Category Archives: big brands

Dicks and Phoneys!

Dear Jack Clarke, Charlie Rostron, Nabil Patel and Jade Pritchard (they work for Dixons Carphone)…

Did you realise that you were working for an organisation which is extremely NOT customer focused – one might even say that it operates on Stalinist principles – me included (harsh..but fair)!

Some time ago I got an email, totally out of the blue, trying to sell me something – it came from the Dixons Carphone group – frankly I had no idea the last time I bought anything from them and wondered why in this world of GDPR, that they still had my personal information!!

So I responded to the email and asked them to remove my details – and there begins the tedious (I’ll try and make it exciting for you dear reader – like by adding in pictures 🙂 ) saga – that is still going on today – despite what they may think!

The nub of this is their failure to believe I am who I say I am – and then, on the basis that they don’t accept that I am who I say I am they go on to publish some of my personal information via the very channel that they refuse to accept that I am who I say I am…

Anyway as is normally the case in these types of sagas you have to read back in time from the end to the beginning, to see how things have developed…but I thought I’d assist you, dear reader, by producing my most recent communication up top and then you can read through the history from the start and understand my acute levels of vexation 🙂  I’ve separated each message with a horizontal line – so you can take a breather whenever you like.

So, to set the scene, I’m responding to an email which has a link to take me to their portal so I can read an update from them….


Dear Sirs please be advised that I shall be forwarding details of our “conversations” to the Data Protection Registrar as I believe that you are in breach of the latest regulations. Your overbearing approach seems intent to stop individuals having their personal data removed rather than making it the right which is enschrined in the relevant legislation – GDPR.

Plus the fact that, despite refusing to accept that I am who I say I am, through this email channel, you appear to have no problems with publicising my home telephone number – and that is surely a failure to protect my identity.

I have been out of the country and unable to respond to your continuous refusals to accept who I am and now you elect to refuse my request.

Well all I can say is that even after I have completed my discussions with the Information Commissioner I shall ensure that I will never purchase another item from your organisation and should I ever receive a single piece of marketing communication from you I shall seriously consider taking you to the small claims court for the time, effort and stress that dealing with you has caused me.

Yours increasingly irritated


…so having typed in the screed I hit send to let them know of my current state of mind 🙂 and guess what…

..so I entered my email – to gain access to “your dedicated” privacy portal – not anyone else’s but MINE! – er, how do they know it’s me? By entering my email obviously (doh!) – the same email that they have been using to communicate communicate with me…

And so, just like that, they “verify” my identity enough to allow me to access the conversation via their portal…but it would seem that it’s not good enough to allow them to actually ACT on my initial request…

Now I’ve been both irritated and on holiday recently (I wasn’t irritated on holiday even though the rain did fall horizontally and the sun did hide away behind the grey clouds for most of the time) so I hadn’t got round to responding to previous emails – but the last one, saying that they’d withdrawn my request really p*ssed me off (like REALLY P*SSED ME OFF) so, that’s why we are where we are right now..

Now it’s time to see how we got to this point, but before we do let’s note that the GDPR allows individuals to make a request for erasure verbally or in writing.  Now had I telephoned them – at no doubt a cost to me – how could I have provided the “proofs” they ask for below?
Here we go with my initial request..in writing.

From: Data Subject 09/26/2018 4:01 PM GMT

Remove my details from your database


So I get an email back from them asking me to log into the privacy portal and now (like today) at the top is the following:
Request ID: TEQV0C
E-Mail: xxxx@xxxxxxxxx
Brand: All of your brands
Phone Number: 012xxxxx566

Show Less

Country: United Kingdom
Postcode: ox27 xxx

Now I’ve hidden some of the details but there are 3 important things to bear in mind here, given the issue at hand.

Firstly, I may have given them this information in the initial “registration” required to access the portal – frankly I can’t remember if there was one but I’m presuming that’s where they got it from – but irrespective of that if they aren’t prepared to accept my email conversation as proof of who I am then they damn well shouldn’t be displaying any additional information than that email to someone who might, if we’re following their logic, not be me.

Secondly, if they already have my email, my home phone number and my address surely that’s enough to be able to identify me from their records – I have a sneaking suspicion those details are collected at the time of purchase.

Thirdly transmitting data over the internet is not always secure and who are https://privacyportal-de.onetrust.com I’ve never heard of them before – and why is my data being transfered outside of the UK?  Will this change when Brexit happens perhaps Richard Purdy Counsel – (CIPP/E) at OneTrust can answer…

So why do they now need the following – isn’t that enough already?


From: Approver 10/01/2018 4:52 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear

Thank you for your request.

For us to continue with this request we need to validate your identity and require the following:

One proof of identity – we can accept an unexpired copy of either your passport or your driver’s licence

One proof of address– we can accept a copy of your most recent (and less than 3 months old) credit or debit card statement or a utility bill showing the same name and address as your account

Once we have received a form of identification and a proof of your address, we will proceed with processing your request.

You will be able to attach copies by clicking on the paperclip when responding to this message. We will delete all copies on completion of your request.

If you have used multiple email or postal addresses on your account then it will help our searches if they are provided to us at this point.

The 30-day time period to complete your request will start when we have received all documents requested.

If we do not hear from you within 14 days then we will withdraw your request from the process.

If we can offer any further assistance then please reply to us through this secure portal.

Yours sincerely

Jack Clarke

SAR Team

Dixons Carphone


From: Data Subject 10/01/2018 5:05 PM GMT
I responded to the email YOU sent ME. Remove my details from your database immediately. The very fact that i am using this email should be sufficient. If your original email allowed responses we wouldn’t be in this position now.

From: Approver 10/10/2018 4:05 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear ,

Thank you for your request.

Due to the nature of these requests our company policy is to ensure that we are always dealing with the right customer, especially when this might involve providing personal data back to a customer or making changes to customer data, including the deletion of customer data.

We always delete the data provided to identify the customer at the closure of the request.

Unfortunately, without proof of identity we will not be able to proceed with your request.

