How CustomerTech Can Improve Product/ Service Reviews

This post writes up my take on a discussion on the VRM List, that initially asked the question ‘can reviews be made portable so that they can appear in more than one place?’. The short answer is we believe yes, there is at least one way to do that, using JLINC, and quite possibly other protocols. And in doing so we believe we can much improve the provenance of the review record so that it becomes more useful and more reliable for all parties.

So how might that work, and what might that then mean? The diagram below illustrates a basic un-structured review of a hotel booking being shared consciously and in a controlled, auditable manner with 3 separate travel related services.

The critical components in this model are:

  • Self sovereign identity – in place for all parties which enables downstream data portability, no lock-in, reputation management and ultimately verified claims where they are useful
  • A Server – to be or connect to the individual’s data store, manage the KYS process (know your supplier), represent the individual in the agreement negotiation, and log all signing and data share activity
  • Information Sharing Agreement – to set out the permanent terms associated with the specific data sharing instance. In this case, and very interestingly, we believe that we may be able to use an existing Creative Commons licence
  • B Server – to present requests for reviews to individuals acknowledging the customer-driven terms to be used, and flagging any downstream use (and ultimately having downstream data controllers sign the same agreement)
  • Audit log – the permanent record of what was shared with whom for what purpose under what terms stored to keep all parties honest.

Personally I think this is the way forward for reviews, and offers people like Consumer Reports and Which the opportunity to re-invent their business models.

Anyone want to give it a try?

PS The same principles and methods apply to pretty much any other ‘volunteered personal information’ scenario. I think over time that approach will win our over capturing ‘behavioural surplus’.

It’s Time to Start Talking About Co-managed Data

As we reach the end of another decade, I’ve been reflecting on the changes over the last ten years in my areas of interest – customer management as my day job, and personal data management for individuals as my hobby horse. For the former I’d say it’s been a very poor decade indeed; the latter a positive frustrating one.

In the world of customer management, the dominant theme in my view has been dis-intermediation of traditional customer-supplier relationships by GAFA and Adtech. That has meant a lot less transparency around how personal data is being managed. GDPR has, so far, offered more promise than reality; to date is feels like lots of positive possibilities, none of which will really be addressed until a few giant fines get handed out to Google, Facebook and Adtech (which will take years).

On the issue of personal data empowerment for individuals, there has been good progress; but there remains a long way to go to get to scale. GDPR has put the brakes on some of the bad stuff, but positive empowerment of people with their own data for their own purposes is not really happening as yet. Even base level ‘rights’ such as data portability are very poorly supported in practice, and even if that improved then there are no large scale services in position to use ported data.

So, all in all, some twenty five years into the commercial Internet, it still feels and acts like the Wild West. A small number of big Ranchers build a fence around ‘their property’, define the rules that they say apply to anyone who comes onto their patch, and then go about their business with little regard to the outside world or their impact on it. In the Internet version, the Wild West is called Surveillance Capitalism; i.e. the systematic process through which large organisations ring fence a piece of digital territory (data about people), declare it to be theirs, and proceed to turn that into products and services for them to sell. That’s only good for the surveillance capitalists themselves; it just dis-enfranchises the individuals whose data is being grabbed.

From the individual perspective, GDPR tells me that I’m now ‘in control of my data’. Well, I must have missed that bit. Or does someone really expect me to go to my 300 or so direct suppliers, read their policies, see my data, change or delete it where I need to, and pretend to not notice that I am being followed around the web by them and hundreds of ‘their partners’ who I have never heard of?

In parallel, let’s look at what would actually be useful to me going forward. I already manage a lot of my own data as my hobby, and with a view to building tools that would make this task easier to undertake, and more useful in terms of what can be done with my data. From that work, I can see, for example, that I have:

  • around 7.5k financial transaction records since Jan 2013 (so about 100 per month)
  • just over 300 suppliers that I know and recognise will have data about me (so about 1k per year, just around 1oo per month)
  • 250 product/ service records where I have a digital record (I have more but not digitised those as yet)
  • thousands of data points on Internet of Things, fitness/ health trackers, location check-ins

Here’s a screenshot from how I log my supply relationships, in this case I’m doing that in the JLINC Sandbox.

