MIR: A tech evangelist’s perspective on the o2/CPW saga

Please note: It must be pointed out for reasons that will soon become clear that the following is my own personal opinion and not necessarily those of my employer, SpinVox.

Hello folks,

If you haven?t read Ben Jennings? excellent post on his view of how to deal with the iPhone debacle, then go and do that now.

This post is related.

How?

…I’ll tell you.

It was with great interest that I read Ben?s three step proposal for dealing with said horrifying iPhone badness. All three steps were interesting but for me, it was step two that really made me sit up and pay attention?

For those of you that missed yesterday’s piece ? here?s the part I?m referring to:
?Step 2: Hire an Evangelist.

Ben writes:
This only needs to be one person. Heck, they could even be a student, as long as they have the right information. Maybe they could run the information page [in step 1] too. This person?s role would be to engage with the customers on the O2 forums. Wouldn?t it be fantastic if CPW had forums too? Are CPW even aware that they are being talked about on O2?s forums just because there is nowhere else for this conversation to take place? The evangelist would be an invaluable tool to act as a barometer of what are the specific hot issues. The evangelist would also make the customers feel like they were being listened to, rather than ignored. They could even Twitter updates to gain that Web 2.0 cool.?

Why am I interested in this?

Well this actually makes up a part of what I do for SpinVox and, hand on heart, I honestly have NO IDEA why other companies/brands, big and small aren?t following suit.

There really is NO EXCUSE for not at least listening to the web to find out what people are saying about you, your products, you level of customer service, your shops… Basically, if anyone out there is saying ANYTHING about you, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re saying it online.

“Well that’s lovely James, well done. But CPW is everso slightly different from SpinVox…” I hear you cry.

Yes… and no.

Admittedly, not every company is like SpinVox and I do not pretend for one second to have a single clue about the inner workings of Carphone Warehouse, however what I do have is a certain amount of knowledge about being a Product Evangelist.

And rule number one? LISTEN!

OK, so it would seem that someone out there at O2/CPW is obviously ?listening? to the web, (or maybe just to Ewan), or else I doubt very much Dan Lane would have his iPhone activated right now, (which he does by the way ? in case you were worried).

But knowing how to engage with your community once the listening period has begun can be a fantastic way to circumnavigate these kinds of troubles and tribulations.

I cannot imagine for a second that someone, somewhere along the line at O2 and/or CPW didn?t put their hand up in THAT meeting and say:

?Err? But what if it all goes wrong??

What IF it all goes wrong? It DID all go wrong!

Fair enough, it?s going to take some balls for someone to say:
?Well it?s alright, we?ve got an Evangelist, it’ll be fine!?

But by having one as part of an over-arching customer service team (aligned with the PR and the Tech Teams) can and will make all the difference. Hell, why not make it part and parcel of the lead up to launch?

At least those savvy enough to know about said person/representative will know they have someone to turn to who isn?t bound by a single ?Failed Security Check? message.

Like Ben says, an evangelist can help the customers feel like they are being listened to rather than be ignored.

Having sales folk in-store? Standard.

What about on the end of your customer service line? Yep. Got that.

Ok, so how about ONLINE?

….Anyone? Hello?!

Having a reputation manager, product evangelist, community manager, customer champion, social media manager or just ANY kind of digital representative that can talk to your customers for you can and WILL make SO MUCH difference to your online reputation!

If CPW had their own forums then they could?ve redirected their complaints to the static info page that Ben laid out in Step 1, (see post referenced at the beginning of this one). If they had their own representatives on those forums then they could feed back live information.

Hell, it doesn?t even to be their forums. They could trawl the o2 ones!

Also, being an evangelist isn?t just about talking up your stuff all over the place (online and off), it?s about being a trusted face and a trusted place. The first port of call not just should anything go wrong, but also for potential customers, partners or even just for those who are looking for information about you.

(A recent SV example from a day or so ago can be found here, on Twitter).

Sticking with the point – if the CPW website is broken? Get to X.

Oh, not happy with the CPW customer service? You should drop a note to X.

Having trouble with that thing you bought from CPW? You should follow X, (s)he’ll help.

These are all examples where an evangelist would help your brand reputation.

Something, ANYTHING to calm those folk down who think they?ve been misled, cheated, defrauded, messed around, screwed over? (do I need to go on?) ?by CPW (and/or O2).

This isn’t rocket science folks and I am most certainly not revealing nuclear codes here –
A simple Google Alert will tell you who?s talking about you RIGHT NOW.

“It can’t be that simple James!” – No really.

It is THAT SIMPLE.

I just set one up for Carphone Warehouse, (set to ‘as-it-happens’) and within minutes I got a ping?

The first link points to the second link, the second link look something like this:

Familiar story huh?

Well how about hiring an evangelist to monitor this stuff?

