Amazon Alexa, The Need for Better CRM, and Trust

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Amazon Alexa and Google Home have the same problem: they can do some really clever things that make them feel “real” to us, but the illusion is easily shattered. You might think “So what? That’s Amazon’s and Google’s problem.” But the thing is you need this, too.

Smart Speakers Aren’t All That Smart

I can say, “Alexa, who am I?” She’ll say back, “You told me your name is Chris.” I can then say, “Alexa, my son’s name is Harold.” She will say: “Sorry. I can’t help you with that.” Meaning that the information really has nowhere to go. But this context is important. Let me explain out.

First, Alexa DOES know my voice from other people’s voices. If my son Harold says, “Alexa, who am I?” she won’t be able to answer it. She doesn’t reply that he is Chris.

So that means that somewhere there’s a data “match” to my voice. Meaning, there’s some record stored in Alexa that says “Chris Brogan” is logged into this Alexa unit and I have a matching voice print for what I’m expecting him to sound like. Right?

But why, then, does Amazon need my “voice password” when I order something with Alexa? If she knows my voice is different than my son’s, why does she need a four digit passcode? Isn’t my voice a pretty good passcode? I guess “someone” could record my voice or splice up recordings to sound like I’m ordering them a Bugatti. So maybe that’s why. But I think it’s because Alexa was built to be dumber than we think.

(Note: every single time I’m saying Alexa, I mean Alexa/Google/Siri/Cortana)

And every time I’m talking about these big companies, I want you to think about YOUR place in this, because that’s upon you faster than you think. Voice interaction is here now. Amazon Echo and Echo Dot were the #1 purchased Christmas gift in 2017 on Amazon’s site, and the Alexa app was the most downloaded app on both the iTunes and Google Play store the next day.

Our CRM Needs to Get Smarter

Every company that sells something has a Customer/Client Relationship Management software (CRM). Whether or not they want it, they keep some kind of record of your purchase history tied to a phone number or a credit card or an email address. I suppose in more modern systems we can set the “unique key” to whatever we think will be most permanent. But every system has records of this nature.

But if you look at these, they are often mostly “dumb” data. You bought this thing on that date. You paid with this form of payment. The product was shipped there. All good to know, but not really smart enough.

I’ll tell you a simple one. “Alexa, my son’s name is Harold. Say hi to Harold.”

I want Alexa to be able to store that data record and link it for me. I want to be able to say, “Alexa, did Harold add anything to his wish list last night?” Hell. I want him to be able to say, “Good morning, Alexa” and her answer back, “Hey Harold.”

A lot of hotels are starting to add the option to use your favorite Internet apps there as well. When I check into the Residence Inn, I stick my Netflix (or Hulu or YouTube, etc) account into the room TV so I can binge Peaky Blinders on the big screen instead of my laptop.

Some hotels are adding smart speakers to their rooms so I can ask Alexa everything I ask her at home. (I’m in a hotel room writing this and I’ve tried talking to her about six times so far.) But will those also be tied to my account? And will it know I’m in a different location? And will my skills already be transferable to it?

Remembering is Part of Trust

This is basic, but also deeply true. Ask Jacq. If she tells me something she thinks is important and I forget what it was she told me, it hurts her feelings. She takes every instance of me forgetting (which happens a lot) as a slight against our relationship.

We humans tend to feel this way. We want to be known. We want to be remembered. I told you I’m staying in a hotel room as I write this. I’ve been to this property probably 20+ times over the last year. When I walk through the door, I want pretty much everyone working to give me that “Norrrrrm!” greeting (from Cheers – it was a TV show. Look it up!).

So when chatbots and robots and voice apps can’t remember the absolute basics, it FEELS (and we definitely do feel emotions around these technologies) like someone (your company) has forgotten us. That feeling is massively negative to some and simply negative to many. If you treat me like a first time buyer, it shows me what little value you place on my loyalty or commerce.

Start with CRM

At this point, you might not be building your own chatbots, but what has to come first no matter what is a better way to store and access the data that will make the experience better for all those involved. The ability to capture non-sales-related data and “knowledge” about your customer, I believe, will be the most overlooked competitive business opportunity of 2018 and beyond.(tweetable)

This isn’t massively hard work. Build in some fields to capture some more potential information, when available. Allow it to have flexible labeling sometimes. Because my example was “son” doesn’t mean that someone wants to add in “dog” and “stepdaughter” and “crazy uncle.” And then keep working out what other information might be useful to store that benefits both you and your buyer.