And this one is, using the same app, how I log ‘my stuff’ (i.e. assets, products or services that I have or use).

And to complete the set, here is view of some of things I am/ will be in the market for over the next few months.

I would contend that whilst the above is useful to me in many ways; it would be an awful lot more useful to me if ‘my view’ was connected to my suppliers view and that we therefore co-managed what would then be ‘Our Data’ (for example, real time sync of my current bank balance, investment account, fuel tank status and many more). To be clear, ‘Our Data’ = Co-managed data; i.e. data where two or more parties are able to each consider themselves as managers of the relevant data (setting aside that there are many technical points of discussion underneath this co-management principle). I’ve written more about the my data, your data, our data, their data, everybody’s data distinctions over here.

Once the individual has their own data service with the above types of data, and many others over time, then the co-managed model is by far the optimum. I’ll write up those benefits, and the practicalities of how we obtain them in more detail in a separate post shortly..

The Fox is Guarding The Personal Data Hen House (and he has weapons)

This week I watched the excellent documentary The Great Hack. A horrifying story, very well told; congratulations to all those involved in making that and bringing that story to the general public.

I’d recommend it to everyone, but most especially those in large private or public sector organisations sitting on large troves of personal data. The essence of the story is that:

  • the personal data asset class is now ‘more valuable than oil’
  • the vast majority of it is controlled by a small number of ‘for profit’, supra-national organisations
  • un-scrupulous actors can insert themselves into that eco-system and weaponise the personal data assets
  • the effects from them doing so are gigantic and world-changing
  • what they have done is only the tip of the iceberg

That’s pretty scary stuff. The key points made, in my view anyway, are that the products/ services that enable organisations to access and manipulate personal to achieve specific objectives are seen as weapons grade; and that we will see this kind of thing happen time and again unless something is done to change that.

So what can be done to change that? Not easily, not overnight; but it can be done.

Firstly, what won’t work, is regulating to stop it happening; that’s been tried already with GDPR. While regulating may slow down and lessen the effect, it does not address the underlying problem which is that huge volumes of the now weaponisable asset that is personal data sit with large, supra-national, for profit entities. For profits have to maximise the use of their own assets, so are not the right entities to build and guard that personal data hen house. The alignment of incentives is wrong in that model.

So we need to find a model where the alignment of incentives is strong and sustainable. I would contend that this is where the MyData model comes into its own. In that model:

  • The capability (for data management and selective, informed sharing) is built on the side to the individual. That is the game changer
  • Genuine propositions that seek to use personal data can still flourish; but dubious ones unable to persuade the individual of their merits in an open, transparent way will fail
  • The various incentives are aligned with the needs and wants of the individual

Looking beyond that immediate fox and hen house problem (which is big enough anyway); the MyData model is the only way that individuals will gain general control over their personal data, and not the faux control enabled by GDPR.

Lot’s to discuss then at the upcoming MyData conference in Helsinki, 25th, 26th, 27th September 19. See you there.

When will Privacy regulators tackle data access and data portability?

Just looking at the German Competition Authorities decision around Facebook and their interpretation of the use of Consent. That will have a big impact.

Whilst I’m no big fan of GDPR (overhype and under delivery so far versus what could have been), it does seem that by the time of the first anniversary of it going live that the regulation will be starting to show its teeth and have some real impact.

The problem with that is it will probably take a decade to deliver real improvement, and even that will only be on the ‘defence’ side of personal data capabilities. That is to say, a ten year to eliminate the bad stuff which just should not be happening.

So far the regulators seem to be ignoring the more enabling the ‘offence’, ie the more enabling aspects such as data access and data portability.