To reach out to these disgruntled bloggers and say something like:
?Hi Tom
Look, we messed up. Big. We are REALLY sorry. In equal measure we also REALLY want you to get your iPhone. I honestly do not know when we will be shipping your iPhone 3G out to you, but if you?d like to email me your details I will do my best to find out what the current state of play is regarding your account.
Yours,

John Smith
CPW Evangelist?

Reasonably simple; make it personal, reach out to your critics and let them know they are being heard.

Help them understand that you are here to help and yes, even humans mess up sometimes.
Fingers crossed, Tom?s account details would be passed back, a rapport would build, information would be shared and the next thing you know you might even have a fan who?s happy to tell the world that actually, yeah CPW got it wrong.. but y’know what, they ARE trying to get things done.

CPW, if you’re listneing, engage your online community and ignore them at your peril.

And if you want to tack a bit of science on the end of that just to really hammer it home:
Recent studies show that the internet is the most influential medium when it comes to consumers purchasing decisions; twice as strong as that of Television and almost eight times the influence of traditional printed media.

Source – http://pov.fleishman.com/blogs/fhsocialnetwork/2008/06/new_research_reveals_the_impac.php

Here endeth the lesson.

MIR: Stop the Press! The Apple store can’t sell iPhones

Alrighty,

Whatley here – I just got a call from our man on the street, Dan Lane –

(that’ll be the new version of Nokia PC Suite)

Bless Dan – I almost feel sorry for him.

After hearing that the Apple Store might have some iPhones to sell – our hero decamped to Regent Street to see what he could lay his hands on.

Turns out the answer is NOT MUCH.

Dan is still queuing.

The o2 servers have gone down.
he Apple Store hasn’t sold an iPhone for the last TWO HOURS..
Shocking.

Can you say: “Worst. Launch. Ever???”

Apparently Apple have drafted in o2 staff to do manual sign ups as the o2 systems couldn’t handle the load.

Brilliant.

Bet you wish you’d waited now. Heh.

Oh and by the way, I’m hot-desking at the Mippin offices in Fulham today (Hi Guys!), and I’ve just taken delivery of a brand new Nokia N78 + MD4 speakers from those lovely folk at WOM World.
Expect a review in a couple of weeks.

…and I didn’t even have to queue.

MIR: Whatley on the iPhone – “Meh. Next!”

I’ve actually been working my ass off all day and haven’t really been paying that much attention – I’m sick of all the tweets TBH. I got the vibe that others were too.

I did take a look though. I wasn’t amazed. And I think, as our mate Jon said “the difficult 2nd album” as it were.

There was scope to do better.

*shrug*

And as for new pricing? As I said above – I’ve not seen it, not bothered, not paying attention.

What is Apple’s ‘Mobile Me’? Not bothered. Really. Not. Fussed.

Not upgrading. I told you that I am a content creator. I told you that my phone does everything for me. That iPhone? Nah. Nothin.

THEY HAVENT EVEN UPGRADED THE CAMERA.

*sigh*

NEXT.

The iPhone aka The iBone

Before I hit you up with Part 2 of my Adventures in Soho, a brief comedic interlude:

That up there ^ is my friend’s iPhone, last week after his dog had got hold of it. Ouch.
Cue much laughter, finger pointing and merriment at his expense.
The iPhone’s screen is strong. But it seems it isn’t that strong…

‘Dave’ is a bit upset about this (I’ve changed his name to save him further embarrassment)

*giggle*

Anyway – after snapping that pic I asked ‘Dave’ if I could blog it, “Sure..” he said, “…and I’ll update you too.”

“Update?”

“Yep. Get this…”

Turns out, after the aforementioned mauling, Dave tried to claim on his home contents insurance. Note: ‘Tried’.
He has since discovered that he can’t actually claim ‘accidental damage’ as the dog did it deliberately.

(clearly a Nokia fan then)

After that Dave tried to claim it on his business insurance. Still no dice. Thing is, this policy doesn’t cover ‘phones‘.
It covers PDAs. Dave is trying to claim the iPhone is a PDA –

“…which it is!” Dave tells me…

However, the insurance company have never had a claim for an iPhone before…
(they don’t even know how to spell it look)

…and what with it having the word ‘Phone’ in its name, Dave’s hitting another brick wall.

Double Ouch.

Insurance companies can be tough little beggars at the best of times (trust me – I know) but are they in the right in this instance?

Is the iPhone a PDA? Or is it a Phone?

‘Dave’ sold his dog over the weekend.. and I am really, REALLY not kidding.
He was that upset.