If we do not receive confirmation of identity within 5 working days then we will close down your request.”

Yours sincerely

Charlie Rostron

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Approver 10/10/2018 4:06 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your request.

Due to the nature of these requests our company policy is to ensure that we are always dealing with the right customer, especially when this might involve providing personal data back to a customer or making changes to customer data, including the deletion of customer data.

We always delete the data provided to identify the customer at the closure of the request.

Unfortunately, without proof of identity we will not be able to proceed with your request.

If we do not receive confirmation of identity within 5 working days then we will close down your request.”

Yours sincerely

Charlie Rostron

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Data Subject 10/10/2018 4:54 PM GMT
Its me you ****wit. Now remove my details or i will report you to the information commissioner.

From: Approver 10/12/2018 1:50 PM GMT

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your email.

Please be advised that we will require the information my colleague has requested to progress further.

If it helps, I am happy to accept:

One proof of address– we can accept a copy of your most recent (and less than 3 months old) credit or debit card statement or a utility bill showing the same name and address as your account

Once you provide this, I will be able to further this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Nabil Patel

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Approver 10/23/2018 4:05 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Right to Forget

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your request.

We have previously attempted to contact you to request further information to enable us to proceed with your request.

As we have not received any method to validate your identity we have made the decision to withdraw your request.

Please accept this as confirmation that your Right to Forget request has now been withdrawn.

If you have any further questions or issues with your request, please visit our privacy policy and submit a new request.

Yours sincerely

Jade Pritchard

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


Frankly I’m not happy to provide that sort of “additional” information – my passport or my driving licence indeed – they didn’t need that when I purchased whatever it was I purchased from them – nor did they need a credit card statement with my address on it – just the bloody credit card!!! “Just give me the money”
So I shall be forwarding the details of this conversation onto the Information Commissioner and asking her for a response.
I may also share this post with her via her twitter feed – https://twitter.com/iconews
..and her Facebook page – facebook.com/ICOnews
Equally in the spirit of sharing personal information, as they have done so, I have no compunction of using the names of the people who have been communicating with me – that’s only fair – don’t you agree?
Plus, in this highly competitive retail landscape, where customer loyalty is hugely important I can honestly say that Dixons Curry’s will get nothing more from me (apart from poor reviews and general abuse that is).  I shall transfer my purchasing to other organisations that are not run by or in the image of dictators (remember Stanley Kalms, the man who founded Dixons was a total *******!)
Finally, the issue of GDPR is really proving to be a complete pain in the ass for us consumers – it seems that rather than protecting our information it’s making it easier for companies to hold onto it – well if my experiences are anything to go by!!
…and 10 out of 10 if you guessed the title of the blog post is a play on words – and if you didn’t realise that – c’mon – get with it!!

no-reply@ email addresses – should they be banned?

Well obviously the answer is yes – but let’s understand why that’s the case.

For starters let’s take a quick look at just at what experts in the field of email have to say.  So here are a selection of articles on why you shouldn’t use them…

For starters I thought that Chris Arrandale – the author of the first article made a very good point about the legislation:

Post GDPR, it is more important than ever to take the time to evaluate whether you should use a no-reply address for your marketing campaigns. How can you expect your subscribers to contact you to claim their rights if you don’t allow them to do so?

This is a bit like those irritating post GDPR cookie policies that don’t give you an option to refuse to accept them – see my previous post on this matter!!  And the situation is made a whole lot worse when they deliberately (oh c’mon you know they are doing it on purpose to reduce your ability to contact them!) either hide or actually don’t make an email available for you to contact them – unless you call them first – that’s you Scottish Power that is!

Apparently, according to  in article 4 – in many countries sending emails with a no-reply address is not allowed. In some European countries for example you have to have a working address people can reply to if they have any kind of question about your email – sadly it seems not in the UK – don’t tell me that’s another Brexit ****up!!

Julia Gulevich who wrote the second article list as her first reason for not using no-reply email addresses as it makes it appear that, by not allowing the recipients to reply to your email campaigns, you don’t care about them or their responses or problems.

Oh boy, that is so true.  And I don’t give a rat’s arse what the sender may say that’s the way that I, the recipient, of the email perceive the situation to be.  If they cared they’d make it easy for me.  I reckon the absolute master of this approach has to be RyanAir which has applied this no-reply ethos to it’s entire operation- what a bunch of *****!

The third article points out the issue of people auto-filtering no-reply emails as spam in their inbox.  This is something that I’m shortly going to be instigating.  Personally I find it insulting, demeaning and dehumanising to receive a demand for money (a bill/invoice) from someone who is providing me with a service….yet clearly isn’t interested in customer service.

As an aside here it also irritates me when companies send me invoices (in pdf format) at work and have locked them so I can’t electronically sign them and forward them for payment.  I’ve adopted a policy of simply ignoring these emails now – I have written back and explained the issue but they don’t seem to care so, sod ’em!

 in article 4 also raises the issue of people complaining about spam – some people don’t look for an opt-out link (which if they’re there at all are in very small pale print at the foot of the email) but hit the reply button when they want to unsubscribe from your emailings.  And when people get that “Message Undeliverable” response – hackles will rise, of that you can be sure.

Ryan Phelan  (article 5) is a respected thought leader and nationally (Canada) distinguished speaker. Ryan serves as Chairman Emeritus EEC Advisory Board, and member of the board of directors for the ESPC.  His view is that:

Your brand has a personality, a face. The face might be your logo, but it’s all part of your brand equity. When you send an email with “do-not-reply” or “no-reply” in the sender line, you’re really saying to your customers, “I am never going to look at the email that you want to send me. Never.”

It’s true – think RyanAir’s boss man = Arrogant Twat, Virgin’s boss – Goofy, wacky but innovative, Scottish Power’s Linda Clayton – ah sorry she’s a figment of their imagination – even the image used for her LinkedIn “profile” is called “ghost-person” – I rest my case.  A classic example of just how easy it is for a brand to go wrong – and then just ignore the fact and carry on regardless – doh!