Of course one could argue that it is not the regulators job to build out positive capability on the side of the individual. I would argue otherwise; if more bandwidth was put on the positive side of what individuals could do with proper access to their data then a lot of the bad things would go away more quickly. Nodding towards data access and data portability and then doing nothing about clear failure to deliver helps no one;

Next Steps for Information Answers

I’ve not really known what to do with this site/ blog since the untimely death of my good friend and colleague John Butler. Until I do i’m going to use the blog/ twitter just as a place for my personal thoughts and sometimes rants about the personal data sector/ industry/ mess.

Opinions and rants will be entirely mine, nothing to do with my employers.

Thanks

Iain

Quantifying the ROI of Customer Engagement Planning

The internet of things (IoT) is generating Big Data and driving the need for business-ready analytics. But the explosion of marketing channels in which organizations are hoping to engage customers is expanding exponentially through mobile apps, social media and the emerging VRM Personal Cloud. CMOs and marketing departments are stretched thinner than ever to ensure enough perceived reach to drive sufficient customer engagement to sustain and grow their business.

The question becomes how to turn this exploding personal data eco-system to the advantage of the organization. With the customer “in charge” in so many real and virtual locations, how can an organization measure the return on its investment in the various channels so as to maximize marketing effectiveness and minimize wasted cost and effort?

Information Answers has been answering that question for major corporations for more than a decade using a sophisticated ROI mechanism that incorporates all the interdependencies, accounts for all costs across departments and tailors its output to the individual organization’s strategy and planning assumptions. Of course, there is a bit of work to input the necessary organizational information – such as planning assumptions – but it’s straightforward and the toolkit hides the complexity, allowing you to press a button and refine your plans or change course with ease.

With our updated proposition, we can work with firms to quantifiably derive the best case, worst case and most likely scenarios for ROI of customer engagement programs based on planned investments, progress and timing of each component and the anticipated progress of key milestones.

Too often, we find organizations suffering from too much information and subsequently double counting expected returns. Through the discipline and application of our updated Customer Engagement ROI Model – we can link marketing plans with finance’s budget, sales projections with current average revenue per customer and so forth.
Even more importantly, the toolset enables CMOs and CIOs to not only navigate the wealth of information but to safely conduct what-if scenarios so that they can:

• Preflight and refine existing propositions

• Identify, test and cost new proposition opportunities

• Assess the projected return on investment in sufficient detail

• And produce a project plan or product roadmap for deployment.

So, if you are serious – we mean really serious – about customer engagement that is, reaching and interacting with prospects, advocates and customers where they research, shop and buy – this toolset and our global expertise enables you to run test flight simulations before launching or scrambling to keep up in every channel. The outcome for you is informed planning, reduced risk, improved margins and growth by leveraging the huge amount of personal data in this new, customer-centric eco-system.

Don’t drown in the data, contact John Butler today for a free consultation and demonstration of how we can help you!

John Butler

Information Answers

john@informationanswers.com

+1 (201) 600-8962

Imagine a World Where Opportunity Knocks and Your Door is Open

By John Butler —

Marketing has long yearned for a step change from being limited to a sales support function such as generating leads for sales and providing distilled research as analytics to improve reach and drive customer engagement.

And rightly so. Marketing yearns to serve the role it was designed for – and that is to be the pivotal strategic guide for the organization. Other departments can improve the bottom line by ensuring revenue exceeds cost, but it is Marketing’s purpose to increase profitability by focusing the organization – including sales – on the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers. Marketing knows that the only real boss is a paying customer.

So, how can Marketing focus an organization when it is anchored by its legacy role? How can Marketing focus an organization when it is drowning in so many new digital channels – channels that change over time like Myspace to Facebook? It’s juggling Internet ads, email campaigns, more and more mobile apps, and an explosion in social media, all the while weaning off traditional media – which is really about weaning off the model of broadcast approaches in favor of more direct methods simply because digital is more direct than print or airwaves. It was a CMO that told me candidly, at best it’s “spray and pray.”

