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iPhone frenzy!

By Linda Forrest

This morning on my way into the office, I saw about 50 grown men (sad to say there wasn’t a female among them) camped out outside a Rogers store to be the first to get their hands on an iPhone 3G, available today for the first time in Canada. The long line ups and eager anticipation extend beyond Canada’s borders as the new version of the phone has some additional bells and whistles that have Mac-philes and the hoi polloi alike very excited.

When I saw the faithful gathered this morning in aim of a common goal, I was reminded of “back in the day” when, prior to the internet, I lined up for hours and hours to buy concert tickets at the local Ticketmaster outlet. That situation, like this, was a “you snooze, you lose” proposition as I’m confident in saying that it’s doubtful that the little Rogers stand in the Rideau Center has enough iPhones on hand to meet the demand and only those brave souls who were in line prior to the store’s opening are likely to be entirely unproductive today at their jobs as they play with their new toys.

My point, and I do have one, is that the buzz surrounding this product has reached a fever pitch, and that people who perhaps have never had a mobile phone, let alone a whiz-bang PDA like the iPhone, are chomping at the bit to get their hands on one. This not only increases the demand for mobile applications, but also means that a whole lot more people will be using Canada’s wireless infrastructure, not to mention entering the world of constant accessibility.

As PR practitioners, we have to be constantly available to our clients. One never knows if and when breaking news could hit and we need to respond to it immediately or switch into crisis mode at a moment’s notice. To that end, the introduction of the iPhone to our team has been wonderful – allowing each of us to have access to our email and the internet no matter when it is, no matter where we are. As Francis has said on occasion, yes, it’s a leash, but it enables us to take vacations and be out of the office, if need be, yet still be plugged in. The trick, then, becomes unplugging, not checking your email as soon as you awaken and as the last thing at night. Oh, who am I kidding – we all do that anyway, regardless of whether we’re using our computers or our iPhones to connect.

To those of you who are just getting your first iPhone today, congratulations and enjoy. I think the employers of the world must have come together to encourage this release on the last day of the workweek in the hope that the anticipated lost productivity would be limited to a sunny Friday and people will spend the weekend, off the company clock, experimenting with their new gadgets.

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June Roundup: Brevity, sales and social media

By inmedia

In case you missed any of these posts the first time around, here’s a recap of everything we published in June.

Francis:
June 11: The interview’s never over…
June 24: The best earbud ever and outstanding customer service, too

Linda:
June 5: When it comes to pitching, brevity is the soul of wit
June 10: Where to focus your PR efforts
June 13: Revisiting a few recent posts…
June 18: The ‘hurry up and wait’ game
June 27:
Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Guest Blogger – Eliot Burdett:
June 17: Sales: From afterthought to forethought

The best earbud ever and outstanding customer service, too

By Francis Moran

I have written a few posts (Take One and Take Two) about the generally lousy job too many companies do at taking care of their customers once they’ve made the sale. It’s a phenomenon that frustrates the customer in me and utterly bewilders the marketer in me.

The customer frustration bit is obvious, and I doubt there’s a fellow citizen who has not railed against robot voices that answer the phone and can’t help, so-called customer-service agents who eventually come on the phone and can’t help, or web-based “Contact us” forms that never generate a reply or that generate a meaningless reply that can’t help.

The marketer in me is bewildered by a strategy, so widely deployed it has come to be accepted as the norm, that has companies treat their only source of revenue as something icky that has been scraped off the bottom of their shoes and must be disposed of as swiftly and cheaply as possible. A large forest of trees has been pulped to print all the studies that prove that superior customer service is clearly the most potent differentiator in an era when your technology advantage can be leap-frogged, your cost advantage can be evaporated by an offshore competitor and brand loyalty means increasingly less and less.

So I am one cynical and unhappy old crank, both personally and professionally, when it comes to any expectation that any customer-service experience is going to be a happy one.

Which makes it all the more enjoyable to report on one that went phenomenally well.

While in Las Vegas a few months back, I bought a Jawbone ear bud for my iPhone. I’m an early adopter, remember, so having a Bluetooth wireless earbud is nothing new for me. I bought an early product from Jabra many years ago that created an unholy echo on the Treo I used at that time. I replaced it with a Treo-branded device that squashed the echo but had a lot of trouble holding its pairing with the phone. I had heard a lot about the Jawbone, and I held off until I was able to visit an Apple store to buy it because I wanted to make sure it would work properly.

Man, was I delighted. It is easily one of the best pieces of new technology I have ever used. It is gorgeous in design, brilliant in feature and utterly reliable. What a standout.

Except I broke it.

Okay, I broke one of the little ear loops that come with it. (They give you four, two of different sizes for each ear. They also give four little snap-on buds so you’re sure to find one that fits comfortably in your ear. This recognition that one size does not fit all is just one very-well-thought-out element that makes this thing such a standout.)

So I went on Jawbone’s website to see what could be done to replace the broken loop. I fired off one of those “Contact us” emails and assumed I’d never hear anything back.

