Monthly Archives: December 2011
Excuse me, can you look the other way so I can take $2 out of your pocket?
In yet another example of doing whatever it takes to grow revenue and take advantage of consumers our friends at Verizon will be dipping into your pocket, starting January 15, 2012, charging you a convenience fee of $2 for making a credit or debit card payment on-line or via call-in channels. Now let me get this straight. We will now be charged $2 for making an on-line payment? So should we now cancel the paperless billing (Which of course was marketed as and is a true cost savings, green and all of that), so we can get our bill through the mail again and only pay $0.44 postage? Is this a plot to save the postal service? They can certainly use the help.
The web was supposed to alleviate many of these costs. Buy instead it has just created another huge revenue stream for many companies. Think about the convenience fees for purchasing tickets on line with companies like TicketMaster? Head shaking! Or of course the recent announcement by major banks to charge you $5 per debit card transaction? This one has been stopped for now but do we think we have heard the last of this. I think not.
$2 bucks here, $2 bucks there. Well those $2 buck fees add up and we continue to be pinched by businesses whenever possible.
Let me know of other areas where this is happening in your life so we can share with our readers by commenting below.
Happy New Year to all!
A lot happens in 60 seconds.
The world of infographics has exploded as the amount of new information has exploded. Today I found a terrific infographic that defines what happens in our world today in 60 seconds. I will cite just a few of the most interesting facts for you.
Every 60 seconds this happens:
- 13,000 iPhone applications are downloaded
- 98,000 tweets are sent
- 6,600 new pictures are uploaded to Flickr
- 695,000 statuses are updated on Facebook
- 168,000,000 e-mails are sent
- 694,445 search queries happen on Google
- 600+ new videos are uploaded to You Tube
- 1,820 terabytes of data are created
- 11,000,000 conversations are happening on instant messenger
- Google makes $75,000 in revenue
- 925 iPhone 4S’s are sold
- 81 iPads are sold
- 18 Kindle Fires are sold
Here is the link to the infographic. Enjoy!
Just amazing stuff!
This holiday weekend, the Webman played Santa Claus for the family, just like many of you. One of the stops was to the Verizon store for an early smartphone upgrade for one of my daughters. (And yes, she is using my upgrade yet again) Anyway, the upgrade price for a iPhone 4, white, is $99 so I am feeling pretty good about this purchase.
And then it broke down. First news from the Verizon representative, was that their was a $20 charge for an early upgrade. Hmm, so they have their hand in my pocket here as it does not cost them anything to do this, but they need to subsidize some cost or just boost the revenue line a bit. I like this as much as I like change fees on airlines – NOT ONE BIT. But hey, I am still doing pretty well by getting a new iPhone for $119 right. So feeling a bit screwed but can tolerate.
And then the bomb hit… The Verizon representative tells me to slide my credit card and that the total bill was $154.31 including the sales tax. Hmm, I am pretty good with numbers and quickly realize that I am getting charged more than 20% tax on this transaction. Here is a picture of the credit card receipt:
What the heck is going on here? $34.31 for tax on a $119 purchase? You have got to be kidding me. So the Verizon representation calming talks about Taxachusetts (He has had to explain this before I presume) and about how they need to pay tax to the state not on the sales price but on the “Value” of the smartphone, which as you can see on the receipt is $549. So I am paying the 6.25% tax rate on $549 and not on the $99. So I choose not to shoot the messenger and do a little research myself.
Apparently this law is today only for cell phone because they come bundled with a plan. Here is what I found on the State of Massachusetts Blog- http://revenue.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2011/04/new-directive-on-sales-tax-for-cellphone-bundled-transactions.html
“Starting July 1, 2011, D 11-2 announces rules amended in part because in the ensuing years since D 93-9 business models have changed. It may not be readily apparent to the retail customer who actually owns the cell phone store where they are making a purchase and which of the existing salestax rules would apply. The new Directive makes it clear that the tax must be calculated on the higher of the amount actually paid by the retail customer or the wholesale cost of the phone or other wireless communication device.”