But again, how can Marketing focus an organization in the Age of the Customer – where customer feedback is more telling than a compelling campaign? How can Marketing focus an organization when the Internet of Things is driving Big Data – giving everyone either data indigestion or slick doughnut charts about aggregate groups far, far away from 1:1 customer intimacy. How many organizations do you know that hope to gain more customer intimacy by hiring a data scientist?

How can Marketing focus an organization when the tools available from the major enterprise software companies are a patchwork quilt of acquisitions by its vendors – a confusing collections of tools – neatly connected in architectural slides and designed to automate a current state, that is, apps that help do everything faster and cheaper but without clear sight of effectiveness.

Imagine a world where Marketing could automatically reach, engage, acquire and retain buyers. Imagine a world where Marketing was directly linked – directly connected – to customers and their needs and wants. Imagine a world where Marketing could focus an organization on acquiring the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers.

In a world of shiny objects, it is easy to be seduced by the promise of the future. Drones ready to deliver packages that contain items that Amazon anticipates you’ll purchase – a statistical gamble that may well be financially worth the cost, time will tell. Cloud apps that let you run your business on your phone with a swipe of the finger. Marketing Automation that connects everything in the enterprise, ahem, to give you the 360 degree, single view of the customer so that you can cross-sell, upsell and survey – better, faster and cheaper.

Thanks to Apple individuals can now pay with a phone, but imagine a world where active buyers could use their smartphones to handshake with company systems to obtain the best deals and through seamless interactions over time become loyal advocates because the organization is systemically attuned to their needs and wants. Imagine a world where active buyers – “smart-enabled” buyers – were more than just a voice, as in Voice of the Customer, but were actually helping Marketing steer the organization, focusing it on acquiring the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers.

In that new world – where Marketing is strategically positioned and leveraged – new tools and models are required, some yet to be invented. The good news is that the foundation has been laid and the visionaries have shown the way (just search YouTube for Doc Searls or Drummond Reed or read Customer’s New Voice by John McKean). Smartphones have given individuals the equivalent computing power of an employee using a CRM system. The rapid adoption of Public and Private Clouds has given rise to the Personal Cloud – a structured and secure lockbox of personal information. And we all know about the data breaches suffered by retailers and celebrities so, there are engineers hard at work at securing the network – our beloved Internet needs a security patch (see XDI).

So, the individual has the computing power, the data and the secure connection. What can they do with it? Where is their equivalent of CRM? Why do individuals have to be hassled by unsolicited emails, spooky ads in web pages simply derived from their ad hoc browser history, unwanted advertising interruptions to their online experiences, freemium trial apps loaded with annoying ads that eventually require some attention and evaluation before deciding to purchase the premium, ad-free app? You get the idea, after all, we are all living it and can all cite bountiful examples.

Imagine a way to leverage that data and power in the hands of 2 billion smartphone and tablet users in a win-win scenario – a win for the organization and a win for the individual. Imagine an individual dashboard that provided summaries of buying history with drill down to the receipts, warranties and terms and conditions – you can almost hear the savings in customer support costs.

Now, imagine that dashboard also showed activity conducted automatically based on an individual’s intent to purchase that identified the best deals on insurance, cars, homes, etc. Imagine the individual – through their intent cast – gaining sight of the optimal deal with a supplier that they didn’t even know existed and then selecting that supplier based on a respected connection and a trust contract. Customers need a home or car but what they really want is: Save me money, give me more precious time back, avoid hassles and exceed my expectations when using or maintaining your product or service.

That world is unfolding rapidly. Through Personal Cloud, customers are gaining VRM power. VRM or vendor relationship management gives individuals the equivalent power of an enterprise CRM user. Organizations that enable customer VRM connections to their CRM system through trusted handshake protocols (APIs) are able to compete in a way that the hamster in the social media wheel could never achieve no matter how fast they can make that wheel spin.