I promise that as “smart” speakers proliferate, the novelty phase will wear off quickly. We will not only demand more of companies using bots and voice interfaces, but we’ll gravitate towards those companies who treat us through these artificial interfaces like we matter and like we belong. The gee whiz phase is now. You still have time. Help make the distance between your business and me smarter. Please?

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China’s Character of the Year. How Machines Learn. Bruce Lee and Freddy Mercury – The Brief for 12.28.17

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Here are the notes from the Chris Brogan Media broadcast for 12/28/17. (You can watch this on my Facebook account).

The goal of these posts is that there are trends and ideas here that might impact your business now or soon. Think on the stories here and look for ways to adjust your business accordingly. If ever you’re stuck, get in touch with me and I can help.

This live video was all shot using Ecamm Live (client), the best way to do Facebook Live for Mac.

Please note that all links may be affiliate links. If someone is a client, I’ll call that out specifically.

Stories Shared

My SPONSOR for today? Brogan’s Bakery in Ireland. I really really hope they’re related to me!

I found this nifty video explaining how machines learn. It’s worth the watch when you’re eating something or waiting to pick someone up.

The number one gift purchase this Christmas seems to be the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. Now’s a good time to think about whether you should teach everyone to be polite to robot helpers.

Shout out to Chick-Fil-A for breaking one of their important rules to feed people strated at an airport. While I don’t agree with the company for a few other reasons, I appreciate their sticking to their values.

What’s the big push in marketing and customer service? AI linked chatbots are now a huge part of most CMO’s radars as they consider the coming year.

More than 50% of food in Africa is wasted, even while millions starve. Here’s a project to fix that a bit, and it’s something we should consider, too.

These five hospitality trends for 2018 are worth a gander.

This isn’t newsworthy. It’s just the best News bloopers of 2017.

I couldn’t not share this. It’s basically toy Bruce Lee and toy Freddie Mercury up to some shenanigans.

Matt shared an all senior citizen CounterStrike team called the Silver Snipers.

And finally, some breathtaking geek art.

Hey, if this has been interesting, consider picking up my weekly newsletter. It’s all unique ideas by me about how to improve buyer interactions and grow your business. Give it a peek

What ELSE is News?

You want to get featured on the Chris Brogan Media show? Drop me an email: chris@chrisbrogan.com and let me know what’s news!

Please Get My Newsletter

My newsletter is the best work I do every week. You can get yours here.

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YouTube’s Search Year in Review. AI’s Secret Workers. TSA’s Craziest Confiscations – The Brief for 12.17.17

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Here are the notes from the Chris Brogan Media broadcast for 12/17/17. (You can watch this on my Facebook account).

The goal of these posts is that there are trends and ideas here that might impact your business now or soon. Think on the stories here and look for ways to adjust your business accordingly. If ever you’re stuck, get in touch with me and I can help.

This live video was all shot using Ecamm Live (client), the best way to do Facebook Live for Mac.

Please note that all links may be affiliate links. If someone is a client, I’ll call that out specifically.

Stories Shared

Google shares its year in search, and the question was “how.”

Who are the humans behind AI? Oh, there are plenty. It’s a whole industry.

Um, so companies were using robots to shoo away homeless people, but enough people complained, so now it’s fired.

This is true/neat/worth thinking about. We are approaching media saturation. What happens when that happens?

Want to know a cool way to use YouTube? This 8 year old girl reads to sick kids with it. Cool, right?

Good news for podcasters. Apple has at long last released analytics that you can argue are wrong.

Watson is a supercomputer. You can do something really cool with unstructured data with it. Will this be how we finally start seeing our customers?

On to the troubling. Computers and AI are getting good at making believable fake porn. There was an 80s sci fi movie that postulated this, but now? It’s here.

Lighter note time. Here’s a look at some of the TSA’s top confiscations for 2017.

I wait all year for DJ Earworm’s State of Pop. Only this year, I don’t know that many of the songs.

Maybe I should just stick with Galactic Empire, a Star Wars Metal Band.

Hey, if this has been interesting, consider picking up my weekly newsletter. It’s all unique ideas by me about how to improve buyer interactions and grow your business. Give it a peek

What ELSE is News?

You want to get featured on the Chris Brogan Media show? Drop me an email: chris@chrisbrogan.com and let me know what’s news!

Please Get My Newsletter

My newsletter is the best work I do every week. You can get yours here.

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Trans People Can Serve in the US Military. Disney Buys Fox (Mostly). Chipotle Woes- The Brief for 12.14.17

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Here are the notes from the Chris Brogan Media broadcast for 12/14/17. (You can watch this on my Facebook account).

