United Airlines - Crawling Forward Into The Era Of Modern Mobile With A Unique Approach

About four or five months ago, I was on a United flight bound to the east coast from San Francisco. For reasons I don't remember, I had booked the ticket on Orbitz (I usually book directly so my records, receipts, etc. are all in my profile). Am boarded. Am sitting in a middle seat. Sigh. "Ping" goes my phone. I receive an alert that our flight has been delayed 20 minutes. I open my bag and pull out a salad. The two gentlemen in between whom I am squeezed look at me oddly and exchange glances as they expect the doors to close and the plane to back away from the gate. Salad finished. "Ping" goes my phone again. There is a maintenance issue with the plane. The "equipment" is being changed and we are being moved one gate over. I begin packing up my things, remove my seat belt and give the guy on the aisle my look that says, "are you moving or what?" He says to me, "where are you going?" I say, "equipment + gate change." He says, "how do you know?" I say, "SMS alert from Orbitz." He says, "What is an Orbitz?" More puzzled looks are exhanged. (Do I really want to explain a text alert in the year 2010 to someone who doesn't know what Orbitz is?) Several minutes later there is an announcement from the flight attendant with the same information, and everyone gets up to move. Now my fellow passengers are more intrigued. A third party is more efficiently delivering information to United's passengers than United is to their agents or customers directly.

I don't know how many times I've seen this poster in a United Airlines jetway and wondered, "Is this recent? or 20 years old? Do a lot of doctors fly? Is that why they advertise pagers?"

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QR Codes - How Will You Drive Awareness? A Local Case Study

I was walking through DuPont Circle in Washinton DC last week. I stumbled upon Axis Salon. I was so intrigued by the glass storefront that I had to hang up the phone and stare. The salon front was COVERED in QR codes!!!


Close-up of shop name:

Instructions to download: (they recommend 3GVision's i-nigma)

They should be telling consumers more about what phones are compatible, probably. There should probably be more instructions, but at least they OFFER instructions.

Scan the code ... link to a Web site with a coupon.

It's pretty basic, but very effective. They must have a lot of people asking. It's certainly driving buzz - I mentioned it to a couple of people I met in DC, and they knew about it. Partial instructions available. Lack of compatibility with most phones ... maybe an issue, but those who don't know about 2D codes are probably also less likely to ask. Fun.


eBusiness In Financial Services Serves Two Masters

These days one of the top questions we get here at Forrester is around how best to organize for eBusiness. Should the group report to marketing? Should it report to IT? Should it be centralized, or should it be decentralized? Tons of industry brainpower has been spent thinking about these questions.

The answer reminds me of the old SNL skit for Shimmer where the husband and wife argue about whether Shimmer is a floor wax or a dessert topping, and in the end the announcer tells them emphatically, "New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping!" The right eBusiness organizational structure is one that reports to both marketing and IT. Why? Because eBusiness has two masters: eBusiness is both a channel and an enterprise function.

Let me explain. Nobody would argue that the ATM is a servicing channel and not an enterprise function like corporate marketing. On the flip side, nobody would consider corporate marketing a channel versus an enterprise function, which it is, but eBusiness fills both roles in most financial service companies. It is a servicing channel for existing customers looking to servicing their accounts, but it also has a marketing and sales enterprise function along the lines of corporate marketing.

I have recently published a document on the Forrester Web site where I explore the implications of this dilemma in organizing for eBusiness. I welcome any feedback on my approach, and look forward to any more blog posts where I can reference SNL.



The Marketing Of Mobile Services

So, driving to work this morning, and I hear Chase advertising its remote check desposit service for the iPhone on the radio. This article has a good set of screen shots and description of the user's experience. Hard to imagine even 5 years ago a couple advertising a mobile service or application. How far we've come. Even three years ago, it was mostly Apple.

One of the top reasons companies give for building iPhone applications and mobile services is marketing -- the connection of innovation and technology to their brand. Chase was giving both instructions to existing iPhone owners to download as well as new customers. A very convenient mobile service being used to draw in new banking customers. It is using the availability of an interesting new feature -- and not simply "free checking" or "low interest rates on mortgages" -- to advertise Chase. It is using the availability of free services -- free mobile services.

