It's Too Soon To Scrap Hotel Star-Ratings In Favor Of Traveler-Written Reviews

UK newspapers reported on Monday, January 24, 2011, that UK tourism minister John Penrose stated the government is considering phasing out government-sanctioned star-ratings of various lodging accommodations in favor of traveler-written reviews.

That's an idea ahead of its time.

Currently, representatives from various UK tourism authorities like VisitEngland, VisitScotland, and the Automobile Association (known in the UK as the AA) anonymously visit and assess hotels, B&Bs, and even campsites. These reviewers grade each establishment on a scale of one to five stars, using a process and criteria discussed here.

Tempting as it may be to use traveler-written ratings and reviews -- which the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport considers to be more "truthful '' -- it's too soon to abandon the government-set standards. Why?

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The Data Digest: How Healthy Are US Online Consumers?

A recent Forrester report, Consumers Toe-Dip In Health-Related Social Media, by my colleague Liz Boehm got me scrolling through Forrester's latest Healthcare and Communications Technographics® Online Survey. There was a lot of interesting information in there, but the data point that caught my eye was the following: only 30% of US online adults have not been diagnosed with any disease or medical condition. The top 10 show a wide range of illnesses, from  conditions like allergies to very severe diseases like depressions or diabetes.

Age is the main driver for this: About half of 18- to 24-year-olds have some kind of condition, while this is 94% for online Seniors (65 and older).

Why is this interesting for market researchers and marketing professionals? Because many of these people are using technology to manage and control their disease: they are using the Internet to research their condition, about half engage with their health insurer online, one in ten use text messages and email to get reminded to take their medication, and about 5% use health-related apps on their mobile to control their prescription, as well as monitor their behaviors. Understanding who these consumers are, and linking this with information collected via sites like America's Health Rankings, helps companies prioritize their service offerings.

What Does WikiLeaks World Mean For Open Information Sharing?

First, let me wish you a Happy New Year. If you're like me, a new year inevitably brings about reflection on the previous year: things accomplished, things left to accomplish, and things that caught our attention. In that latter category, the thing that really caught my attention in 2010 was the emergence of WikiLeaks. As an analyst who covers enterprise collaboration topics -- including enterprise use of social software -- it's a fascinating subject: On one hand you have a platform for disseminating government and private-sector information to the public, and on the other, you have a forum that advertises itself as publishing information organizations would prefer stay behind their firewalls. For the Content & Collaboration (C&C) professionals I serve, that second point is troubling. Allowing information to flow freely within the organization is the mantra of many C&C pros looking to make their businesses more efficient and competitive in this 21st century global business environment. But this is a difficult sell in a WikiLeaks world where, as demonstrated with the disclosures made last year, a low-level employee with access to connected systems can provide sensitive information to a third party. In 2011, Julian Assange's outfit is promising a new round of document publication, this time from a major American bank (rumored to be Bank of America), which makes the question of information freedom more acute for C&C pros: Is collaborative information sharing really possible? 

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2011 Social Media Predictions: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough

Social media does not make marketing any easier. Although it is a powerful tool for marketers to reinforce their brands, energize advocates and strengthen relationships, it is also yet another marketing channel that requires attention, investment and innovation. And much like the Web 15 years earlier, this is a channel that challenges the status quo and defies easy metrics.

In 2011, social media marketing doesn’t get any easier. Although the medium is maturing, that maturity brings with it a host of new challenges for marketers. Primary among those challenges is that social media is becoming an awfully cluttered and noisy space.  As more people adopt social behaviors and more marketers increase their social media budgets, it is tougher than ever to cut through the noise, reach an audience and make an impression. In addition, Forrester is seeing a marked increase in the number of people worried about privacy in social channels, and this concern is growing most significantly in boomers and seniors.

In our latest report, “2011: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough,” the entire Forrester Interactive Marketing team (plus a number of professionals who contributed in the Forrester Community) came together to predict the future and guide marketers on what these changes mean.  The report includes predictions such as:

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Forrester's Top 10 Trends For Customer Service In 2011

With 2011 still bright and full of hope for most of us, what are the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as you plan for success this year?

Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report will be published in January.

Trend 1: Organizations Standardize Customer Service Across Communication Channels

In 2011 and beyond, customer service management professionals will continue to work on standardizing the resolution process and customer service experience across communication channels (e.g., web self-service, chat, email, Twitter, phone).

Trend 2: The Universal Customer History Record Becomes A Reality

Management of the universal customer history record will evolve to include customer communications done over traditional and social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. This will involve mapping of, at times, multiple social identities to a traditional customer record.

Trend 3: Knowledge Management Becomes The Linchpin For Outstanding Service

Companies will be either offering for the first time or realigning their customer- and agent-facing knowledge management offerings with best practices. The focus will be on contextual, personalized knowledge delivery during the service resolution process, as well as leveraging customer input to evolve knowledge to make it more in line with customer demand.

Trend 4: Business Process Management Extends Its Reach To The Front Office

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