“But it also provides — and this is new — that the vendor responsible for collecting and remitting the sales tax now has a choice. In situations where the wholesale cost of the phone or other device is used for calculating the tax (because it is higher than the amount paid by the customer), the seller may collect and remit tax from the customer on the wholesale cost. Alternatively, the vendor may elect to assume a portion of the tax by collecting only on the lesser amount actually paid by the customer, in which case the vendor must also remit tax on the difference between that lesser amount and the wholesale cost. The seller may collect part or all of that tax from the retail customer.”
And there you have it. A 22.2% tax on cellular phones in Massachusetts. Be afraid, be very afraid of where this might lead. You cannot make this stuff up.
Let me know what you think about this blog by commenting below.
Over the last two days we have highlighted how a smartphone is changing the game for people globally by providing easy access, 24x7x365 to information that is relevant to your life, your shopping, your health, interests and breaking news.
Did you know that the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, up from 5.3 sources in 2010? Those 10.4 sources range from TV commercials and magazine articles, to recommendations from friends and family, to websites, ratings and blogs online. www.zeromomentoftruth.com.
But I digress. Today we are talking about dongles. Technology folks have such interesting terms. A bug for example – not good. Some bugs are good, but not in technology. Plus they have so many acronyms like SOAP, AJAX etc. No, not kitchen cleaners. And this brings us to the dongle. What exactly is a dongle? According to Dictionary.com a dongle is a hardware device attached to a computer without which a particular software program will not run: used to prevent unauthorized use.
Well, let’s see how a dongle is being used by an awesome new company called Square. www.squareup.com. Square transforms your smartphone into a mobile payment device that can be used by businesses and consumers to collect payments from a customer by swiping their credit cards through the dongle and integrating with Square’s very cool and user friendly application that of course if easily downloaded from the app stores to your mobile device.
Good for business – you bet. Sales can now be made without the high fees and long term contracts that come along with traditional credit card processing. How about as an individual. Having a yard sale this weekend – you can now accept credit cards as well by using the personal Square version. Very cool. You can visit www.entrepreneur.com for a great article on mobile payment systems.
There are a number of other companies in this space such as Pay Anywhere and Swipe. The traditional credit card companies are working on alternative payment programs. And of course, given the power of your smartphone, there will be a day when that is all you will need to make a payment. We don’t need no stinking credit cards!
Let me know what you think by commenting below.
Have a great day!
Yesterday we briefly covered the topic of ZMOT, the zero moment of truth. There are three key drivers making this pervasive:
Many of us already have smartphones and those that do not will likely own one in the next year or so. Here is some interesting information from a recently published article in CNET, interviewing Marc Andreessen, general partner for the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. Mr. Andreessen is an American entrepreneur, investor, software engineer, and multi-millionaire best known as co-author of Mosaic, the first widely-used web browser, and co-founder of Netscape Communications Corporation.
One of his key thoughts in the article centers on the prolific accessibility and growth of smartphones. Mr. Andreessen states “Most of the people in the world still don’t have a personal computer, whereas in three to five years, most people in the world will have a smartphone…. If you’ve got a smartphone, then I can build a business in any domain or category and serve you as a customer no matter where you are in the world in just gigantic numbers–in terms of billions of people.” So the headline is that unlike the PC world, most of the world’s population will be connected via a smartphone in the next three to five years. Big wow! Here is the link to the full interview with Mr. Andreessen http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57345138-93/marc-andreessen-predictions-for-2012-and-beyond/
Further supporting this incredible growth is the following technology adoption curve from Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins, one of the leading VC firms on the planet.
Right now we are all comfortable with text search but search has already taken on new forms, such as image search, QR (Quick response) codes and through new services such as Pinterest, which lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. You can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. So now you can also search for specific items of interest within the “context” of your search criteria. This is really advancing quickly!
All of this infopower is now in the palm of your hands. A very powerful way for all of us to become smarter, more knowledgeable, buy the right products and importantly save money for our lives.
Now you are the one in control!
Let me know what you think of this blog by commenting below.
Have an awesome day.
