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Month: May 2008

One week to my finals

One week to my finals

Well, we’re down to the final week before my final two exams. I’ve been doing this MBA over the last 4 years and have decided to finish off my last two exams in one go, just to get them out of the way. With any luck, that means I’ll be graduating later on this year. Yippee!

Anyway, my last 2 exams are Negotiation and Influence, both by Gavin Kennedy. Here’s a quick profile:

Professor Gavin Kennedy was Professor of Defence Finance in the Department of Accounting and Finance at Heriot-Watt University and Professor of Economics at Strathclyde University, where he helped to develop the MBA programme. His research interests are all aspects of the history of negotiation; he has written a book on Adam Smith’s philosophy and economics and has published extensively in the fields of defence economics and naval history. His books on negotiation are best-sellers and are widely read by practising managers. Professor Kennedy has been managing director of Negotiate Ltd since 1987, an international consultancy specialising in negotiation and influence, whose clients include corporations, government departments and non-governmental organisations in many countries.

They’re both pretty interesting; in a way, formalising things I sort of knew, but never really thought about. That’s really been the main value I’ve taken from this MBA, putting structure around things that I had learned organically and providing tools to help focus my thought processes.

A time for new business models

A time for new business models

DVD RentalInteresting post today on Techcrunch about the current debate around copyright law and Viacom’s $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube. I’m not going to enter into the merits of whether Arlington is right or wrong, but instead focus on that last paragraph of the post:

…it’s time for copyright holders to rethink their business models. The winners won’t be the companies that win or lose billion dollar lawsuits. It’ll be the companies that throw out everything that’s come before, and build new businesses around the natural behavior of people. Remove friction and win.

This message has been bandied around for some time now, and today is truer that ever. Business who focus on consolidating their position are bound to be overtaken by others who are innovating and pushing the envelope.

An interesting analogy can be drawn with the movie rental market. 10 years ago, the corner shop was king. If you wanted to outdo the competition, you built larger shops, opened new geographical locations or stocked your shops with more and better movies. Today, this strategy doesn’t work because the environment the companies operate in has changed. The rental market has moved to more convenient models, whether it’s postal services or Internet delivery, the old method is dust. Adding floorspace to your retail outlets isn’t going to matter one bit, neither is opening more stores. The world changes, embrace it and look for new opportunities.

Tesco: how to cheat your loyal customers

Tesco: how to cheat your loyal customers

IMG06487Tesco are one of those organisations here in the UK that have a sophisticated customer loyalty scheme in place. Their range of services covers their core segment (supermarket shopping) but also extends to energy supply, car rentals, hotels and an extensive selection of products and services that their consumers use. And their loyalty scheme is geared to keep customers coming back from mere, with a rich set of rewards ranging from Airmiles, cruises, days out and other goodies. Both my wife and I are pretty big fans of the scheme, albeit for different reasons. Personally I find the way Tesco use their data and incentives to motivate their customers to purchase quite interesting to observe.

Tesco Deal of the DayThis morning however, we had a pretty negative experience with Tesco. They have a “Deal of the Day” mailshot with a different special offer every day, and last Friday my wife decided to take advantage of a special offer to get an LG phone on PAYG for around £20 (see picture). In fact, she liked the offer so much, that she decided to get 4, to give as gifts to her family who sometimes visit the UK. Yesterday she received an email from Tesco saying that they had cancelled her order because of a problem with her credit card. We had also made other purchases with that card on the day, and guess what, no problems there.

So, she decided to phone up Customer Services to provide them with further payment details and was informed that the problem wasn’t really with the payment, but that the offer was limited to one unit per household so they couldn’t supply four. If you click on the advert, you’ll see that the bottom half is all small print, but that condition just isn’t listed there. My wife was even more upset, because the website had allowed her to actually place the purchase and pay for the order without any problems. If you try shopping for groceries and try to buy more than an allocated amount of items (I think it’s 10) the website stops you from doing this. Was it wrong for her to expect the same sort of behaviour from another part of the site?

The net result of the whole experience is that my wife is feeling bitter and disappointed. Does it mean she’ll stop shopping at Tesco? Probably not, but the experience has knocked a substantial dent into her loyalty. Instead of raving to her friends about how great her new phone from Tesco is, she’ll be telling them how disappointed she is because Tesco cheated her out of a new phone for herself and her siblings.

How could Tesco have prevented this situation? First of all, they should have been honest with their advertising. It’s a great deal, but we’re only letting you have one. Don’t just say it in the small print, but set the customer’s expectations, even make them feel honoured with the opportunity. Next, if you make a promise, honour it. The customer service representative who my wife spoke to shouldn’t have been making excuses, but should have been looking for a way to resolve the situation. And finally, don’t lie to a customer. Why blame the failed transaction on a problematic credit card (and worry the customer that they have been subject to identity fraud) when this was just not true.

How to lose a customer: don’t listen to them!

How to lose a customer: don’t listen to them!

I’m having a pretty frustrating time at the moment, with a service I used to be happy enough with in the past. Most of my websites are hosted with a hosting provider called ServerGrid. We’ve had a pretty good relationship over the last few years, no outages that stuck in my mind, no major complaints, I was pretty happy to recommend them to anyone who asked me for a hosting recommendation on a Windows service.

All this changed a few months ago. Service has been intermittent. I wake up most days to find my sites not responding, giving lots of PHP timeouts or just generally slow. (I know most of my sites are heavy, but a 110 second load time, just isn’t acceptable to me). Today, same problem, AskOwen.info was giving timeout errors when I woke up, so I raised a high priority ticket. Three hours later, the site is still down, and there has been no response to my ticket. The provider prides itself on their 24/7 service, but I don’t seem to be getting any of it.

Two days ago, I sent a complaint letter when I reported a fault and CCed their sales department. Haven’t heard anything back.

Now, as a consumer, the only signals I’m getting from this company is that either they’re not interested in my business, or that they don’t have the resources to cope with my issues. Both these are not the signs of a happy and fruitful relationship. The only reason I’m still hosted there is that I pay a yearly fee for my hosting, and well, I still have a few months left. However, I have already started looking for alternatives. This website for example, is hosted on Tubu.net. It’s a much smaller outfit, but when I asked for this site to be set up, it took them all of 3 minutes to open an account for me and give me access to it. This site is much faster than all my other blogs, so I think I’ll start moving other WordPress installations over and see how I get on.

Now, I don’t know if ServerGrid are making the mistake of ignoring my complaints, emails, chats etc. However, my perception is that they are, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Business is all about relationships and if a supplier jilts me, well, I’m perfectly happy to find a different supplier to take my business to.

Hello World

Hello World

Welcome to MBA-Geek. I’m getting ready to get this blog up and going, commenting on the technology industry with a business hat on! I’ve got my final MBA exams in a couple of weeks time, so probably won’t be posting much before than, but I need to decide on a theme for the blog and add some more bits and pieces to it.

I’m looking forward to seeing you around, and in the meantime, wish me luck in my exams!