We’re not talking science fiction. Not at all. In fact, we’re offering to walk you through real-world examples and help you envision ways to leapfrog the competition using your existing instance of Salesforce.com or other Marketing Cloud to connect directly to Personal Clouds – directly to active buyers ready to spend money. If you want to understand the implications of this new personal data eco-system or you want to know how much it will cost to assess the ROI, we have the tools, experience, expertise and thought leaders to show you and help you lead the way in your organization. Beyond that, we can build prototypes of your CRM connecting to Personal Cloud apps or devices – and transfer that know-how to within your organization.

Contact John Butler, U.S. lead for Information Answers that connects VRM personal clouds to CRM as a Salesforce.com consulting partner and Respect Network integration partner.

Why Personal Clouds and Midata are Good for Business

I’ve long been an advocate of Craig Burton’s thesis that ‘VRM’ and the inevitable shift towards ‘personal clouds’ will be good for the organisations. His excellent overview here includes some real gems, not least ‘Baking core competency in an API-set is an economic imperative’.

And i’ve also noted the slow pace of the UK.gov Midata programme aimed at helping individuals gain access to the data held on them by their suppliers in a form that they can re-use. It is clear that the majority of organisations are not exactly rushing to deliver on that, one assumes because they perceive much more threat than opportunity in doing so. I don’t see that changing in the immediate future, and note that many are now focused on how they can deliver Midata, still within their own context. The back-stop legislation being proposed is unlikely to change that stance. Similar initiatives elsewhere will probably run on similar lines, although USA probably has a strong approach in working with semi-public sector data managers whose hand can be more pro-actively forced.

Given that, i’ve tried to set out below a view on why taking a more pro-active stance on Midata would be a good thing for organisations, and merging that with some thoughts on how this will enable that focus on core competencies, and what that will look like in practical deployment terms.

I’ll do so using visualisations of a ‘CRM’ data record; how that is supposed to look, how it usually does look in practice, and what it will look like as the above scenarios deliver in the mid term.

The first visual below shows a theoretical view of what a customer record would look like in the data warehouse sitting behind the customer management systems of pretty much any large business to consumer organisation – from bank, to retail, to utility, to public sector and health provider. Having this in place allows the organisation to run all of the customer management processes they want, to a high standard. The main building blocks of the record are The Customer, The Product/ Service, The Outlet (sales channel), The Relationship between Customer and Product, The Offer (being made to the customer/ potential customer), and The Customer-Organisation Interaction(s). Each sector will have minor (10%) nuances around the detail, and differing terminology in places, but the big building blocks remain the same.

Target State

However, there’s a problem……

The second visual (built up from many deep dive assessments) is more illustrative of the reality, the colours being driven, in traffic light style, by data quality, which includes whether it exists in the system at all, along with other classic data quality metrics such as recency/ source of update, completeness, compliance etc.

To avoid too much time analysing the detail – the short version is that many organisations are running their customer management processes on very poor quality fuel.

Actual State

So what’s going to happen to change that; because the above has been the case for the last 20 years?

The short answer is Personal Clouds (aka Personal Data Services). These will enable the individual to take on a significant chunk of the data management task, and be happy to do so because they will benefit hugely from doing so. Many people will only be vaguely aware that they even have such a thing; the personal cloud(s) will be just a small component of a wider proposition, like a SIM card is to a phone. The recently launched Cheap Energy Club is a good example of the above – a mini personal cloud buried within a much more compelling customer and supplier proposition.

The third visual below is a stab at how the customer record, as we know it now, will change over time. What i’m suggesting is that the significant majority of the customer record will actually be managed by the customer. And that this customer managed portion will itself sub-divide into My Data* (volunteered personal information brought together in a personal cloud by the individual), and Our Data** (co-created/ co-owned data currently managed by the organisation and, over time increasingly made available to the individual).

* For more on this provenance based categorisation of the data around in individual see this post from a few years back covering My Data, Your Data, Our Data, Their Data and Everybody’s Data.

** Confusingly what i’m calling Our Data, UK.gov calls ‘Midata‘. My Data and Midata should not be confused; the former I don’t need to retrieve from somewhere, it’s mine in the first place..