Continuing our thread on information overload and the power of information in our lives, I had the opportunity this weekend to read a recently published book, ZMOT, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth. It was written by Jim Lecinski. Jim is the managing director, US Sales & Service for Google. He works with many major brand marketers and media agency partners. His book is brilliant and articulates clearly just how much has changed for consumers because of technology, information, Google and mobile devices.
You can download the book for free at www.zeromomentoftruth.com. Today’s blog will highlight some fascinating statistics about behaviors and influences in our lives. Please download the book and read it. A fast read, full of great nuggets and game changing to your business. If you are not thinking about ZMOT, you better start.
Here are some initial nuggets:
- 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase
- 79% of consumers use a smart-phone to help with shopping
- 83% of mom’s do on-line research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them
ZMOT, or Zero Moment of Truth, is Google’s definition of the critical moments that lead to an individual’s decision to purchase a product or service. Since we are now connected almost all the time through high bandwidth connections, we now have the ability to learn about products that interest us whenever we want; watching a ball game, in the store, walking down the street or engaged in a conversation with our friends. We can now be experts whenever we want – well we can certainly believe we are experts anyway!
- As consumers, we are in charge
- We get smart on stuff quickly
- We engage in multiple conversations with friends, strangers, marketers, websites and experts in real time
Think about how your behavior has changed. Would we ever consider buying a car without extensive research on quality, price, options, availability or comparing brands? Nope. This same behavior has now cascaded down to everyday products such as groceries, school supplies and gas prices. Mom’s are leading the charge, but we are all doing it.
People are now asking three questions before making purchases:
- Will it save me money?
- Will it save me time?
- Will it improve my life?
Hmm, tough battlefield to compete on. You bet. The reality is if you are a selling a product or service the ZMOT is becoming more and more critical to being considered. If you are a business owner, start learning. If you are a consumer, enjoy the power that you now have. It will only continue to grow.
I have only scratched the surface on this topic and will dig in a little deeper over the upcoming weeks. Read the short book though – it does a terrific job of identifying what is going on and what has changed.
Let me know what you think about this blog and about the book when you can.
Have a great day.
This blog has recently discussed the challenges with information overload. One of the issues confronting us is that we let things like e-mail control our day. This prevents us from focusing on the key areas of creating either personal or business value. We end up being distracted by any number of things during the day. Whether you work in an office or at home, there are many external distractions that can easily get us off track.
I came across a great article in Inc. magazine the other day. Ilya Pozin, from Inc., interviewed TonyWong, a project management blackbelt whose client list includes Toyota, Honda, and Disney, to name a few. He’s an expert in keeping people on task.
- Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks.
- Stop multi-tasking.
- Be militant about eliminating distractions.
- Schedule your email.
- Use the phone.
- Work on your own agenda.
- Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals.
Check out the full article for the details and advice. My favorite was the one on multi-tasking. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multitask, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).
Thanks to Ilya and Tony for the excellent advice.
Here is the link to the full article. http://www.inc.com/ilya-pozin/7-things-highly-productive-peolple-do.html
Let me know what you think about this post by commenting below.
Have a great weekend!
Contracts were once sealed with a handshake. People looked you in the eye and when they said something they meant it. If they said they would put you in touch with another person, they did so and they did it promptly. If they were to deliver you goods and services, they did it on time, for the money they said and with a smile. They were interested in earning your trust and your business for the long term – these people understood the lifetime value of dealing with you as a customer. They knew that word of mouth was the best possible marketing they could have. Before there was Yelp and all of these other recommendation services that we have today, their was just good old word of mouth.
What the hell has happened to lifetime value and companies that actually do it in a meaningful way? Apple does it, Amazon does it, many a local retailer does it. But what about all of the other critical to your life – your bank, your insurance company, utility companies, cable companies, in-home service providers; the list is endless. When was the last time you got off the phone with a customer service rep and said “Wow, that was a great experience, I cannot wait to tell someone about it”. It just does not happen.