So much for man’s best friend…

MIR: Whatley’s Apple iPhone dilemma continues unabaited

Whatley is a Symbian guy, through and through. He’s got more applications on his Nokia then I can shake a stick at. But he’s tempted, sorely tempted by Apple’s iPhone. I suspect the o2 unlimited data plans are also annoying the hell out of him as he’s stuck with Vodafone’s paltry offering. But will an all new (well, not really) 16GB iPhone finally push him into the o2 shop?

– – –

I am not ‘a Mac person’.

I’m getting there, (before you all start booing and hissing), and I’ve been known to get a bit ‘Mac curious’ every now and then.

It’s not through lack of trying though. In fact the other day I borrowed a MacBook Pro from SpinVox to take home and ‘test drive’ for the weekend. Only problem was it was one of those weekends when all of a sudden you have NO TIME to do a single bloody thing and I ended up handing it back Monday morning having only figured out how to get the bloody thing online, (and that took long enough).
Anyway – as I said – I’m getting there. One day I’ll make the jump.

The same thing however cannot be said for the iPhone.

I was at a lunch recently where upon I found myself sitting next to the editor of Mac Format magazine. He and I were discussing mobile et al and of course we ended up comparing devices. ‘Eww…’ he said, looking my N95 ‘Already I’m thinking ‘PC! PC!’ I don’t know how you do it mate…’ – and I in turn went on to mock his iPhone loveliness.

‘But can yours do THIS?’ he said, free scrolling up and down web pages like he hadn’t a care in the world.

‘Well… No. But…

‘Come on. What’s so bad about it?!’

‘Well… Er… the price for a start.’

‘Forget the price. We know it’s over-priced. What else?’

‘Um…’

And I stumbled. I lost my thought process. I looked at the N95 in my hands and the iPhone in his and I just stared blankly, grasping around for something… anything… that would aid me in my explanation…

Suddenly it came to me:

‘Well no 3G for a start, or HSDPA. Plus the camera leaves a lot to be desired, (the one you do have doesn’t have a flash) and then there’s MMS…’

And I was away, fighting my corner like a true N95 loving mobile geek.
Once again all was well in the world.

However, I must say that as much as I profess to be an iPhone critic I cannot deny its beauty, its simplicity, and its innovation. Its sheer impact on the on industry we all know and love so well is truly something to behold.

Eventually, Mr Mac Format and I came to a friendly truce. He pointed out that I was probably never the target market for the iPhone in the first place and I acknowledged that the iPhone ‘Mark 2’ would no doubt fix all the problems that I currently had with the device.

I applauded Apple for creating a device that my Mum could pick up and use and I also added that the masterstroke that was making the menu screen the same as the home screen was just pure Genius. Talk about removing barriers to entry. Brilliant.

So why the iPhone love?
Why now, after all this time?
Have I fallen over and bashed my head somewhere around SpinVox HQ?
Well …No.

The fact is I still mock and point and laugh at anyone who’s mug enough to fork out the minimum £900ish that is required for an iPhone in this country, (on o2 in the UK it is £269 for the 8GB variant + £35pcm (min) for the 18mth contract = £899), and I still insist on putting everyone off of purchasing one wherever I go and whoever I talk to.

The question I always ask is: ‘Why do you need an iPhone?’

The answer is often: ‘I need one.’

Wow.

A pure emotional decision that is not based around utility whatsoever, just some clever marketing, (and I don’t say that lightly; ‘clever marketing’ in this instance is like saying Britney Spears is ‘a bit mental’), huge brand awareness and a near-subconscious desire to own this beautiful thing that can only really explained if the Pied Piper of Hamelin appeared in the ads himself.

So what else drives this insatiable need? The price puts me off. I’ve made that much clear.

But we’ve also established that I am not the target market for this handset. Are you?
We’ll come back to that one…

Ewan recently wrote that the iPhone would ‘only ever be a bit player‘. Well given that it is merely one handset in a market of thousands well then I’d have to agree. But of course that wasn’t the intention was it? The intention (as was clearly laid out by some of the more balanced comments to that piece and of course by Mr Jobs himself), was to gain a single digit market share.

Here we are less than one week away from the biggest and most highly regarded event in the mobile sector and Apple seem to have done just that. Maybe next week we’ll see what the industry reaction is. What have the other handset manufacturers got up their sleeves?

If anything…

Coming back to the target market question – I’ll leave you with the comments I made a few days back in response to another iPhone piece:

‘It’s interesting –

When it comes to the pricing issue – you do have to stop for a moment and think about why o2 launched the iPhone at that RRP.

In the UK the economy in general has recently seen a downturn in overall sales of products but an upturn in overall value of said market(s). Consumers are fleeing the every day, mass-produced, mass-market products and are saving their cash and investing in the latest luxury ‘designer’ items.

Therefore there’s a school of thought that o2 knew exactly what they were doing when they launched at £269.99 + contract. They were pricing the everyday ‘common man’ consumer *out*.