Ms Clayton allegedly signs all of their customer service communication but does she actually exist?   If she does, or doesn’t, by jove she still manages to irritate people.  I’m still getting comments and tweets from a post about her/ I wrote years ago!  So get this brand personality thing wrong at your peril!!

And here’s where we get to the meat of this.  How am I likely to react to receiving these emails?  Well dear reader, how do you think?

…and you’re not wrong!

Yup! In a world where there is so much competition a key aspect of customer loyalty is providing good customer service and making it easy for people to do business with you – including contacting you to sort out any issues that might arise – small or large.  So to adopt a policy of communicating through the medium of a no-reply email is tantamount to a business shooting itself in the head!

Am I likely to do more (any!) business with them?  Not a cat’s chance in hell!

So you marketers and communications professionals out there working for these large (and increasingly small) companies listen up – not just my musings but those of the respected bloggers and experts above.  To be brutally honest there were a lot more links to stuff, in fact Google identified 1,200,000,000 results on the subject of “no reply email addresses” in only 0.40 seconds – yes that was 1.2 billion links!

This is obviously a major issue yet there’s lots and lots of guidance for companies to rectify the issue – I don’t know why they haven’t but let’s just hope that they do get their collective **** together.

Should no-reply email addresses be banned?  YES!

Oh by the way here is just a selection of the no-reply email addresses I’ve received, and organisations that have p***ed me off recently – ok I got bored so stopped adding them!!

  • Auto Trader <noreply@autotrader.co.uk>
  • Adobe <account-noreply@adobe.com>
  • ASM Auto Recycling (Oxford) <noreply@partshark.co.uk>
  • Bannatyne <noreply@bannatyne.co.uk>
  • Cirrus <no-reply@s.backerkit.com>
  • Coinbase <no-reply@coinbase.com>
  • confirmation@easyJet.com <donotreply@easyjet.com>
  • Dyson <do.not.reply@dyson.com>
  • Aegon <DoNotReply@aegon.co.uk>
  • ‘Google Analytics’ <analytics-noreply@google.com>

 

Political correctness – sorry, but yes it has gone mad!

2016-02-01-1195outragePolitical correctness
noun
the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

The definition from Dictionary.com and there’s one absolutely KEY word and that is “perceived” – perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult..etc etc.  Perceived by whom?

There are plenty of people out there who are prepared to “educate” us about how we should be using language e.g. Tess Thorson, Ph.D. Fellow at Aalborg University, based in New York, researching intersectional representations in film and media – I perceive her analysis of a Jonathan Pie video as both deep and deeply patronising at the same time – but I welcome the fact that she has the freedom to express it.

In the last few days we’ve seen stories in the news about students no longer clapping but using “Jazz Hands” instead to make events more accessible to those suffering anxiety.  And we can no longer show the Shetlands in a box on a map…although authorities can avoid complying with this if they provide “information” about their reasons!!

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of bits of language that we shouldn’t use – there are – although I perceive that there do seem to be more and more…and yet still more being added to the list – almost daily!

Take “black” and “white” for example – the meaning behind these two has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  My first wife was black, no sorry that should be Afro-Caribbean – or should it be BAME?  Well when I was in Jamaica there was a clear divide amongst the locals which was dependent on their own perceptions of skin colour – black skin was perceived to have a higher status than brown skin – their perception not mine!  My nickname , as given by the smiling, cheeky, kids on the hillside outside of Mo’ Bay was “whiteman” – I certainly wasn’t insulted, I felt accepted!  Yet today “White” is an insult, a term laced with denegration and meant to demean.

We are constantly being told that we need to be more considerate, more inclusive, yet at the same time some people – comedians for example – are perceiving that they are far more constrained, that they now have less opportunity to poke fun at the things and people that damn well need to have fun poked at them!!  Here’s Frankie Boyle back in 2015.

I find it incredibly worrying that we no longer need to hear the actual content of the thing we’re told to be offended by. We hear of people being arrested for tweets without the tweet being reported; comics are blasted for routines that aren’t printed; newspapers hire lip-readers to find something to get offended by at the tennis and then print the resulting fuckfest as asterisks. And who decides whether we should be outraged at something we haven’t seen or heard? The press. Our seething collective Id. None of us would trust a journalist to hold our pint while we went to the bathroom, yet we allow them to be ethical arbiters for the entire culture.

..and it’s not just journalists, see the good Dr listed earlier plus this article by Julia Watson which won The Economist’s Open Future essay competition in the category of Open Society – there are plenty of people keen to reduce your and my ability to use langauage.

To me, a believer in a meritocracy, a lover of language, and a lover of good comedy we need the freedom to be perceived as being “politically incorrect”- even though comedy is inevitably at someone or something else’s expense.  It’s been at “my” expense, my late wife and I both howled at the numerous hard-core cancer gags that Frankie Boyle delivered at the New Theatre in Oxford back in 2012 (she died in 2013) – we didn’t perceive that he was being politically incorrect – just painfully funny.

And do you know what is the most worrying thing of all here?  It’s the fact that it’s some appalling behaviour by no less a character than (yes you’ve guessed it!) Donald Trump that has pointed out the issue really is about perception.

Kurdish journalist ‘proud’ to be called ‘Mr Kurd’ by Trump.

Rahim Rashidi told Middle East Eye in an email on Friday that he felt “proud” and “honoured” being addressed as “Mr Kurd”.

“For a long time, the Kurdish people have been denied their self-right to Kurdish ethnicity,” Rashidi explained.

“Kurds have experienced assimilation and genocide, simply for being Kurdish. To be addressed as ‘Mr.Kurd’ means a lot to me. To recognize my identity when it has always been denied is a great deal for me. Especially by the president.”

Wow!  I mean double-wow!  Good on you Mr Rashidi – I applaud you!