The goal of these posts is that there are trends and ideas here that might impact your business now or soon. Think on the stories here and look for ways to adjust your business accordingly. If ever you’re stuck, get in touch with me and I can help.

This live video was all shot using Ecamm Live (client), the best way to do Facebook Live for Mac.

Please note that all links may be affiliate links. If someone is a client, I’ll call that out specifically.

Stories Shared

Trans people have won the right to serve in the US military, at least for now.

Disney just paid $54 billion-ish for a huge chunk of fox. Why? Here’s a few reasons.

As much as Chipotle thought queso (their attempt) would woo people back to the embattled restaurant, the response has been more ew than woo.

Google has updated their SEO guide. This is dry reading but useful, if you want a better sense of what SEO does for you.

Will this trend come to other places like San Francisco? BMW built a micro apartment for their employees in Shanghai, and it’s actually kinda interesting.

I talk about AI and it often feels abstract. Here are a couple photo editing apps that give you a sense of what AI does as an app.

Credit unions are the bomb. Better than banks. But how will they attract the Millennials? I think it’s harder than it looks.

Personalization is the next huge wave in marketing. But there might be a kind of uncanny valley issue.

You know how sometimes something gets famous and then we all make fun of it? It’s easy to forget that these are humans. Rebecca Black is out there doing some interesting work based on this and it’s worth your time.

What will happen when AI can write our books for us? Here’s a Harry Potter attempt. It’s. Well. Click that link.

Cosplay? Yes, please. Here’s a remix of Mario-themed cosplay! Because why not?

Hey, if this has been interesting, consider picking up my weekly newsletter. It’s all unique ideas by me about how to improve buyer interactions and grow your business. Give it a peek

What ELSE is News?

You want to get featured on the Chris Brogan Media show? Drop me an email: chris@chrisbrogan.com and let me know what’s news!

Please Get My Newsletter

My newsletter is the best work I do every week. You can get yours here.

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Video Game Scholarships. Black Spider-Man. The Future of Cashless Commerce – The Brief for 12.11.17

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Here are the notes from the Chris Brogan Media broadcast for 12/11/17. (You can watch this on my Facebook account).

The goal of these posts is that there are trends and ideas here that might impact your business now or soon. Think on the stories here and look for ways to adjust your business accordingly. If ever you’re stuck, get in touch with me and I can help.

This live video was all shot using Ecamm Live (client), the best way to do Facebook Live for Mac.

Please note that all links may be affiliate links. If someone is a client, I’ll call that out specifically.

Stories Shared

Your kid play a lot of video games? Do YOU? You can maybe get a scholarship for that.

Lytro is dead. Sometimes the bleeding edge means you’ll lose memories. Is that worth it?

I learn a lot from looking at Africa. The cashless economy points to some interesting trends, because they’re actually ahead of us in some ways.

And hey, with all this Bitcoin mania, it’s important to remember that bank robbery comes with all technologies.

This is so brief. I’ll explain it in the video. This is smart engineer humor about the Internet of Things and security.

Now this is nuts. 3D printing wifi? I still can’t fully figure this out. I’ll let Chris Garrett at Maker Hacks sort it out first.

They say all publicity is good publicity. Sean Spicer making fun of Dippin Dots SOLD LOTS OF DOTS for the company.

Sometimes, my creative friends want to invent the world. This app shows you that sometimes, a really simple small idea can change the world in even bigger ways.

It’s the end of the year, so YouTube has released their 2017 Rewind video. While it’s interesting, I saw several videos that were more interesting. I’ll explain in the video above.

Nerd alert. You can mix Destiny 2 with Alexa and get this cool game-based voice assistant. Here’s why this is interesting: usually this is tech for little kids.

Congrats to Sony for putting the new Miles Morales Spider-Man on screen. Okay, so it’s animated, but it’s a good move!

Hey, if this has been interesting, consider picking up my weekly newsletter. It’s all unique ideas by me about how to improve buyer interactions and grow your business. Give it a peek

What ELSE is News?

You want to get featured on the Chris Brogan Media show? Drop me an email: chris@chrisbrogan.com and let me know what’s news!

Please Get My Newsletter

My newsletter is the best work I do every week. You can get yours here.

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What I Learned About Domains From a Bad GoDaddy Experience and What ANY Business Can Learn From How It Was Handled

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You should know that I rarely choose to use the privilege of your attention to bark at companies that rub me the wrong way, but when Jacqueline told me about her GoDaddy problem, I knew that I had to lay it all out in a post and get loud about it. While the problem is technically resolved, there’s a lot to learn from this and I have a lot to share with you.

