The Hidden Genius Of Jeff Bezos

When Jeff Bezos announced to his Amazon staff his concept for the Amazon Marketplace in November 2000, many people — inside and outside Amazon — thought he was crazy. Amazon was inviting in other sellers — individuals and merchants — to compete against Amazon’s owned inventory on Amazon.com.  As full price merchants were added in categories such as consumer electronics, apparel, and baby products in the early 2000s, the head shaking continued. To paraphrase, Jeff Bezos claimed this was about “the world of perfect information.” Customers are going to find the lowest price online if they really want to, and they should be trained to find it on Amazon. Maybe Amazon could grab a piece of the pie along the way.

Of course, what was once seen as crazy is now viewed with envy, as the marketplace now represents approximately 35% of Amazon’s revenues and 30% of total units sold in Q4 2010.* Amazon charges anywhere from a 5% to a 25% revenue share on a sale through its marketplace, roughly determined by dividing the expected margins in a category in half — to be shared with the merchant. With only limited incremental technology and category management costs, the profitability of this for Amazon is easy to see. And as a result, it has also solidified Amazon’s role as the leading product search site. This success is already breeding imitators in Buy.com, Sears, Walmart, NewEgg, and soon a whole host of large UK retailers. And let’s not ignore Apple’s iTunes, clearly a very successful marketplace, though of a somewhat different flavor.

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Clamoring For Answers Around Your Insurance Claims Strategy? You’re Not Alone

Without a doubt, the hottest inquiry category for insurance ebusiness and channel execs (and insurance IT, for that matter) has been anything to do with claims.  And why not, since as one insurance ebiz executive we talked with pointed out, isn’t claim handling the real business of insurance?   We also saw the big interest in both customer experience and claims processing when we surveyed 75 or so US and Canadian insurers a little less than a year ago, with both appearing in the top three insurance business priorities into 2011.

The claim is the real moment of truth in the insurer-policyholder relationship, and that experience is a big factor in whether that policyholder decides to stick around when the claim gets settled.  Just what’s on the minds of insurance roles when it comes to claims this year?   For starters, here’s a sampling of claim-related inquiry topics I’ve fielded:

  • What’s the business value of claims concierge services?  (and check this out—three inquiries about claims concierge services in two days!)
  • Why do policyholders still want to file claims with their agents?
  • How is document scanning and imaging being used for claims?
  • What role is streaming video playing in claims?
  • What’s the state of mobile claims applications for field adjusters?
  • And many, many questions on the vendor landscape for claims applications, including an interesting one on  integrating legal matter management into the claims system for asbestos-related workers’ comp claims

I’m just wrapping up a report on how carriers can tame the claims beast, but in the meantime, if you’d like to learn our thinking and what else is simmering around the topic of claims, that’s just an inquiry away.

Co-Browsing: A Technology Worth Considering

I’ve had an abundance of inquiries recently on co-browsing — allowing a contact center representative to interact with a customer using the customer's web browser — so I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic here.

First, the cautionary tale: I believe it that co-browsing can potentially be a solution looking for a problem. For example, if you are looking for a solution to customers having difficulty understanding how to complete a form, it may be more cost-effective to do a page redesign or offer click-to-chat.

But that said, co-browsing — when implemented at the right time and place — can be an effective approach to escalated and personal support. Co-browsing can be used for many objectives including support, sales, product selection, and account management. The value proposition is that co-browsing can improve call handle times, support sales, enhance customer satisfaction, and — in some instances — be a teaching tool that deflects future telephone calls as customers learn how to perform tasks in a co-browsing setting.

Co-browsing can be an effective tool when it is offered at the right time to the right customer.  Here are a few key considerations for companies thinking about offering co-browsing:

  • There is consumer interest in the technology. According to the North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009, 15% of US online consumers say they would be interested in using co-browsing as a customer service channel in the future. And before you ask — as I know some of you will! — there was no variation in the data by gender or age. In other words, interest was the same for men and women, and equal between Gen Y consumers and their grandparents.
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