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The Immediacy That Mobile Delivers - ESPN's World Cup Coverage On Mobile

What works well in mobile? Broadly speaking - Convenience. We define the benefits of mobile services as:

1) Content, whereby the user assesses value to the immediacy of having it now.

2) Simplicity.

3) Context (e.g., location).

Here's a great chart from Ground Truth with its analysis of unique visitors viewing soccer content during key moments of the World Cup. ESPN designs a great application, but this service really resonates on immediacy.

See our Yahoo! Fantasy Football report for an in-depth case study on the value of mobile-only and multichannel customers.

Life Post-Meltdown: Insurance eBiz Pros Are Evolving Their Strategies (And They’re Asking Questions Of Forrester)

I recently sorted through just shy of 2,000 inquiries that Forrester analysts completed from insurance industry clients, from a grim Q1 2009 through the cautious optimism at the end of Q1 2010. Along with the insurance inquiries, I also looked at what was on the minds of bankers and the Global 500 segment during the same period. 

What jumped out was how different the character of questions from insurers was from the other two segments and how differently each segment (and role!) of the financial services market navigated the economy over these five quarters. So what’s the Reader’s Digest version? 

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Bank of America Uses Online To Keep Free Checking Free

Bank of America is launching a new eChecking account that has no minimum balance requirement. The twist is that in order to avoid the $8.95 monthly fee customers must enroll and receive eStatements versus paper and make deposits and withdrawals using ATMs versus a teller.

The development of an eChecking account is not new, but the Bank of America offering differs from forays into this area in the past because:

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Getting Right-Channeling Right

Right-channeling often gets a bad rap. Many eBusiness professionals interpret right-channeling to mean railroading customers into the lowest-cost customer service channel. But that is only half the picture. Cost savings are certainly an objective — but not at the expense of customer satisfaction. Right-channeling means providing customers with a satisfying service experience through the most cost-appropriate channel.

Today, effective customer service right-channeling is challenged by limited channels. Mediocre site search and static FAQs result in unsatisfactory self-service with little option but slow motion email or the most costly channel: the telephone. Luckily, there are many variable cost-per-contact online customer service channels to consider: virtual agents, click to chat, mobile, and social. eBusiness professionals face the challenge of determining what customer service channel(s) to introduce and to what extent these new channels will deflect volumes from existing channels.

I have recently written a document called “Selecting Online Customer Service Channels To Satisfy Customers And Reduce Costs” to address this challenge. In this document, I look at how to select new cost-appropriate customer service channels that will satisfy customer needs and how to estimate the impact that introducing new channels will have on existing ones. This process begins with:

  • Determining what proportion of your current customer service contacts originate from your Web site.
  • Identifying what proportion of your customer service contacts are low-, medium-, and high-complexity.
  • Deciding which customer service channels align with your customers’ needs. 


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Google Launches July 4 Fireworks Early, Buys ITA Software

In a move that had been speculated about since April, on July 1 Google announced  it had entered into an agreement to buy Cambridge, MA-based ITA Software for $700 million — thus launching its own round of business fireworks ahead of the US July 4 holiday.

As an analyst, I believe this deal makes sense because:

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PFM Pioneer Wesabe Abandons Account Tools, Sticks With Social

Online personal finance pioneer Wesabe.com today announced it would be exiting the account aggregation and online personal financial management (PFM) space. While the unexpected home page announcement caught users by surprise, the site had for some time been struggling to build a larger user base in the face of better funded competitors and bank-hosted offerings from Yodlee, Intuit, and others.  Wesabe had launched its own white-labeled PFM solution for banks last year, but Springboard, as it was known, failed to attract much interest.

Wesabe is not shutting it doors entirely. It will continue to run the community, or Groups, part of its web site, where it had attracted a loyal and very active group of participants. Wesabe had also begun licensing its Groups content to other institutions in 2009. This “community –in-a-can” concept allowed institutions to quickly add a social component to their sites without having to build it from the ground up.  Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union last summer began offering the Groups functionality on its site. 

Company CEO Marc Hedlund noted on Wesabe’s home page today that “competitors have either dismissed the value of community, or have not been able to create a community as rich as Wesabe Groups, so I'm very happy we are able to keep that part of the service going.” Wesabe is getting assistance on that front from one of its current Groups customers.

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