart and tough enough to work feedback into your overall planning process. It is why customer research, employee feedback, and keeping up to speed on industry trends is so important. 

One thing I have learned while living these past 18 months in the Middle East is customer service makes a difference in business growth no matter where you live. In the UAE, customer service and companies gathering consumer feedback and using it to improve their overall operations is far behind what I see in the USA. Perhaps it’s because they are dealing with a very transit population. Many people are living in this part of the world for a short time, meaning 1-3 years. Expectations for superior customer service and business seriously listening to you are low. Maybe its language barriers, or maybe being a stranger in a foreign land makes you more willing to accept lessor standards. Some believe I know even say it’s God’s will for things to happen in a certain way.  I can tell you all nationalities rich or poor know the difference between good service and bad service and if they find the product they want from someone else that is similar in price and quality and get better customer service, they will stick with that business and tell their friends. It’s one of those tie breaker items and if you give better service than your competitor the odds of your business succeeding improves.

Going full circle, if Desire2Learn stays on the path of listening to current and potential customers they will continue to gain new clients from the big guy. I just hope they will stay in the marketplace and not sell out to Blackboard like so many others. We need competition and excellence in customer service in all sectors to improve products and encourage innovation.

Tag, Your It!

For the past few months I have been working with my associates on implementing a new Microsoft application that just came out of beta at the end of May. It’s called Microsoft Tag a new type of barcode system you can download onto your mobile phone (at no cost). Now this sounds as exciting as watching paint dry but I guarantee you this little application will have a significant effect on mobile marketing and the ability to interact with other media.

Let me go into some detail and see if you agree with me.

Microsoft Tag is a new technology that helps change the way consumers’ mobile devices can be used.  Tag adds interactivity to marketing materials which allows sellers to connect more effectively with buyers in a measurable way. Tags are as tiny as 5/8″ can be included on all kinds of material such as print publications the Web, e-mail, street signage, store windows, maps, social applications, you name it. The individual Tag can be printed, stuck, or displayed just about anywhere which immediately makes the item highly interactive.

Tag was developed by Microsoft Research; the technology powering Microsoft Tag is called High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs). The advanced computer imaging of HCCBs employs different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors. This allows Microsoft to reduce the size of the tags while increasing the amount of information that can be stored and improve readability on poorly-lensed mobile phones. While other forms of this technology exists and has been used in the marketplace, it appears Microsoft Tag may become the adapted model due to flexibility of size and look, data analytics and the plain old fashion ability of these guys to push the application towards universal usage by users of smartphones.

The Tag application is available for a wide variety of phones including Blackberry, Java, Symbian S60, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Android. Go to http://www.gettag.mobi for a comprehensive list.

Why could a Tag be a big deal in the Middle East? According to the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) mobile subscribers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reached over 10 million this year. The population of the UAE is just under 5 million. The number, which doubled in the last four years, represents an unprecedented mobile penetration rate of over 200%. As a result, the UAE is now the highest penetration markets in the world! It is part of the everyday lifestyle of people who live and work here.  Of that 10 million nearly 1 million of the phones are now smartphones & the number is growing at an incredible rate. In the Middle East,  over 3 million smartphones were sold last quarter.  From a United States perspective there are big numbers as well. According to Don Kellogg, Senior Manager, Research and Insights/Telecom Practice, The Nielsen Company June 4th article “IPhone vs. Android”  http://bit.ly/9cml2D,  United States penetration of smartphones is at 23%. Also take a look at the rest of the piece, interesting stuff if you like smartphones.

People love their toys and technology.  You always have your mobile with you. Keeping that in mind, that makes for a wonderful opportunity to interact with potential buyers when they see something that interests them. If in a magazine you are reading at Starbucks has an ad about a clothing store and it has a Tag, you can “snap” it can take your mobile to a video showing off the dress or give them a discount coupon which they show the store on their phone once they arrive.  A side benefit to adopt mobile tagging is that it can profoundly reduce paper communications, helping in conservation efforts. Mobile tagging can also provide analytics that can offer insight on marketing strategies, helping marketers make effective and efficient decisions about their marketing spend.

As you can see below we have launched the use of Tag in a publication we manage called “Abu Dhabi Tempo” which is free and 20,000 copies are distributed throughout the city in coffee shops, Malls, apartments, hotels, etc. We made it the cover of our June 1st edition (see below) and soon learned from Microsoft we were the first to implement Tag in the Gulf Coast Countries. In future postings I am going to report on how many “snaps” were made, what Tags were a hit and what Tags were a miss.  

The immediate challenge is getting the smartphone users educated on Tags, how do download the ap and then using it. These are not difficult steps per say, but getting the word out to users will need a push and will take some time. It will also take business and industry (for-profit & non-profit) to look at how they can use Tag to enhance what they do for their shareholders.

If you have a smartphone & do not have a Tag yet, go on your phone to http://www.gettag.mobi find your phone type and do the download.

I am heading to the United States on July 2nd for a vacation and a chance to see old friends. Besides our Lake house in Brown County Indiana, I will be in Louisville, around Statesboro, Georgia, Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Looks like Nancy and I are going to put some serious mileage on the rent-a-car before coming back to Abu Dhabi on July 27th. I will be writing my next entry around the 4 or 5th of July.

Happy 4th of July!

Scan my Tag and you will get my VCard