Of course there are boundaries that normal life applies to the use of language to “highlight” various groups in society – and these boundaries and the groups they “highlight” differ from culture to culture – but all cultures have limits on what is acceptable, what is politically correct and what you can get away with.  Embracing different groups and cultures is vitally important, we shouldn’t be seeking to exclude them BUT #FFS are you happy that:

  • In 2007, Santa Clauses in Sydney, Australia, were banned from saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’. Their employer, the recruitment firm Westaff (that supplies hundreds of Santas across Australia), allegedly told all trainees that ‘ho ho ho’ could frighten children, and be derogatory to women. Why ? Because ‘Ho Ho Ho’ is too close to the American (not Australian, mind you) slang for prostitute.
  • ‘Reliable’ and ‘hard-working’ – surely the two keystone employers look for in an employee? Well, maybe not: a Hertfordshire recruitment agency boss was once told she could not request those qualities – Jobcentre Plus in Thetford, Norfolk, told her such an advert could be “offensive” to unreliable people.
  • Undoubtedly the rudest-sounding dish in your recipe book, Spotted Dick is  pudding made with suet, raisins and currents. It dates back centuries – the earliest reference is 1849 – but that didn’t stop one overly concerned council from changing the name to Spotted Richard. Flintshire County Council was apparently sick of all the jokes, so changed the name – much to the chagrin of everyone else.
  • Oxford University’s Equality and Diversity Unit tried to accuse people who avoid eye contact with others of ‘racist micro-aggression’ — before it was pointed out that such advice might be seen as discriminatory against people with autism who may struggle to look others in the eye.
  • Suffolk County Council stopped using traditional signs warning drivers ‘Cat’s eyes removed’ after fears that real cats may have been killed to manufacture these reflective road safety measures. Ipswich resident Rebecca Brewer was reported as saying: ‘I have a five-year-old daughter who was very upset the first time she saw the sign — she really thought cruel people were torturing cats.’ Instead, signs across the county now state: ‘Caution, road studs removed.’
  • Use of this braided hairstyle by white people is said to represent cultural appropriation. When the designer Marc Jacobs was criticised for using a group of predominantly white models wearing dreadlocks in a show, he argued — not unreasonably — that this was similar to black women straightening their hair. This was met with further outrage from (mostly white) commentators who complained that hair-straightening had been ‘forced upon the black community due to beauty ideals based on white archetypes’.

Well let me tell you – I’m not happy about that list.  In fact the Daily Mail, that arbiter of good taste (NOT!) provides a complete A-Z guide for you to peruse and make your own minds up about – because it really is about you and how you perceive things.

perception

But really you just need to be nicer to people – on a one to one basis, face to face.  Be sensitive to other people’s situation but do not, never ever, stop highlighting what you perceive to be injustice, exclusion, racism, sexism or any other kind of ism and remember those words from your childhood…

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

I urge you, if you still have the stomach for it to watch Jonathan Pie’s Hammersmith Apollo show – there is an entire section on political correctness and despite what some might say – it’s spot on the mark!   In fact let’s keep “political correctness” as a term specifically for politicians – those lying, mendacious, self-publicising egomaniacs who use and abuse language on a daily basis – causing offence to many, avoiding questions, taking our money and continually getting away with it – Trump, Johnson etc etc you know who you are.

 

Cor, what a whopper!!

Can you spot the similarity between Apple the company and Donald Trump? Well this most recent post from Techcrunch suggests that they are both pretty good at telling porky-pies!!

I mean the Trumpster is ahead on the total number but that hasn’t deterred Tim Cook et al from playing catch-up!!

Trump is a phenomenon. An asshole too. I mean just read what the Washington Post has to say on the matter – scary or what?

But that aside as this post is about lying tech giants as opposed to assholes pretending to be statesmen let’s focus on Apple!

TechCrunch lists 7, yes 7, whoppers in Apple’s latest product launch. That’s going some.

Is that what it takes now to get punters to part with their hard earned cash? Lies? Wow, how the mighty gave fallen..yet at the same time how big have we mugs grown? £1,400 for a phone??? That’s what I’ve heard, are we mad?

Well not me personally, I’ll make sure I buy my non-Apple devices from some company in the far east that delivers the same product with a better spec for a significantly lower price!!

I know that marketing is about being economical with the truth but Apple’s having a laugh. Or are Fanboys that dumb? Possibly!

But either way people, and particularly that means you people in tech companies that pretend to be holier than thou..stop the bullshit, stop the lies and FFS stop ripping us consumers off!

Business as usual…

As you get older you keep hearing or seeing or reading stuff that makes you think – hang on I’ve seen/heard/read something like that before – whether it’s fashion (No!  Please do NOT bring back flares!), music (whether intentionally as in sampling or “unintentionally” as in My Sweet Lord and others) or books and articles about business.

funkyRight at the end of the last millenium – yep you read that right – the last millenium, before we’d ever heard of “Millenials” (although the term was first coined back in 1987 – by William Strauss and Neil Howe) there were a number of talented individuals who were thinking and writing about how business needed to change. Some of them like Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Riddestrale wrote books about how “Business as usual was uninspired, talent doesn’t want to work there and people don’t want to shop there” (I can no longer find the original edition – this is the 4th version of the book).   Others like Gary Hamel talked about “Leading the Revolution” while Joseph Pine and  James Gilmore wrote about the “Experience Economy” – work is theatre and every business a stage.

My personal hero Rolf Jensen at the Copenhagen of future Studies wrote about “The Dream Society” – he saw that in an age where information was ubiquitous those who could turn information into simple stories were the most valuable people.  I remember the publication of the “Cluetrain Manifesto” and how “obvious” that seemed – yet few people really got it! I was lucky enough to go to a Fast Company organised talk by Guy Kawasaki’s about his Rules for Revolutionaries – clearly someone who “got it”!

There were others, too numerous to mention here, but these are the key thinkers who formed the background of my personal development around work, business and life and, more importantly, they still do today!

For the past 14 years I’ve been working in an environment which is a complete opposite to the dynamic and invigorating world my thought leaders set out as the future – but it hasn’t stopped me holding true to my beliefs and hoping that maybe, one day, things might change 🙂

Well thanks to an excellent article on inc.com by the CEO of Hootsuite – Ryan Holmes – called “Move over, Millenials” I’ve now realised that the themes, that I’ve held true for so long, are coming back into business fashion – maybe they never really went away!!

