Blog

October 2014 - PS Insights

STATUS…QUO?

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Steve’s old car was in the driveway when Google’s streetcam came by a few years ago. He’s now got a new car. Can he contact Google and ask them to update the view?

CUSTOMER SERVICE

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We had an extraordinary example of world-class customer service last week, but the company will have to remain anonymous. Annoyed at our inability to get through to their help line, we sent an e-mail to the CEO. His office replied within ten minutes…and for the next three days we were contacted by five different individuals who explained why we’d had phone problems, handled not just the help line but also our original complaint, and followed up with us to make sure we’d done everything they told us. What would happen if someone sent an e-mail of complaint to your CEO’s office?

THE FOG OF WAR

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The Ebola virus has come to America. And everyone’s assumptions about how our vaunted medical system would manage the crisis have proven wrong. A story in the NYTimes two weeks ago outlined the unforeseen consequences: from a well-protected nurse in Dallas who came down with the virus to pizza guys in Atlanta who refused to make deliveries to Emory Hospital’s isolation ward. You can make all the plans you want, but as every military officer knows, they all mean nothing once you engage the enemy. What’s your strategy for managing plans that haven’t gone the way you expected?

A SIMPLE QUESTION

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How do you head off a marketing disaster? We believe it’s by asking—and answering—a few simple questions. Most important? When discussing a new assignment, have everyone in the meeting answer this: “How will we know if it works?” Get more hits on your website? Increase sales of a particular product? Get more inquiries? You’d be amazed that even members of your own team won’t agree what the objective of the assignment is. Do you ask the simple question – How will we know if it works?

UBER (REDUX)

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Steve isn’t quite as enamored of Uber as Paul is. Mainly because it’s a pirate service. Every municipality in the world sets regulations and rates for their taxi services—possibly to protect the public, possibly to line the pockets of cronies; and along comes this startup that simply ignores all the rules. Can anyone say “Napster”? If we decided to start an online surgical service and none of our doctors were licensed or regulated, should we be allowed to operate? (Pun intended.) Yes, there are industries that have become complacent. But simply stepping in wherever you want smacks of opportunism and in some cases, criminality. Where do you stand on gate crashing businesses and what are the checks and balances you put in place?

REAL BEAUTY STRIKES AGAIN

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We weren’t fans of the last Dove “Real Beauty” commercial, “Beauty Patch.” The hallmark of the campaign has been authenticity. The Beauty Patch was forced and lacked credibility. Not to worry, Dove just came back just as strong as ever with “Legacy” in which they asked mothers and daughters to (separately) list what they didn’t like about their own bodies. The truth played back like mother, like daughter. What do you unconsciously teach your children?

ZOMBIE MOVIES

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Every once in a while, the news media speak the truth. Cokie Roberts, of NPR, was summarizing the status of the Ebola crisis. To paraphrase: “Two weeks ago, a doctor in a lab coat stood in front of a microphone in Dallas and assured us that the virus was under control. But isn’t that how every zombie movie starts?” Sometimes a good laugh in the middle of an appalling situation is just what the doctor ordered.

DRUGS R US

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In an extraordinary example of corporate tone-deafness, Toys R Us is stocking a line of Breaking Bad action figures including a Walter White character holding a bag of meth. Even more amazing, when moms started raising the alarm, Toys R Us responded by saying the figures are only being stocked in the “adult section” of the stores (ages 15 and up). Did you even know Toys R Us had an adult section? How are you prepared to respond to customer blowback?

THE VISION THING

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The eye-care business has been pretty much the same forever. Expensive optometrists and ophthalmologists and lousy fashion frames or quickie eye care stores with better frames. But always expensive. Along comes Warby Parker—and now a host of imitators. Online frames, fashionable, beautifully designed. Easy to try on (online or with a set of five sent by mail) and great glasses in beautiful frames are yours for a fraction of the time or cost of conventional eyeglasses. What end-to-end solutions do you have to delight your customers?

UBER

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Above and beyond. No one really thought the taxi business was broken until Uber offered a better idea. Now the Taxi and Limousine Commission in New York is crying foul and passengers who could never get a cab at rush hour are calling cars when they want them. What do you do to change the paradigm of existing businesses to extend great service where the conventional players don’t?