Well, turns out their customer service is every bit as brilliant as their technology. Ben, from the Jawbone Support Team, emailed me back. My first surprise was that he had actually read and understood my full email. He knew I had recently bought the device but couldn’t prove it since Apple, in a breakdown in its customer-service department, had failed to email me the receipt for my purchase as the Apple store clerk had promised. No problem. Turns out there’s a small date code etched on the Jawbone. I sent that to Ben, and he said he’d need a delivery address. I gave him one, and he promised I’d get a replacement loop in five to seven business days.

Now, this is where my cynicism went into overdrive. Up to that point, I had not mentioned that I live in Canada. So I wasn’t too surprised when a couple of weeks went by with no sign of a package from Jawbone.

Until a little box showed up the other day, containing a complete set of four loops. It was later than promised, but with good reason. I had provided my home address, but my office postal code. That was my mistake. Then, someone in the Jawbone shipping department compounded my mistake by replacing my home town of Ottawa with Toronto. So a thoroughly buggered address, and yet it still made it to me.

So there are two customer-service heroes in this story. The first is Jawbone, which has salted an already superior customer experience. Very wll done, Ben, and the rest of the Jawbone Support Team. And the second is Canada Post, which persisted in its task and eventually found me. For the record, that second one doesn’t really surprise me; Canada Post is consistently exceptional at what we pay it to do, usually delivering letters here in Ottawa the morning after I post them.

May Roundup: Ottawa innovation, biz building, media relations

By inmedia

In you missed any of these posts the first time around, here’s a roundup of everything we published in May.

Francis:
Propagating the Ottawa startup community
Ottawa DemoCamp9 showcases novel applications
How may my technology help you? Take 2

Tech community disagrees that BDC should ‘abandon its dogs’

Linda:
It’s about more than the written word
Copyright compliance
ITAC IT Hero Awards seeks nominations

The benefits of an agency having a horizontal account structure

Danny:
What bloggers want
Media getting even more social

Leo:
Buddy, how the heck do I build a business?
TheCodeFactory: ‘A place for innovation to grow’
Building small companies that roar

Finding anchors in the chaos

 

‘First-inch’ devices spur broadband uptake

By Francis Moran

Back in the early years of this decade, when my wife worked in marketing for a large optical components company and inmedia‘s client portfolio was well studded with fiberoptic and next-generation communications companies, it just wasn’t Q1 in our household unless one or both of us were headed to the big Optical Fiber Communications Conference and Exposition, usually held in March at the Anaheim Convention Center.

At one memorable session at OFC2002, Kevin Kalkhoven, who had recently stepped down as CEO of JDS Uniphase, asked how many of those in the room had access to a broadband internet connection at home. About 10% of the hands in the room went up. And this, mind you, in a room full of people whose very business was high-speed communications!

My own hand was not among those in the air, but it wasn’t for lack of desire or want of trying to get a broadband connection at home. At that time, we lived along the Rideau River about 30 kms south of Ottawa. We were more than eight kms away from the nearest telephone carrier central office, so beyond the reach of DSL. Our cable service provider had not yet installed the necessary infrastructure to support an internet service. A very promising high-speed fixed-wireless transmitter was in the neighbourhood and we did fall within its footprint, but, being on the river, we were down in a slight valley and so shadowed from that transmission tower where line-of-sight was necessary. I eventually invested a huge sum in a satellite service that delivered a blinding 640k down and about 128 up.

Kalkhoven went on to describe the market forces he thought were in play that would drive broadband uptake at home. This was in the immediate aftermath of the dot.com meltdown, when massive investments in fiber networks and the hardware to manage them were being seen as utter folly. Thousands of miles of optical cable were lying dark, and some were wondering if those networks would ever be lit.

Kalkhoven told the crowd not to lose faith. Key among the the drivers he identified was what he called “first-inch” devices, a phrase that has continued to make an impression on me both because it was so highly descriptive but also because it was so unusually customer centric. One of the problems with the communications industry, Kalkhoven said that day, is that it refers to that last final link to the end-user as the last mile. “Since when was the customer the last part of anything” he asked, insisting that the link to the customer should be called the first mile.

He then went on to describe first-inch devices, those things that customers hold in their hands that would drive broadband demand. He said that the most popular gift the previous Christmas had been digital cameras. And what do you do after you take a picture with your new digital camera, he asked? You send it to grandma.

Second-most popular gift was game consoles, many of which were internet-ready, meaning players could connect with other players across the net.

Both these new toys were first-inch devices that were going to drive massive demand for broadband in the consumer market, he predicted, and this was before VoIP telephony was much more than a gleam in an engineer’s eye and social networking was something you tried to avoid contracting if you were sexually active.

Fast forward to today, and a Scarborough Research study that has measured a 300% increase in U.S. household broadband penetration since Kalkhoven gave that chat at OFC. According to the study, just less than half (49%) of U.S. households currently subscribe to a broadband internet service, up from 12% in 2002.

Impressive though that growth may be, the U.S. still significantly lags the world. Using a somewhat different index, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in June last year the U.S. had 22.1 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, good for only 15th place among OECD countries. Leading the pack were Denmark with 34.3, Netherlands with 33.5 and Switzerland with 30.7. Canada was in ninth place with 24.9, and the United Kingdom clocked in at 11th place with 23.7.

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