It seems that during my “dark ages” period thinkers have continued to think – which is nice – and bless him, Ryan has alerted me to the writings of one Brian Solis and anyone who can get the following into his work is ok by me…

“There’s an old quote by Leo Tolstoy that says, ‘We all talk of change, but none of us talk of changing ourselves.’

eob_coverHe’s totally correct – there’s an elite at the top of business that live by the rules of the MBA or some other similar “method” – and they need to change their ways – pronto.  The thing is – he’s saying stuff that was said 20 years ago.

His website covering “The end of business as usual” – sound similar to the funky Business gurus’ “Business as usual was uninspired…”?  Yep thought so 🙂

Hmmm and wasn’t the same phrase “The end of business of usual” prominently positioned on the front cover of the Cluetrain Manifesto?

cluetrainOh yes, so it was 🙂

He’s also using some research from Nielsen which was published back in 2010 about the emergence of “Generation C” – and it’s good stuff, and he’s been banging on about it for at least 6 years – but it isn’t actually telling us anything more than the Cluetrain Manifesto did way, way back, before the emergence of all these social media.

And do you remember what Seth Godin said about that?

If you don’t think you need this book to better understand your market, that’s your second mistake!

Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing

I found this in a document I wrote for my current employers back in 2014…

Companies have segmented their customers into groups based on age, sex, income, and other demographics for many years, an approach which works best when you are able to develop and market discrete products and services for those segments – a “Push” approach – “tell them and they will come”.

Increasingly customers are more discriminating, they are exposed to more marketing, and more hype and more “buy me” messages.  Since the post war baby boom they have gone on a journey driven by technological, economic and social change.

Successful companies must deal with the idealism then scepticism, and cynicism that best describes modern generations.  Understanding and catering for their differing mindsets is key to engaging with them.

…and yep it wasn’t acted upon.  But hey, let’s be positive – could it be that things are about to change – will those ideas from the last millenium finally get to be understood now that we’re onto Generation “C”?

Let’s get back to Ryan Holmes article, helpfully it contains some key facts we need to know about Gen C and ways that companies can better reach and understand this key group!!

So what is Generation “C”? Well back in 2004 it was theorised that “C” meant content and it was all about their ability to create and share it.  However 14 years on and I’d agree with Solis and Holmes when they say fundamentally the “C” means “Connectivity” – how these people embrace technology to enable their “digital lifestyles”.

All the previous “Generations” are delimited by the date of birth – what range do they fall into?  Well, I love this next bit – Here’s the critical fact: Gen C isn’t an age group at all. It’s a mindset.

“What sets Gen C apart is connectivity, in its fullest sense. Members are not merely online – they’re active and engaged in online communities, from the familiar social networks to product review sites. They’re not just consuming content, they’re creating and curating it.”

woman-789146_1280

They “live” on digital media – phone, tablet, pc, Mac – to the detriment of traditional media channels such TV and Radio.  It’s their choice as to how and when they interact – and much of that is going to be on the basis of information they’ve received or gathered from their social media accounts!

So, for a business, to reach them you have to do it on their terms.  And to get the holy grail – a “word-of-mouth” recommendation on Facebook, a creative meme that goes viral on Twitter or a thumbs up from a trusted influencer – you need to work really hard and be incredibly creative AND timely – remember they love good content AND their attention span is about the size of a gnat’s!

You have been warned, don’t be the next House of Fraser, reinvention is vital, storytelling in just a few words is critical and boy you’ve gotta be fast – hesitate and you’ve missed it, just like last time 🙂

Man this is gonna be such fun!!

Fighting for life? Or fit to drop?

Sometimes you know progress sucks.  I mean it’s been several years since wearable technology became a “buzzword” yet there’s still nothing really cool/useful out there.  Look at it now…it’s fighting for life, it’s fit to drop!

I mean ok, Apple Fanboys have their watch, but it really doesn’t deliver all that much.  At the same time you’ve seen crooks like Yassir Belhaj, the guy behind the Indiegogo and subsequently Kickstarter promoted Sowatch debacle that fleeced nearly 3,000 people out of a total of over $350k, screwing things up royally!  At the same time you’ve had major brands such as Samsung, Fitbit, Polar, Huawei, TomTom plus a host of others, including Apple, try and fail to deliver a killer piece of kit – and they’ve even had multiple goes at it!!
Frankly it irritates me that this market opportunity hasn’t been grabbed by somebody with an ounce of common sense and a bit of vision – just look at the “best fitness trackers in 2018” – I mean, c’mon, this is amateur hour stuff!!

[Takes a step forward at this point….]

Back in December 2014 I wrote a piece called “Convergence is the way forward” on my Wearable Tech Review blog….

Some companies seem to think that by maintaining an incredibly narrow focus they’ll succeed – well I’m afraid if you’re aiming at the end consumer – the likes of us – then they’ve just failed!

I also referred readers to what I saw as a device with massive potential – the Samsung “Simband” which helpfully they described as…

It’s our concept of what a smart health device should be.


The video promotes it as having several sensors that continuously measure and monitor a user’s biometric data. It uses optical, electrical, and physical methods of collecting heart rate, blood flow and pressure, skin temperature, CO2 and oxygen levels, EKG levels, and even simulated blood pressure, all to display real-time electrocardiograph information of it all – and it tracks movement and tells the time too!!

Way too cool!! Take my money now…

Sadly it wasn’t to be. Not even Samsung managed to deliver the concept.  Their Gear 3 is a “premium watch”…I don’t want a premium watch I’ve got one and it’s got far more cache that a Gear 3. The Gear Fit 2 wasn’t much better..a big lump of a band with a colour screen that drained the battery faster than a swarm of hungry mosquitos feasting on your arm!!

In the past 4 years there’s been a lot of activity, a lot of hype followed by a lot of half-arsed products hitting the market (I mean not even waterproof – WTF!) and a number of companies going to the wall!

