Thursday, 17 December 2009

Challenging industry assumptions - how Kindle stole a march on everyone else

This is my first post for a while but now I've finally completed my post-graduate exams I'll now have a bit more time to focus on this yarn.

You may think that e-readers and Kindle is all I can blog about. And at the moment you are right! The reason why I'm bringing this up now is because it's a perfect example of how an industry step-change by a large, innovative company has been able to shake up the entire market place within which it operates.

A couple of points to make on this remarkable area of growth in 2009.

Kindle has really stolen a march on all the other providers e.g. mainly Barnes & Noble and Sony who seem to be the main threat, by thinking ahead of the game and being able to think and move faster than other organisations. To this extent Amazon are going to win the majority of customers (i.e. early adopters and early majority share) and give themselves a great chance to secure future revenues via the download market.

I won't bore you by repeating all that I've read on the subject (just look on websites) but it brings me round to some interesting business theory that I've read about. It's called 3R learning - (some also call it double loop.)

3R learning is a process whereby an organisation uses learning to develop superior customer value propositions and competitive advantage. Staff members are required to think "out-of-the-box" and "learn to forget the past" in order to deliver new ideas and find better ways of meeting customer needs. It's about challenging traditional views and assumptions about a market place and re-inventing yourself and your services in order to sustain future growth. The 3 stages are reflect, re-evaluate and respond.

Why am I talking about this? Well just look at what the i-pod did for Apple. The technology behind e-readers isn't particularly complex but it was the way Amazon has created a need in the market for a new and better way for many consumers to read books and various media.

Apple's revenues over the last 10 years are up from $6bn of sales to $36.54bn in September 2009 and it just goes to show how thinking differently from your competitors can change the rules of the market and make it work for you.

There are many other companies who represent this type of learning - Easyjet, Virgin, Dell have all thought differently about the market place in which they operate and delivered increased customer value by challenging long-held assumptions about their market and industry.

I suggest you try it on the sector in which you operate, you might just be surprised as to where it leads.

PS - make what you like of business theory. Some think it's a load of twaddle created by bored academics, others live by it. In my opinion, all it comes down to is someone identifying a process or behaviour and giving it a name. Having a good grounding in business theory can let you apply this knowledge to practice and help you identify which companies are able to deliver customer value and of course the potential for a solid and safe investment.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


A few thoughts on E-readers.

They are going to be big. I guarantee it. They won't completely do away with the book but they'll be a good alternative for many of us who like to read and not just put books up on a wall.

This article on e-readers gives you an idea of why it's taken a little while for the market to take off: the critical mass needed to ensure demand can outstrip supply has taken a while but now Amazon are selling the products overseas (Kindle) and the other competitors are coming up with decent alternatives, then the market is poised to grow rapidly!

I'm not a technophile by any means but one of these will be on my shopping list for sure mainly for convenience and space saving reasons. Let's hope you can get some decent titles quickly.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Customer service - why is it so important

I've had a couple of bad customer service experiences recently. I won't go into too much detail other than saying that the incidents that happened have all involved poorly trained and young staff whom thought they were somewhere else rather than at work.

One example involved me getting a coffee from a well-known coffee shop. Sure, the coffee was hot, tasted good and I enjoyed it. What I didn't enjoy was being treated like just another person who wanted coffee when I went to order. (I'm not being over-sensitive here btw!)

It really was quite strange because the server, a young woman around 25 yrs old barked (actually more like roared) her orders at me as if I was standing 200ft away and didn't speak English. It's not even as if there are many foreigners in the area. She then slammed the coffee down when it was done, again roared at me to inform me where the sugar was (she really couldn't have cared less) and was incredibly arrogant.

Fair play, she may have been having a bad day but when I spend £2.50 on a coffee and I've got several other places to go and spend my money on other over-priced coffee within 30ft of that shop, this surely isn't going to help the chain in the long run.

It's not for me to just slate this chain so here are some thoughts on how could they improve her service.

  • Well, firstly I'd give her some training in politeness and manners.
  • I'd then get her to order coffee from a few different shops and evaluate what she liked and didn't like about the service. She'll be able to better understand how customers expect to be treated once she's thought about it from a customer's perspective.
  • Incentivise her to be more congenial by giving her rewards and praise when she does a good job.
  • Ensure she is monitored by a supervisor when she is on duty
  • Undertake role playing exercises and then evaluate her performance
  • Iron-out whether she should be dealing with customers at all - is she actually right for the job. If she can't smile and be pleasant then she should just go and work at Ryanair.

This isn't exactly going to win awards for world's most comprehensive customer service training but at least it should keep her on the straight and narrow for a while and stop bugging me when I get my coffee.

PS haven't seen her recently so think she got the boot anyway. Will keep you all posted.

Friday, 16 October 2009

This is the blog of PKR Communications - a marketing consultancy based in Radlett, Hertfordshire which is just in the outskirts of London. This is the first post, so welcome to you all.

I'll start off at the beginning.

I'm just about to finish a Post-Graduate diploma in marketing and even though I've been working in the sales and marketing sector for many years, it's always refreshing, and interesting to link back to academic work and see how it applies to real life.

Most people think marketing is all about just the fancy promotional campaigns, wacky tshirts and updating websites. It's understable why because that's all most people will experience. For example, the huge global brands like Coca-Cola and their unbelievably expensive advertising campaigns that they'll run across TV, radio, press and online and the millions of pounds companies will spend on the sponsorship of sports events.

So what is it then? Well, marketing is lots of things but in its simplest form, it is the area of business, or any organisation for that matter, that will focus itself on the customer (i.e the market). It's about customer insight, spotting trends, picking products that will sell based on market needs - and of course retaining and winning customers through communications such as advertising. The management side is all about implementation, leadership and delivering projects on time and on budget and growing shareholder value.

What amazes me, still, is that many of the businesses I have worked in, have never had a complete grasp on what their customers needs or wants were. The only one that really "got it" was which became an absolute money machine. It wasn't much liked basically because people generally hate estate agents (me too in fact! ha ha!) but it gave its clients what they wanted: the best way to ensure they sold their property - at the best price. That was it. The clients came in their droves, and the buyers too.

After a few years in sales selling things to people that by and large they didn't actually want - or didn't deliver what they wanted (I'm quite good at selling and it's not a whinge that no would buy because they did) - I've decided to scrap working for people who won't listen or learn and go off and work for myself and help businesses grow through building lasting, profitable relationships with their customers.

Look at Tesco and ask yourself how have they grown so large - and so profitable? It's because they meet the needs of their customers and do it with such scale and efficiency that they become hugely profitable.

This is what we're hoping we can do for you!! Well, we can help you on the path to marketing enlightenment at least.

Thanks for reading, and more to come soon.