We live in the age of online retailing and call centre customer support. We side-step consumer advertising in favour of social media shopping comparisons between friends – chatting about the customer experience, as well as the product. Yet too many consumer mass market companies still think customer service. Not customer experience.
For some consumer brands, it gets worse. To them, customer service simply means serving the customer, period. Never mind how or when! A commuter train breaks down in the middle of nowhere in the depths of winter. Its brand managers focus mostly on getting the train moving again. Supporting the stranded passengers comes a distant second. Ditto the airlines and airport staff.
(Some) central and local politicians seem intent on taking their inspiration from these kinds of companies. Voter service means sounding concerned, making long speeches, criticising everything the opposition parties say and when forced to act, calling for yet another investigative review, at the taxpayers’ expense. Meanwhile, the voter experience (think air pollution, lack of affordable housing, limited school choices, flammable high-rise tower blocks, expensive transport choices etc) continues unchecked.
Some companies conduct customer surveys (including asking the wrong questions), design their retail website poorly, keep the customer in a long call-waiting queue, or charge steep day-rates for standard support. Rather that modest day rates for customised support.
In summary, too many mass market companies pay lip service to perceived customer service. Instead of moving straight to real customer experience. Mass market products need to be simple to use, clever in function, durable and value for money.
Mindset change please guys!
Are people basically divided into two broad camps – the ‘fake it til you make it’ (the marketers & promoters) and the ‘keeping it real’ camp’?
‘Fake it til you make it’ is about projecting confidence, whether real or illusionary. It’s downside is arguably in making our social groups less cohesive and less real. ‘Fake it til you make it’ can be spectacularly successful – politicians, singers/rappers and A-list movie actors being examples of this. Ironically though, politicians campaign to solve real problems, rappers rap about their gritty own life struggle to success, whilst successful actors choose to star in movies that often have themes of real strength from overcoming adversity of some kind.
Some pioneering cultures have a phrase about ‘keeping it real’. Others talk about ‘keeping your feet firmly on the ground’ (unless you work for the weather service, the airlines, the navy, NASA or Virgin Galactic).The ‘keeping it real’ camp includes support groups, social workers, therapists, counsellors, teachers, coaches, trainers and assessors of all kinds. This camp arguably advocates that ‘struggling to succeed is simply walking the journey’ is what life is about and that being honest about this struggle helps us to build important bridges with fellow human beings. In the world of entertainment, reality shows are in theory about ‘keeping it real’, although programme directors inevitably choose hyping the truth over the reality, if if means improving the viewer ratings in a competitive industry.
What about in the field of design – which camp do designers fall into? Steve jobs said ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ In product design, great and successful designers don’t tolerate fake. They are obsessed with building amazing, perfection and excellence. In contrast, fine artists can excell at illusion in their art, folling the viewer’s eye into almost believing the two dimensional is actually the three dimensional. Or that the World shown within their art reveals a far more beautiful perspective on the World outside. Musical artists and actors generally want to create real. It’s the marketing staff of their companies that want auto-tune, edit and airbrush.
Whichever of the two camps a person falls into, perhaps real performance is still the key goal and ambition the driving force. Oscar Wilde famously said ‘all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.’ Life arguably isn’t about ‘suffer in silence’, ‘know your place’ and ‘mustn’t grumble’. It is about ‘be the best that you can be’, ‘dare to dream’, ‘give yourself a break’, ‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘recognise the perfect parent does not exist’, ‘respect yourself’ and ‘strength through adversity.’
Lastly, somewhere along the line, as we switched from selling the products of our labour to selling the services of ourselves, the ‘fake it til you make it’ mantra started to dominate, in business, in our romantic lives (as singles) and increasingly, everywhere else. How do we jolt ourselves out of that mantra?
Age creates a World full of contradictions,
That Youth can make no sense of,
And Age cannot explain.
We all want less deprivation, cleaner air,
Universal excitement and human dignity,
But aren’t smart enough to achieve it.
Like a vast discount supermarket, full of stock,
Where far too many goods, cover too few real needs,
And too many products jostling for attention,
Have long exceeded their useful shelf-life in the World.
As artificial night follows natural day,
Future value will attach to the digital services,
That no one understands how to create, only to consume,
And the synthetic biology of 3D printers,
Designed by self-organising software programmes,
Slowly replaces the handmade shop goods of yesteryear.
If Moore’s Law will continue for the foreseeable future, does it have a cousin keeping pace with it – the growing number of people unable to understand how technology works?
Are the people who care about technology advances, steadily becoming confined to just two groups only – those who will profit from them (designers and investors) and those who benefit from them by paying across their hard-earned cash (customers)? If so, how do governments socialise the advances of technology, so we all understand and care? Is there a political party out there campaigning for this?
First we described the World as flat and made modest progress.
Then we established hierarchy and made more rapid progress.
Now we return to a flat World, adding digital, lean and agile to the mix, to make the fastest progress.
If we make and operate more trading markets, how can that solve some existing social problems in our communities?
In one example, creating a new product in the swaps market, we could swap bundled consumer poverty debt for public-body, impaired asset-liability (toxic/polluted land). That then gives a pool of almost penniless people (or a poor country heavily in debt), an asset instead of an unpayable financial debt. The asset may rise in the future, but in the meantime, as well as collectively paying the ongoing running costs, they can collectively pay an annual insurance premium to limit their downside risk.
From the public body’s perspective, they :
- alter their custodial obligations (the shape of the land borders they physically manage),
- minimise any controversy with their auditors on property, plant & equipment (PPE) impairment values,
- swap a physical liability for a financial liability of the same NPV,
- significantly reduce PPE liability volatility,
- avoid ongoing various running costs, relating to maintaining the physical asset, including; regular valuations, impairment reviews & access management.
The public body can then re-finance (against other unutilised collateral sitting on its balance sheet) the financial debt (interest rates) and match future income receipts against that debt in the normal way, to progressively pay down the debt.
In another example – derivative creation, can we split off the impairment discount from the unimpaired net value for a land or building asset? This idea may be of interest to the Housing Sector e.g. large Church & Council housing estate owners. The impairment value could be traded publicly, once derivatives representing it are created, perhaps to be known as ‘impairment value derivatives’ or IVD’s.
Thereafter, a fall in IVD value might occur, as the outcome of legal cases (relating to similar types of impaired physical assets held by other parties) establish payment liabilities on the owners of such properties. A gain in IVD value would occur, as investors speculate that impairment value attached to such IVD’s over time becomes excessive. And speculate that emerging new technologies make asset repairs & land remediation cheaper and more viable, causing a contraction in the impairment value. In the meantime, IVD shareholders could hedge their downside holding-risk (legal liability risk in particular), using insurance policies that cap the liability to themselves (effectively an insurance excess) and transfer most of it instead to the insurance industry.