I did put together what I was looking for in my perfect device – back in January 2015 – and guess what?  Nobody’s got close….

  • If you were to take the best bits from this lot, starting with my existing Rolex as the starting point and encapsulating the concept that the Simband most effectively sets out you’d end up with a replacement strap which delivers it all!

    Naturally I’ll want it to learn about my normal “biometric” behaviour as it monitors me so it can identify anything “abnormal” and then warn me about it!

    It will also be required , via the back end of the service, to provide me with those actionable alerts – not to mention the reason why I need to act upon them – and of course praise when it’s deserved – sorry when I deserve it 🙂

And look how many of them are still going…Pebble, Nymi, Kairos, GoBe, Amiigo, Micorsoft Band?  Where did they go? If only they’d listened 🙂

 

Just take my damn money…please!

Look I’m all in favour of Tim Berners-Lee’s idea that the World wide Web should be free for everybody but sadly there are too many people out there today who insist on screwing it up by riddling the useful content with shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating advertising!  It’s got so bad that I’m coming round to the idea that for some things I’d actually be prepared to pay a monthly fee to make these damn pieces of time-wasting crap disappear!

..and don’t think I’m not talking about you Spotify – you’ve got the nerve to take my money and then send me crap about new releases by those artists who are able to pay you enough to invade my privacy on their behalf!

There are a number of aspects to this…

  1. what am I prepared to pay for
  2. how much will I be prepared to pay
  3. why online advertising is so shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating.

Let’s start with the “What”:

The birthplace of the web was CERN – Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.  See that…the sharing of information.  And the definition of sharing is?

To allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses. 

No mention of charging for it anywhere is there?  That came a lot later when less pure minds that Sir Tim’s decided that all these people provided an opportunity to make money – and lots of it, shed-loads of it in fact – big huge aircraft-hanger sized shed-loads of wonga!  And like me, Sir Tim’s not a happy man, although his beef is probably purer than mine which is just about advertising.  He’s more concerned with the rollback of net neutrality protections, the proliferation of fake news, propaganda and the web’s increasing polarisation!

“Gas is a utility, so is clean water, and connectivity should be too,” said Berners-Lee. “It’s part of life and shouldn’t have an attitude about what you use it for – just like water.”

So what am I prepared to pay for?

Stuff that I want to consume – stuff that entertains me like music, (that’s why I pay Spotify each month for a service I can’t stream to my hi-fi because the quality is designed for mobile phones and my GigaClear 50MB broadband is so flaky – and the router is a piece of poo! – that streaming hi-res is a non-starter!) and I’ll happily pay Amazon for the ability to read a book while I’m on holiday (Agios Stefanos NW Corfu since you’re asking!) or maybe to stream a movie as part of my Prime subscription – that’s cool, I’m happy to do that.

I’ll even pay for knowledge or software that helps me to consume and to create – such as specific training or apps from Adobe or even bloody Microsoft’s Office 365!

But I won’t pay for news!

That should be part of Sir Tim’s original idea about sharing information.  The WWW is meant to be a tool to enable us ALL to understand what’s going on in the world, to bring us closer together (yeah well done Boris you twat!) and generally make the world a better place.   However I WILL accept a limited amount of advertising to get this as I realise that information providers (except the BBC and I already pay my licence fee £150+) aren’t charities – they need to make money to pay their staff!  But I won’t pay them a subscription as it’s not worth it – not to me anyway!

And how much will I pay?

Well, this is more of a case of how much am I already paying!!  If you total up your household outgoings on things like your TV licence, SKY, broadband, mobile phone data, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc etc you’ll be amazed by the figure you get to.  I reckon I’m spending over £1,000 per year!  And I’ve cut back!  It’s easy to spend more than £1,500, maybe even £2k!!  OK, don’t be pedantic, I know that SKY tends to be delivered over satellite – it’s the overall cost of accessing content that’s important here!

As these things are pretty much standard across UK households today, and with the average take home pay of <£21k per annum, you’re likely to be spending over 7% of your annual income on this stuff – maybe as much as 10%.  Now 7% may not sound a lot but imagine if your salary was cut by 7% – how much harder would that make life?? Exactly!

The huge expansion of the digital world has made it particularly hard for some companies, notably newspapers, and apart from the rag that is the Daily Mail they aren’t really succeeding (The Mail was always full of small ads anyway so it was a natural development for them, and their readership).   And I’m not going to help them by paying to get past their firewalls while the likes of Twitter are around – it’s quicker, more opinions so you can read both sides of an argument and of course it’s free – except for the sneaky ads!!

In fact it’s Twitter, or rather another player in the arena of social media that provided the straw that has broken the camel’s back –  so to speak.

So I’m now at the stage where I would be happy to pay for access to certain social media applications (it begins with a “F”) in order to avoid bloody advertising – if nothing else I’m sure the saving in blood pressure medicine would offset it!! (Relax that’s just an analogy I’m not on beta-blockers or anything similar)

So, why is online advertising so shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating?

….to the extent that now I’ll even pay to avoid it!

Well let’s go back to a bit of online business 101.

First off, if you’ve got that great idea, you want everyone to know about it and the web is really helpful here, as it allows you to reach a lot of people.  Let’s say these people like your great idea and flock to it – hey presto you have what is called in the trade “an audience” or lots of “eyeballs”.  So whereas people used to have to stick posters up in the street, things developed as people could get newspapers to print stories about their great ideas which other people then thought, hey if they like that maybe they’ll like mine to so I’ll make sure information about my great idea is in there too.  Next came TV which offered an even bigger channel to the audience and even more people started to “advertise” their great ideas, although now there so many great ideas – they weren’t all great!

With the growth of the web a number of great ideas got really, really, popular – like billions of people popular!  And the people who owned these great ideas thought to themselves…hmm I can make money out of this – it’s called “monetization” by the way!  So they started to allow advertising on their great ideas.

