Archive for February, 2009

Experience Economy Requires Authenticity

February 23rd, 2009, by Ted Shelton | located in Conversations | Comments off | trackback
Back in February of 2004 when Joseph Pine (author of Mass Customization and now Authenticity) gave this talk at the TED conference, few people were using the words "Social Media" -- "Joseph Pine: What do consumers really want?" But his comments speak directly to why (to quote one of my favorite articles on social technology's disruption of 20th century methods):
...the new media are rewarding more participatory, more sincere, and less directive marketing styles than the old broadcast media rewarded." (Harvard Business School: Working Knowledge
"Digital Interactivity: Unanticipated Consequences for Markets, Marketing, and Consumers" September, 2007)
In his talk Pine provides a model for thinking about the "Progression of Economic Value" from agrarian society to the modern day.

Pine outlines these four stages of economic value which he associates (like Toffler) with an agrarian, industrial, and now a post-industrial economy. In the agrarian phase all we had were commodities and the production and control of those commodities was the central aspect of our economy.

In the industrial phase we took commodities and manufactured them into goods, which then could be distributed and marketed. But Pine describes a "commodification" of goods as the broad-based ability to manufacture a high quality and low cost product.

His first book, Mass Customization explored how companies should escape from the commodification of goods. His suggestion that companies add a service, customization. But this approach has been commodified as well as all providers learn that they can be equally good at customization.

This led Pine to the idea of "experience" and more recently "authenticity" as the differentiation which companies could strive to provide to keep their products distinct from those made by others. In his view it is not just the product that customers care about, but the experience of buying and using that product. Think of Apple's retail stores as an example.

But as Pine observes, this new "experience economy" requires a high level of authenticity and most companies, in the age of social media, are unprepared to deliver. Charles Green wrote recently on the topic of Customer Centricity in his Trust Matters blog:
..."customer centricity" is so easily hijacked by the dominant ideology of competitive advantage. The competitive paradigm—our leading view of business today—is repressively tolerant of customer-centricity. The hijacking turns the new idea into merely a tactic to serve the old idea. Customer centricity is neutralized, subsumed into the competitive paradigm.
Charles goes on to give specific examples, like the message when you are on hold with customer service assuring you that "your business is important to us." This rings untrue to the caller, it isn't what Pine would call "authentic."

If your company is selling a product that has become equivalent in cost and quality to those of your competitors, Pine's message is for you -- you must now focus on the total customer experience and not just the product to succeed. And once you do, you will discover a whole new challenge in rising to the demand for authenticity. Meeting that demand will require you to reformulate your company's policies, philosophies, and your organizational structure.

Scoutlabs Launches Today

February 18th, 2009, by Ted Shelton | located in Conversations | Comments off | trackback
Yes its true, the super-secretive Halsey Minor backed Scoutlabs is launching today according to a post from co-founder Jenny ZesZut. And even better, they are giving away 30-day free trials for their outstanding social media monitoring and collaboration platform. I learned about Scoutlabs through ex-Technorati folks (they have hired some of the very best) and am very grateful to have been one of the early testers on the system. We are already using the product with a number of our clients and I expect that to increase.

There are a lot of aspects of the Scoutlabs product that I like, perhaps the best is the collaboration model -- getting all of a team on the same page about what is going on with our company. I will post a longer review later -- but for now rush over to their site and request a free 30-day evaluation... tell them Ted sent you!

The new Symbian

February 15th, 2009, by Ted Shelton | located in Conversations | Comments off | trackback
The new Symbian Foundation is getting its first public exposure this week in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. A new blog has been created for the Symbian Foundation where you can see some photos from the booth and also see the new logo. It is a great compliment that Lee Williams, the new Executive Director, has invited me to contribute to the Symbian Foundation leadership team as an advisor and I have thrown myself into this effort with heart and soul.

The basic mission of the new Symbian is to release the entire Symbian operating system as an open source project and to coordinate a broad community of companies and individuals to build that OS as the premier mobile computing platform. With the long heritage that Symbian has and the tremendously deep technology that is a part of that history, this decision to open source the operating system really changes the game in the mobile world. There is a long road ahead to fully realize the vision, but operators, manufacturers, and software developers will need to take Symbian into account as they make their future plans -- and I believe in Lee Williams and the movement that he has begun to make Symbian the pre-eminent mobile computing platform.

Join me in following this journey by reading the blog, following on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/symbianf and by joining the Symbian facebook group.

Apple and AT&T have this really wrong

February 6th, 2009, by Ted Shelton | located in Conversations | Comments off | trackback
Another lovely visit to the AT&T store, this time because a member of my family dropped her iPhone into the, err... toilet. "It was in my back pocket and I..." oh whatever. Fine I will get a new iPhone for you. But wait! What is this! I have to pay full price AND sign up for an additional 2 year contract?? Huh??

Apparently the special price is only for NEW lines being activated. But for some reason when you purchase an iPhone as a replacement you not only pay the higher full price for the device but AT&T still insists upon tacking on two more years to your contract commitment.

Surely this is not right! Timothy, the "sales consultant" at the 425 Market AT&T store assures me this is true and insists that it is all Apple's fault. And you know what? I agree with him. It is definitely Apple's fault that in the US I have no choice (if I don't jail break my phone) but to have AT&T as my service provider.

Which reminds me of another beef I have about AT&T -- how is it that I can have five bars of signal strength and the 3G symbol but absolutely no data connectivity? Why is it that from my office, also with five bars of signal strength, no one can hear me talk? Why is it that you guys can't figure out how to give me an iPhone app that lets me alert you to a problem with your network using the GPS coordinates for where I am having trouble? Why can't you become more customer centric? Oh, because you are a monopoly and you don't need to be customer centric. Right, I knew that. Hey Barack!!!