Here are two recent examples that I can provide that are just pathetic. A friend of mine had a small accident. She had been a customer of said insurance company for 15+ years. When they checked her record they found that her premium was overdo. They immediately cancelled the policy and wanted to charge her over $1,000 to re-instate the policy. Well paying and profitable customer for 15 years and they want to charge her to re-instate the policy. After many calls and complaints, she finally found someone that was empowered and could make the right decision. The issue here of course is that she had to invest considerable time, energy and frustration to even find the person at the company who could do something about it.
More recently my own auto insurance company tries the following. I was one day late on my November payment; all other payments had been made on time and I have been a customer of theirs for two years. Last night I received a cancellation notice including a $25 cancellation fee stating that if I did not pay the next installment on time the policy would be cancelled. What are the chances that I would even recommend this company to anyone? Answer – ZERO!
I don’t know about you but when I tell someone I am going to do something I do it. Over the last couple of weeks, I have received specific commitments from individuals to set up meetings with other individuals at their companies or to respond to a business proposal. They said “I will set up a meeting on Thursday” or “I will get back to you on Monday”. Guess what, it is now two weeks later and after multiple e-mails, phone calls and text messages, do you think I have heard from these people? NOPE!
What on earth is so hard in this connected society to just send a quick message and say “Change of plans, the meeting cannot happen until this date” or “I am sorry, we cannot proceed at this time”. What ever happened to living up to your own personal commitments? Doing what you say you are going to do? Taking responsibility? When did the basic principles of relating to other people change? Although we live in a “Me” society today, the “Me’s” have lost most of the basic relationship and customer service etiquette that the “We’s” expect.
Not good at all.
Please let me know what types of customer experiences you have had recently. Share them in your comments. I am hopeful that you have good and bad examples.
Enjoy the day.
Newspapers were once the primary source of information for us. We would regularly walk to the store to pick up the daily paper to learn how our favorite teams were dong, what was happening in the world, the local community, business, arts, leisure and all other categories that continue to be covered by the newspapers today. Newspapers were at the center of our information world and they were raking in the cash from two primary revenue streams – subscribers and advertisers.
What a difference a few years make. In 2005, the newspaper industry had $49.5 billion in advertising revenue. In 2010 the number was $25.8 billion, 50% of 2005. http://www.naa.org/Trends-and-Numbers/Advertising-Expenditures/Annual-All-Categories.aspx Many newspapers have closed, local coverage has been disbanded, other sources are now used for content. The most prominent newspapers continue to try new business integrated print and digital business strategies to slow the decline and survive. An old business model that has been completely disrupted by competitors that were not even considered competitors just a few years ago.
One of the best attributes of leafing through a newspaper was exposure to new and interesting topics that were not on your radar screen. If you were like me, I first read the sports section and moved on to business, world and local news. But before I passed the newspaper on I would go through the entire paper on time, many times “stumbling upon” other interesting articles in science, architecture, technology or other topics that I was less familiar with.
In today’s “sound bite” society, we can quickly peruse Google News, Yahoo, the home pages of our favorite newspapers and magazines. The world has changed from one where the publishers controlled access to their information to one where content distributors provide one stop shops for all content. Most of you use these content aggregators everyday as part of your ritual of being current about what’s happening. You choose what you want to read and what you don’t. You still read the sections that you are most interested in, but since you are time starved are you spending an extra few minutes looking at other topics of interest. Maybe you are, maybe you are not.
Here are a few suggestions for you. If you have a smartphone or and iPad, check out the applications from Flipboard, Zite and Pulse. They are awesome content aggregators, in easy to use formats made specifically for these devices. They will provide you with your key areas of interest but they can also connect you with many other topics, such as design, humor, arts, leisure and many others. Zite enables you to create your own channels that finds stuff you are interested in – I have set up feeds for the Beatles and Italy as examples.
So today take five minutes to read something new, to go outside your normal routine and engage with a topic or news article just interests you, not because it is part of your routine or you need it for work. It will open your mind, expand your interests and give you a peak at what is happening in other peoples worlds. Take Five!
And hey, you just might become the most knowledgeable person at all of those holiday parties you will be attending!
Let me know what you think of this blog by posting your comments below.
Have a great day!