Look at possibly the best great idea ever – Google!  Originally just lists of stuff that matched your search term. Then 3 “sponsored” results appeared at the top of the page.  Today?  Maybe on the first page you’ll be lucky enough to find 3 “natural results” amongst the 20+ “sponsored” ones – that’s what Google calls advertising btw!  And Google make a massively, gigantic shed-load of money from it – as do some other great ideas.

What they also do is get make of these ads pop up on other websites you might visit – and have you noticed the order in which websites load?  The site’s branding is followed by all the adverts and only then does the content you actually wanted in the first place appear – naughty, naughty!  In other words it’s highly intrusive and hugely irritating!

But what about extreme irrelevance?  Surely, you shout, they’ve got algorithms that make sure that the advertising you see is relevant to you!  It’s true that if you search for something via Google or Bing (does anybody actually use Bing? And what a stupid name!) you’ll be bombarded with ads for whatever that was for ages – EVEN AFTER YOU’VE BOUGHT IT!  How relevant is that?  And let’s not even go into the activities of travel sites that rack up the prices if you leave and then come back!!

OK time to get to the absolute nub of this rant!  Facebook, yes Marky boy this one’s on you, recently decided to make life difficult for their profile users.

“As of August 1, Facebook no longer allows third-party platforms to post to personal Facebook profiles. As a result, Hootsuite no longer supports scheduling and posting to personal Facebook profiles.”

They wanted to stop us using the likes of Hootsuite, WordPress et al to automate/schedule our posting to our personal profiles.  They still allow scheduling to “pages” just not “profiles”.  So what do I do?  I choose to create a page from my profile, and to be fair it didn’t take too long to achieve that but once I’d “published” it, the troubles started.

Clearly Facebook believes that if you’ve got a page you’ve got money to spend, so they put an “advert” on your news feed (which only you can see) prompting you to spend money promoting your page.  Now that’s fair enough, their business model is about making money so I let the first one go..and the second, and the third.

But when I realised that they were bloating my news feed with multiple – and here I mean it might be one of their ads every 3 real posts – adverts, on and on and on.  Different creative suggestions but loads and loads and loads.

Now in amongst the reams of “help” they allegedly provide there is absolutely NOTHING about how to stop this.  Basically I don’t think you can and frankly I’m, not prepared to hang around to see if they eventually give up, so I’m deleting my page – screw ’em!

I’m going to publish my content elsewhere, I’m going to prompt readers of my social media diatribes to read the content on other platforms and even though they won’t give a damn – I’ll feel a lot better – and that’s the important thing here 🙂

What would really help me, and I’m sure millions of other people, is if some philanthropist kinda person decided it would be really cool to provide an open source advertising free or a subscription based social media channel.  I’m pretty sure that it would have a rapid uptake.  If Camelot allows me to win the Euromillions lottery this Friday I promise I’ll have one built and if Sir Tim permits I’ll call it TimsWeb, or Tim’s Place or Worldies or something similar!

 

 

Duty free shopping – an exposé?

Good morning campers (something I’ll never do…camping that is!). This is just a tease for my next post 🙂

I’m heading off to sunny Corfu this afternoon, traveling with my partner AND only hand luggage (!) and this will mean that some shopping for essential items may be required at Gatwick airport. I fully expect to find some disparity between the prices charged on our friendly high streets and the supposedly duty free shops – so I thought I’d provide a few examples…

So watch this space 😉

Ok here’s a shot from Boots on the High Street in Weybridge. Let’s see what its like at Gatwick a little later 😉

Ok people it wasn’t as dramatic as I thought. I mean if felt like some really cheap unbranded stuff was very expensive but the little travel packs were the same price.

Now that in itself is a bit of a rip as its supposed to be duty free, so you’d expect things to be 20% cheaper!!!

And then deal at the airport is 4 for the price of 3. The offer on the high street is 3 for 2….. Hmmm that makes even more of a rip.

And here’s another thing, why can’t you buy P20 suntan lotion in 100ml bottles on the high street.

So the moral of this story is, don’t believe the duty free hype, it’s a bit of a con really..

Faster isn’t always better – but it certainly helps!

Many (yea gods many, many!) years ago in the days of “The six million dollar manMad Magazine brought an issue with a parody of it and somewhere along the way Steve Austin was shown on a hospital operating table, with people saying how much stronger and faster he’s going to be and a curvaceous nurse with a knowing smile says “Faster isn’t always better” – you get the drift – hey it was the 1970’s!!

Anyway this is about the speed of response and how it seems that, as the technology to speed up communication has improved, think SMS, email, mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, SnapChat etc etc, the response time experienced by people seeking a response (quickly) has actually increased – dramatically.  And this seems true across the board – I’m thinking from parent to child communication all the way to business to customer communication!  It’s an inverse relationship!

Interestingly it appears that when you are instigating the communication the response time you experience is generally poor, yet when the other person instigates it, if you dare to delay your response by a nano-second (ok maybe a bit longer) then they’re hassling you for an answer.  Maybe this is me feeling paranoid – maybe not 🙂

Anyway….

You will have realised that a great deal of this site’s tilting at windmills revolves around the issue of customer service, and just how damn important it is – to the customer.  In the business world it seems that technology is enabling companies to de-personalise and automate their customer service – I mean just how hard has it become to find a telephone number to speak to some companies (Ryanair you’re the worst here!) and worse still thanks to ChatBots you can think you’re talking to a real person and then discover it’s a machine – this is particular technique sued by those companies who phone you up and say “I understand that you’ve been involved in a accident recently” and when you say “Yes” – because you want to waste their time 🙂 you get transferred to a real person….

So if we accept that businesses are looking to reduce their costs by automating customer service then let’s see how well they’re doing – on maintaining levels of customer service.  Let’s start with online contact forms..

 

Web forms:

Basically a total waste of your time and effort.  I’ve recently tried to contact a range of organisation such as local authorities, building companies and phone repair services using web forms and I’ve heard nada – so unless you’re looking to apply for a Visa for the UK then I’d pass on these if I were you.