Firstly, there will be huge chunks of cost taken out of current customer information management activity. Many organisations spend tens or hundreds of millions of pounds per year managing customer information.

Secondly, data (fuel) quality will be much improved, enabling the option to run much more efficient and effective customer management processes – across all aspects of the customer lifecycle. To bring this to life, this becomes the mythical ‘360 degree view of the customer’; i.e. the customer has data from across their supply base, not just the single organisational silo view that is the current fuel.

Thirdly – look at what’s left for the organisation to manage…, the data about their products/ services, their outlets (channels), their product/ service offers, and their marketing campaigns. i.e. their core competencies. That’s a scary but ultimately winning proposition for organisations – ‘give up control of something that you value highly but has a high degree of toxicity (customer data), in order to focus much more on that which you do best’.

To round that off, and return to the core point from Craig, we have a fourth visual. The API’s….Each of those three buckets of data thrive on being connected to each other in secure ways, much more so than they do when they are combined. And thrive further still when ‘apps’ and utilities can be pointed at then, or used to bridge them.

Evolution
If these API’s are designed and deployed well, then the personal data eco-system thrives, and the individual genuinely becomes the point of integration and origination for data about them. In turn, this architecture is also the only really viable one for ‘The Internet of My Things’, which will further turbo-charge the individual and their personal data capabilities.

There’s much more to write on this, including which ‘apps’ are on their way, and how organisations can enable their processes in this way. I’ll save that for another day.

 

 

The First Large Scale CRM Plus VRM Business?

Nice to see Cheap Energy Club from MoneySavingExpert make it out the door, having worked on that for a big chunk of last year.

At first glance it might look like another comparison site, but there’s lots more under the hood – data built on the individual side, automated checking, mi-data ready, and a few more interesting bells and whistles….

Will this be the first service built somewhere between CRM and VRM to run at large scale? It certainly has the possibility to do so; I saved £135 per year on my switch, and others much more. And MoneySavingExpert have a big subscriber base of people who trust their advice.

No doubt this will be a story to follow up on….

A CRM plus VRM Venn for 2013

I spent most of 2012 with head down consulting on a couple of big ‘CRM plus VRM’ propositions – more on those when they show up in the wild. So i’ve been pondering on where to focus on in 2013.

I put together this Venn diagram to help think through which areas of our work might reach tipping point in 2013. It looks at the intersection between our three areas of interest – CRM, VRM and Personal Data Services.

Hot in 2013 Venn

The key points I took out from sketching this out were:

1) As an overall theme, I think 2013 will be the year that large organisations with lots of individuals as customers will wake up to the option to build rich, data-driven propositions around volunteered personal information. Critically, this data will being plumbed directly into existing operational CRM systems from ‘something outside’ (whether that be a personal data service, personal cloud, ‘midata’ or some variant thereof) ; Yes CRM plus VRM for real, and built for large scale. The UK midata project, and equivalents elsewhere, will help in that, although more as the spur that makes organisations think about the issue and build their own propositions with the data they hold than about data actually flowing anything like freely.

2) Whilst many/ all of the items on the venn are on their way to a tipping point, some are more ready than others.

3) Offers management, a perhaps obscure, behind the scenes/ yet to really emerge function, will see significant change this year. The current modus operandi of ‘get a contact point and some input data and push offers to it’ has largely run out of road in many key sectors and demographics. The critical aspect of making this happen is that it requires work from both demand and supply sides, i.e. both buyers and sellers. Without both acting together we just get what we have now. We’ll see a number of ways in which I can pull relevant offers via a channel of my choice emerge in the first half of this year, and if well implemented, get momentum in the second half.

4) VRM/ Personal Data Service Hardware. One can get so far with software, but when one adds genuine customer-side hardware to the mix then we get a lot further. So look out for prototypes and then products in that space.

So that’s my target for the year – a hardware device that pulls in offers that I have personalised. No doubt it will tackle some other VRM issues along the way.

Anyone else want one?

Iain