First, I’ll Recap With New Understanding

So here’s what happened (corrected) from my perspective:

  • Jacq purchased a new domain name from GoDaddy.com, a domain “registrar” that listed the price of this domain as $99.99 (There’s more to this later)
  • GoDaddy sent Jacq a confirmation that the transaction went through
  • Behind the scenes, the domain registry for .health (the domain Jacq bought) KICKED OUT THE TRANSACTION saying roughly that they won’t accept the price (Again, more later)
  • GoDaddy sent Jacq an automated email a day later saying “Hey, we took that domain transaction out of your account” (horrendously worded and a big opportunity), thus REMOVING THE DOMAIN FROM JACQ’S account.
  • Jacq called customer service and was 1.) given bad information, 2.) refused a supervisor call or any further follow-up
  • I wrote a grumpy blog post and shared it to Twitter and Facebook.
  • Friends of mine reminded me who I actually know at GoDaddy (including great folks like Christopher Carfi and Heather Dopson). They started shaking some cages.
  • I get offered a call from GoDaddy
  • Johnny from the CEO’s office calls (because hey, angry blogger influencer type).
  • I get a lot of interesting information (covered below for YOU)
  • GoDaddy refunds my purchase and essentially gifts me/Jacq the domain (which wasn’t my goal whatsoever, but hey thanks, GoDaddy).
  • Just for fun automation facts, GoDaddy sends Jacq an email this morning saying hey, you abandoned your cart *for woman.health* so here’s a coupon if you complete the transaction. (Um.)

So that’s what happened.

Second, Some Facts About Domain Purchases

I learned a bunch from Johnny at the CEO’s office. (Jacq points out that GoDaddy should’ve offered to call HER not me, and she’s not wrong, but points for the phone call. GoDaddy has still not apologized to Jacq for this beyond a quick tweet. Apologies go a long way in these situations.) More on this in the next section. — **UPDATE: Mike from the CEO’s office called Jacq directly and resolved this.**

GoDaddy is a Registrar. They’re like the real estate agent for website addresses. When you purchase a domain from GoDaddy (or any registrar), they basically take your money, then issue a command to the Registry (the company that holds the actual domain real estate), get a confirmation, and then everyone agrees that you now own that domain.

.health is a Registry. dotHEALTH LLC is the company that can set the prices and make available the various permutations of that domain space. So if I want to buy donkey.health, I can go to my Registrar (GoDaddy), see the price listed there, and give GoDaddy money. GoDaddy then sends a note to .health and says, “Hey we just bought donkey.health for $69.99 so take that name out of circulation. We’ll use it.”

.health sets the prices and then GoDaddy is allowed a bit of a markup. This is business. That’s always what happens. Some domains are normal. Others are premium. The Registry sets which domain names carry a higher price in a database and then the Registrar just bumps up that price a bit to cover their costs. (Be really clear here: the Registrar has to make some money on this transaction or they’d go out of business.)

The handshakes are, in simplest form, like this:

  1. Customer visits registrar.
  2. Customer checks availability of domain name. (Registrar checks with Registry)
  3. Registrar probably issues a very brief temporary “hold” on that domain so that no one else takes it during this transaction. (I didn’t confirm this.)
  4. Customer sees listed price that Registrar displays based on data from Registry+markup
  5. Customer clicks purchase and confirms financial details.
  6. Registrar confirms the purchase on screen.
  7. Registrar emails confirmation to customer.
  8. Registrar messages Registry and says, “Give us that domain. Here’s the price.”
  9. Registry normally says “Hey sure. Here’s the domain. Thanks.” (***)
  10. Transaction is complete.

What happened to Jacq (and/or what could happen to you) is this:

  • Registrar displays price. Jacq buys at that price.
  • Registrar tells Registry “Hey, give us that domain at that price.”
  • (***)Registry tells Registrar, “Wait. That’s not the price in our system. Reject this.”
  • Registrar then cancels the order and refunds Jacq (spitting the domain back into the available domain pools).
  • Registrar emails Jacq saying they canceled her order (with a really poorly worded email).
  • Upset Jacq.
  • Jacq calls customer service and gets bad/wrong information and no further recourse. Is told basically that instead of $99.99, the domain now costs $649, which makes Registrar look greedy, bad, wrong, and deceptive.
  • Angry Jacq. Angry Chris. Grumpy blog post.