Instantly making the iPhone tap into that hidden snob inside us all, (well, not us, but them, y’know… The Normobs).

I was at dinner recently and the two gentlemen at the next table were talking; discussing work etc, and halfway through one exchange the gentleman diagonally opposite to me produced and iPhone from his pocket, waved it sufficiently around to make sure that everyone saw and then placed it on the table in front of him.

Conversation stopper right there. Followed by gasps of

‘You’ve got one?! Where from? OMG it’s gorgeous! Does it do email?’

Etc etc.

The iPhone has been subconsciously marketed as a luxury device. By having one you are instantly making a statement: ‘Look at me. Look at what I can afford.’

I actually heard someone say recently: ‘I want an iPhone. I can afford one too. I just don’t think I’m cool enough. I don’t deserve one yet…’

The device is *cool*, outside of this industry we all move in. Yes we think it lacks key features, that’s because it does.
And yes we think it’s over-priced… Well that’s the point.

o2 don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry to have one.
o2 want every Tom, Dick and Harry to WANT one.

And trust me, they do.

_______________________________________________

I’ll be in Barcelona next week, attending Mobile World Congress with SpinVox. If you’re going to be at the conference, why not come say hi? We’ll be in Hall 2, stand 2D33. Trust me; you won’t be able to miss it.

See you there!

MIR: Taking a firm hand with firmware

– – – –

FW: Whatley on Wednesday - 12/12/07

Two weeks ago, after writing my review/rant about the N81 8GB, Stefan Constantinescu (of IntoMobile fame) left a comment:

‘With the new N95 firmware out that breathes new life into the device I too can’t understand why anyone would want the N81.’

Fantastic point Stefan, the new N95 firmware does INDEED breathe new life into the N95 and anyone that comes anywhere near me with their pre-V20 firmware will get it upgraded in a flash.

What a great move by Nokia. That is, of course, if Nokia actually bothered to TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT!

Yeah yeah yeah, so Nokia told a few bloggers and released a techie press release (maybe). But fundamentally – WHO is actually going to benefit?

Ok – so as an old friend used to say – let’s do a quick fag-packet analysis:

I reckon, best guess, maybe 5% (and that’s being EXTREMELY generous) of all N95 owners are aware that they can update the firmware (or ‘software’ as a normob may refer to it as) on their handset maybe?

Of that 5%, how many actually are going to know/check that there is a new firmware available.

You could probably argue yourself up to quite a high figure, what with the ‘firmware aware’ having a higher propensity to be techies/mobile geeks. But still.

Of THAT percentage, how many N95ers are going to risk upgrading their firmware, having had their fingers burnt in the past trying to upgrade a previous handset?

Or, what about those of us who have no intention of going anywhere near the Nokia Software Updater (NSU) after having heard such horror stories about bricked handsets and nudged USB cables?

Right – ok – how many hands are left up? Not many.

And even you brave few who are left standing still aren’t guaranteed a new piece of firmware because guess what?! Computer says no.

(Or in this case: Your Operator/Carrier – see some of the comments from last week’s article as a case in point).

Moving on from this – let’s take a look at the iPhone model.

The sync cradle becomes (as I heard recently) the centre of gravity for the user. They charge it, sync it and, above all, update it from one place.

The user is told, at point of sale, plug this into your PC/Mac and register online. That is the first thing the user does and immediately the user-behaviour has changed. Or has it?

How many iPhone users out there own (or have owned) an iPod? A fair few? Ok so how many of those users already associate having an Apple product that must be plugged/synced up to their Mac to optimise usage? Again – I’d bet a reasonable amount.

Apple have been very clever in a) Tapping into that pre-defined user behaviour and b) Educating the new user on how to get the most from their iPhone.

Nokia, to me at least, have a lot of catching up to do in this department. My N95 is a phone that happens to play music. The iPhone is sold as an iPod that happens to make calls.

This one simple, strategic change has resulted in a paradigm shift in how the end user benefits from updates back at base.

To put it simply: Push instead of pull.

When updating the firmware on a handset, Apple have it nailed.

Nokia we love you but, to reach the masses, you have a lot of catching up to do.

Nokia N91 8GB Comparison Shots

Right then!
Obviously I’m going to have this lovely little phone for a little while… and obviously this phone is predominantly a music phone, (not a multimedia phone), so it wouldn’t really be fair to compare it to my Nokia N95… would it?
Oh I don’t know..
We’ll see…

First I think I’ll just do some size shots..
Enjoy..

I must admit – it is a bit bigger than the current range of Nokias on the market.. but more than that is the sheer weight of the thing.. it’s just so damn heavy!
When I had the N93i I mainly demonstrated the uses of the camera but as I’ve already mentioned – that’s not what the N91 8GB is for…
So really I should make this sort of comparison… No?

You tell me…

🙂