Email

Do you remember when email as really cool – it changed communication speeds dramatically from days to minutes, seconds even – but sadly that’s not the same now.  How many of you get emails from companies which when you look at the details find that the address it came from is do_not_reply@ – that’s just taking the p*ss!  And when you do find an email address to send something to you’re lucky if you get the usual autoresponder saying we’ll respond to your email in 5 working days (if we can be bothered!) and then when they respond they either ignore the points you raise or worse still provide some generic garbage – you know who you are!  So again don’t use – unless it’s your only option.

SMS

I used to work in the mobile commerce “space” man… and we used to promote SMS as the most intrusive channel of communication – and that’s true as mobile phones become ever more indispensible, they’re usually switched on they buzz to tell you you’ve got a message. Sadly that buzz doesn’t come in the form of an electric shock to make the person or company respond.  In this instance the younger the person the slower their response is – my boss responds pdq – my kids can take hours – and I really mean hours (even overnight) to respond. But woe betide if I fail to respond to a message from them – they’ll be badgering me in no time at all – kids, pah!  SMS is much more likely to be used in a family, friends, associates circle scenario rather than with organisations so bear that in mind when you choose this medium.

WhatsApp etc

I’m just lumping them all in together because I’m old! Well actually I’m leaving Twitter till last.  Basically most of these channels are turning into broadcast media for large companies – have you spotted that yet kids? There are more and more AND MORE adverts filling up screen space where you want to communicate.  Actually there’s a lot of individual broadcasting going on as well – my life is better than your life stuff – here’s another amazing place I’ve been to (but inferring that you haven’t) – we’re all guilty of this – yup me too 😦 Anyway this ends up with these channels becoming more ephemeral as people get bored quicker (‘coz their attention spans are getting shorter) and move onto something new.

So, is there no hope for us? Well in relation to communicating with our kids – probably not BUT and it’s a BIG BUT holding the corporate to bear is something that we still can do!  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you…

Twitter!

Yup Twitter – it’s brilliant for this. At it’s heart it’s a broadcast medium so everyone in your circle can see what you think – and being limited to 280 characters means you have to pithy and keep to the point – perfectly matching those short attention spans.  Better still most companies have their own Twitter feeds which they’d like to use to broadcast their tedious advertising to you but it means, in return, you can call them out.

The larger the company the more paranoid they are about seeing their brand name associated with some “bad press” – have you noticed how quickly they want you to DM them so it becomes a 1 to 1 conversation? And have you noticed that they tend to respond quickly?  Yes they do, don’t they 🙂

The really big players and I’ll cite BT here as an example of good use of social media for customer service actually took notice of my tweet and went to the trouble of getting someone from their customer service team to call me – yes a human responded by phone! That’s joined up service (shame their broadband network is so crap though!).

Insurance companies, energy suppliers – they do not like being slagged off (entirely justifiably though) on Twitter.  So dear reader my top tip for getting a rapid response from companies is to find their twitter account and then use it.  As for communication with kids – sorry the only way to do that I think is via financial means – bribery or the witholding of funds is usually a good ploy!

 

Are you sure eSure?

You won’t believe this but this is on the eSure.com website:

esure has become one of the UK’s leading direct insurers through years of hard work and listening to our customers.

It’s the second bit that I find particularly humorous – actually it’s worse than that it’s a downright lie!

You may read my previous post on the subject of insurance – you lucky, lucky, people – well I’ve got an update for you, in fact a couple right from the horse’s mouth – although the quality of the content is closer to what comes out of the other end of the horse’s body!!

Regular readers will know that I specifically asked eSure for the details on how they had managed to calculate an increase of 20% on one of my car policies yet a decrease of 2.5% on the other.  Well as trailed they have replied.  Let’s start with Leigh’s response….

“We are writing with reference to the above numbered policy and further to your recent telephone conversation.

There are many reasons as to why a policy premium could go up after a change of vehicle. Some include the Brake Horse Power being higher than the original vehicle. The grouping of the vehicle also changes the price and could effect the premiums. Also if the new vehicle is no longer in manufacture, the parts could be harder to find and this would also effect the premiums. I hope this information helps you.

We trust this answers your query. If you have any further queries, please call our Customer Support Department on the number detailed above.”

I have responded to let Leigh know that as I hadn’t changed vehicle this explanation was irrelevant and inaccurate – I asked him again to explain the difference…

This time Liam responded, bless him, he must have been very very busy, or perhaps he couldn’t keep a straight face whilst typing, or perhaps he has ADHD…

“We take into consideration a variety of factors when calculating our insurance premiums, many of which you as a customer cannot directly influence.  As a result, insurance premiums can fluctuate when seemingly no details have changed and unfortunately due to underlying industry pressures insurance premiums have increased this year.

As a direct insurer we always offer the best possible premium from the outset and the premium offered this year is correct.

To help you understand, the cost and frequency of motor insurance claims being made, in particular personal injury claims, is driving premium increases.  We do appreciate you personally have not made a claim with us but insurance is a pool and as such these claims affect everyone.  However, those who have made claims would see significantly higher premium increases than”

As you can see he was unable to finish his sentence.  But Liam, dear chap, allow me to point out the failed logic in your response….If “these claims affect everyone” why hasn’t my other policy increased, after all you say in your very first paragraph “due to underlying industry pressures insurance premiums have increased this year” so I am at a loss to understand the logic you guys have used – can you explain?

The only factor I am see here that separates the two policies is the “no fault claim” – or rather as it actually was the “notification”.  I’m sure any “reasonable” person, such as the “man on the Clapham omnibus” would agree.  Is there a reason why you cannot see this?  The nice man at the AA was able to – so once again I ask you is it the impact of the “notification” that has increased my policy, and if so, how do you justify this when you already cover off the risk of being on the road by requesting the amount of miles I do and the reasons I might be on the road which have a time component (“drivetime”) that allows you to calculate an overall risk.

I challenge you eSure – I think you – and to fair the rest of the insurance industry – is ripping customers off by in effect “double-charging”.  How will you plead when this matter goes before the Financial Ombudsman, and how do you think he’ll react to your spurious attempts to fob me off which seem to be amateur in the extreme?