Now, I want to walk through what needs to change in this, and some really good opportunities for Registrars such as GoDaddy and others. (This could’ve likely happened with any Registrar.)

Finally, How to Improve the Domain Purchasing Process

I have to say this up front: if this whole thing operated on a blockchain, this wouldn’t have happened this way. But that’s for the future. Let’s talk about now.

  1. GoDaddy must improve the process of price verification before putting available domains up on their site. If the price says $99.99, then that’s the price. No matter who’s at fault here (and it seems like it might be .health from what I was told), the price facing the customer must be honored by the vendor taking that money.
  2. The availability/purchase experience is clearly done in some kind of batch format and not real time. With something as important as a domain purchase, there either must be a real time option available OR there has to be a lot more/better communication flow explaining this experience. (Jacq and I have been buying domains for years – she has hundreds of them – and we never knew about this Registrar-Registry handshake and opportunity for rejection until now.)
  3. This can’t have been the first time someone went through this. A customer service refresh training has to happen.
  4. Customer service should never deny a supervisor or a supervisor callback. Ever. Resolution is far more cost effective than leaving a customer in a bad state. Dozens and dozens of people shared their frustrating stories of no resolution with GoDaddy upon reading my article. The whole reason I posted this was to flag that “regular” people who aren’t loudmouth bloggers/influencers wouldn’t have been able to resolve this easily. Nothing in Jacq’s experience shows otherwise.
  5. GoDaddy’s BIG opportunity here is to live up to their own positioning and advertising. Jacq is a woman-owned small business who trusted GoDaddy to secure a domain for her project at the price they listed on their site. They failed to do that. They sent the worst error handling automated email I’ve seen to date. They failed to fix this via customer service. This ended up requiring a lot of escalation for something that could’ve been handled a lot cleaner and better and with a satisfactory resolution for the woman-owned small business person trusting GoDaddy with over a hundred of her other domains. And so far, beyond a tweet, they haven’t contacted Jacq directly to apologize. They handled their PR issue (me).**UPDATE: Mike from the CEO’s office called Jacq directly and resolved this.**
  6. Validate the prices upon inventory loading. This is 100% the PROBLEM part. GoDaddy(Registrar) lists one price in their system and .health(Registry) has a conflicting price. To be utterly honest, if the price started at $650, Jacq would’ve bought it without flinching. She and I both own a few premium domains. But you can’t say $99. Oh wait. $650. It doesn’t work that way.
  7. Explain the process in the purchase flow. 1. check availability. 2. purchase. 3. confirm order. 4. confirm transaction. If this can’t be handled in real time, then make the process flow better align with the communication flow. <– This right here is the bigger part of the frustration. An error occurred. But it could’ve been better managed, even with automation, and not require this level of human intervention and frustration.

Technology isn’t the story here. It’s improving the buyer experience. The farmer says the apples are ten cents. The grocer says the apples cost a five cents. The customer gives the grocer five cents and the grocer hands that to the farmer who says, “No! I said ten cents. Remember?” The grocer sheepishly eats the five cents this time, fixes the signs, and makes a process to ensure that everyone knows the price next time. How bout them apples?

A Final Note on Influence

For years, the way I’ve approached working with the companies I’ve had the pleasure to serve has centered around a really simple concept: “I just want every company to treat my mom better.”

I say it like this because at the heart of everything I’ve ever taught is that our job is to improve the buyer experience and serve our customers.

When I choose to go loud like this and complain at a company, it’s for one purpose: someone without as much of a spotlight and voice as I have didn’t find a straightforward resolution with a company they trusted to serve them and they’re frustrated.

I’m grateful that Heather Dopson and Christopher Carfi and others got the CEO’s office on the line and resolved this. But more than anything else in the world, I want the next person who chooses to trust GoDaddy with their business to know that THEY will be treated better than Chris Brogan whether or not they can tweet to 365,000 people.

“We treat you better than we’d treat Chris Brogan.”

That’s the goal.

And one last detail that Jacq pointed out: while it was me with the bullhorn and who went loud and who raised the ruckus, the CEO’s office didn’t reach out to Jacq. They didn’t try to talk to the customer they wronged. Just the guy who was bitching loudest. I’m glad I got the call, but Jacq would’ve preferred to have been treated like the primary focus of this. (Just a note for future such opportunities.)

I know this post was long. I had a lot to explain. I’m sorry about eating up your time like this but I hope it helped. If you need to reach me, I’m always at chris@chrisbrogan.com

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