Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Are you sitting on a market waiting for disruption

It was only a matter of time before the real estate market got shaken up. There has been a lot of interest in it lately. Interesting convergence actually.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner brought it notoriety with their coverage of real estate commission practices in freakanomics. You have companies like one percent realty trying to get rid of the inefficiencies in the market without alienating their brotherhood. You have companies like zillo and zooven try to create user friendly web sites using "web2.0" tricks but not really going all the way.

Finally Redfin decided to bite the bullet and challenge the brotherhood. It is covered in this write up by mister web2.0 himself (sorry for the sarcasm *grin*). Some of the quotes are interesting, for instance...
Everything isn’t rosy for Redfin, though. They’ve been operating in Seattle for a number of years and have numerous war stories to tell about threats, stalkings and other disturbing behavior towards their employees and some customers from, apparently, angry real estate professionals. Hopefully things won’t get out of hand as they continue to disrupt this stubbornly inefficient market.

This stinks of "last resort" behavior from a caged beast. Whatever happens to Redfin, the real estate agents better wake up and realise that things will never be the same again and as a prospective home buyer all I have to say to that is Amen :-)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You got them trapped so what do you do

Continuing my theme of Time Warner posts. I realized that every time I powered my DVR it always tuned to channel 3, i.e. the Time Warner channel. This was not something I could customize. In other words they have it rigged (see comments) set up so that every one of their subscribers saw their channel the first thing on powering the box by default.
I don't know their subscription size but this is a pretty sweet marketing channel. So what do they do with it....


All I see are insipid and uninspiring spots for TW digital phones and cable installation. TW seems to view this as just another way to plug their own services and products and not really as a revenue stream. I think they are missing big time. What would you do?....
[follow up]
Kim pointed out to me that this can be changed. Makes me question even more on what can TW do to prevent its subscribers from moving away from that default channel.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Do not do this with your company.

I live in Austin and we have been experiencing harsh weather for the past few weeks. This past Thursday, the city took a beating and large parts of the city lost power. My Time Warner DVR decided to join the party. The box would reboot itself spontaneously without warning (sometimes during the last few minutes of the 4th qtr of a spurs or suns game).
I moved recently and so I am a new subscriber. They have already had to come in and change the box once because of hardware failure. The only options I get are either drive over to the time warner office myself and swap the box or wait for a phone call and leave work in the middle of whatever you are doing to let the time warner rep. in to swap the boxes. This would be the second replacement within 20 days.
Given that my only cable choices are time warner or "no" cable. I get the feeling time warner really does not care if its customer service policy makes the customers life easy or hard. Anyways I was annoyed and ranting about the bad effects of a local monopoly till this morning....

Derrick was the time warner representative who stopped by today. Derrick is good at what he does. Amongst the other problems, the remote had been misconfigured by the previous agent. I did not know this and so when I said the remote was malfunctioning, he (Derrick) diagnosed the problem. Not only did he fix it but when he realised I was curious, he actually walked me through what he did and told me how I can do it myself if I wanted to. It was not rocket science but good customer service, the ability to listen and respond as necessary. I was not so mad at time warner any more.

So I ask Derrick if there is a quick and easy way for me to give positive feedback to his supervisor at time warner. Guess what, call the customer service line and wait for 19minutes before you can talk to someone. Are you kidding me!?! Timewarner is burning good will created by awesome field people like Derrick. What are you doing with your front line people?

To recap
  • Do not abuse your monopoly to create unfriedly and obstructive customer service policies.
  • Enable your good customer facing employees to make a difference and do not hold them back.
So, how is your company being run?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Caring 101

Do you want to enjoy what you do? Do you remember any of the fire brand idealism and vision you started out with?
It is good to mature and grow with time but not necessarily good to stop believeing that you can change the world. One of my favourite quotes is from Gandhi who said, "you start by being the change you want to see in the world".

(thanks to flickr and dan taylor for sharing the image)

Returning to reality, I am a fan of Kathy Sierra and I higly recommend reading both these posts from her. Read it, chew on it, distill it and then see if you can apply it.

And remember, it's almost never about making them more of an expert on your tool, it's about helping them get really good at whatever it is they do with your tool. Nikon's tutorials aren't about making camera experts, they're making photography experts.

So... it's time to let that go. You're not keeping up. I'm not keeping up. And neither is anyone else. At least not in everything. Sure, you'll find the guy who is absolutely cutting-edge up to date on some technology, software upgrade, language beta, whatever. But when you start feeling inferior about it, just think to yourself, "Yeah, but I bet he thinks Weezer is still a cool new band..."

I try not to just plug other posts with no purpose but these are well worth your time. Trust me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Does the long tail affect me? (Part 2)

The quick answer Y.E.S Part of the trick here is to realize that the long tail cuts horizontally. It is not tied to a single industry or a specific kind of product.
I wrote about what the long tail (is) and how it is actively affecting us in the last post. I want to get into "so why do I have to give a rats rear end" in this post.

  • Do you feel like you speak a language that the rest of the world does not?
  • Do you feel like you could learn better if only your teachers can present the subject differently?
  • Do you feel like you know the exact couch you want in your living room but are constrained by the availability at your local jim's hardware and the cost of a custom made couch?
  • Do you feel like you know the exact guy/girl right for you but that everybody you have met so far is messed up somehow?

Well, the long tail is your answer. Except for the last question, there you are screwed and need to grow up (sorry about that).

The long tail makes is possible for you to be exposed to alternatives other than what you are used to seeing. It is not a panacea but it is giving power back to the buyer in a way not seen in a while. As seth says
All as a way of telling you that an epidemic of amnesia is sweeping our land. Armed with a blog and a following (I have 2,000 [or 2 million] daily readers... wait till they hear about this!), or with a frequent purchaser card or even just a credit card, millions of customers are now your most powerful customers. And as powerful customers, they want you to know, to recognize and to reward them for their power. If you don't know 'who they are', they're going to hit the road. Angrily.

For instance, I am a big fan of passion and not giving up on your dreams and I keep trying a lot, failing a lot and try some more. So, I am a big fan of hugh's work . That lead me to a lot of places and amongst them thingamy. I had a online meeting with Sig yesterday and we had a good time (at least I think so, he might think differently). The cost was the time invested on both our parts (the most expensive thing). We use skype and vnc and had a great meeting. I am not yet sure if thingamy is the right tool for me. But I will tell you this, I am sold on his passion for thingamy and for creating a new idea. In fact so much that I want to make this work for him. I want to find ways to be an end user for his product without compromising on my responsibility for my company. I would like us to have a customer like me (hubris aside)....

Blogs (a part of the Long tail saga) attract the right kind of people to your product/idea/vision. It is a better lead filter than the best automated marketing tool you got.

So, what is your product? What do you have to say about it? Why do you love it? Why do you think it will really change the world? .......


(thanks for letting me link to this hugh)