Tag Archives: email

Designing Self-Service From the Start

PremierInn Check In email - a good example of customer self-service
Premier Inn Check In email – a good example of customer self-service

One of the features of “a digital project”, is that the end user can become self-sufficient without needing to call the organisation offering the service or product. We call this self-service.

The first Internet services had a thin veil of self-service features, enabling companies to experience the cost savings of letting users perform common tasks.

Once this Return On Investment was proven, one of two things happened. Many organisations left the systems alone, stopped any further investment and patted themselves on the back.

Other companies redesigned the service to allow the maximum possible self-service touch points to maximise the future return on investment. They redesigned the self-service experience from the start. Continue reading Designing Self-Service From the Start

A Review of Google Inbox

New Google Inbox - the names and subjects have been blurred to protect the guilty
The new Google Inbox. The names and subjects have been blurred to protect the guilty

Last week one of my Endava colleagues came over to my desk in the office and caught a glimpse of my Outlook Inbox. The way I organise my email is really simple – unread emails in my Inbox constitute my Items To Do. Once I’ve acted upon the email, or strictly speaking, the item-to-do, I then delete the email. I could just rename the Deleted Items folder as Done – to me it’s the same thing because I keep all the emails in my Deleted Items anyway.

To my Endava colleague, my extra simple organisation of Inbox and Deleted Items was alien – they preferred multiple folders, and Follow Up flags, and categories (which I do use in the Calendar, but not email). In fact, she was most upset that most of her emails appeared in my Deleted Items folder – because I’d acted upon them, and not filed away in a project folder .

Continue reading A Review of Google Inbox

Facebook and Yammer proving the end is nigh for email

Bet you wish you bought some Facebook shares this time last year?
Bet you wish you bought some Facebook shares this time last year

So much for young users leaving Facebook en masse… Facebook’s latest results (Q2 2014) are simply stunning:

  • $2.91bn revenue (from $1.8bn in 2013)
  • $791m profit (from $333m in 2013)
  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 829 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 19% year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 654 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 39% year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.32 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 14% year-over-year. This is an amazing statistic – 18% of the world’s population access Facebook monthly!
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.07 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 31% year-over-year.

Continue reading Facebook and Yammer proving the end is nigh for email

Monetising customer data

This is the last post in the monetisation series. We’ve explored ten ways to monetise large digital audiences, from simple advertising to selling products. This post discusses ways of making money from data.

Data monetisation is one of the newest of all the models we’ve discussed in the series. And it’s probably the most misunderstood. When Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion, it proved how valuable user data has become.

But customer data isn’t that new. The market for sales-leads data has been around for ages. The difference now is how that data is collected and ‘mined’. Data used to be scraped from public sources such as Companies House and Yellow Pages. Now companies are setup with the sole purpose of collecting information from users.

Continue reading Monetising customer data

A double family hack

Hacked Mac
Credit: Willy López on Flickr

In a rather odd coincidence, both my mum and mother-in-law’s computers have been hacked in the last couple of weeks.

My mum has a Mac and once the hacker got in (we think it was through an email attachment in Hotmail), they changed the computer system settings and the language – which was quite clever because my mum just left the computer on, clicking around trying to get the language back to English. I suspect the longer the computer was left on, the longer the hacker had to make more changes on the system.

Once the hacker had control of her Hotmail account, they sent out emails saying my parents were abroad and in distress, and required some cash to get them out of trouble. The email looked 80% genuine – good enough for some of my parents’ friends to call me and ask if they were OK.

Unfortunately for my mum, I don’t know very much about Macs, let alone being able to look at an Arabic version of Mac OS and get it back to English. She had to call a computer trainer to come over and help return her computer back to normal, including installing some security software.

Hackers managed to get into my mother-in-law’s Gmail account. We still don’t know how they did this. The first we knew of it was when hackers sent an email to my wife (they didn’t email everyone in the contacts – for instance I didn’t get the email). The email didn’t look like computer generated spam, so my wife phoned her mum and recommended she change the password straight away. The password was already complex – I had set it up originally, including a capital letter, numbers and letters, punctuation and a decent length.

My mother-in-law then called a few days later to say she hadn’t received any emails since the incident. I looked at her laptop and the hackers had set up a Gmail rule redirecting all email into the Bin straight away. This was clever because it meant that for all the emails sent from her account, if someone replied to ask whether it was genuine, the reply would have gone straight to the Bin without my mother-in-law seeing it.

I guess the key takeaways are to keep changing the password regularly, and keep it complex. Never ever open attachments in emails unless you really are expecting something and it looks genuine.

The operating system vendors, Apple and Microsoft, and now mobile operating system vendors too, have a tough balancing act. They have to provide a marketplace for third parties to produce security software, but they also have a duty of care to make their systems secure for users. The argument is that if say, Microsoft, bundled anti-virus software with Windows, the third parties would be out of business within days.

However the email providers don’t have such a balancing act, and really should be prohibiting certain attachments to emails, or checking their contents properly.

If you can migrate email to Google Apps you deserve a medal

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I’ve finally done it. I’ve moved a domain over to Google Apps for business. Google should give users a certificate, in fact a medal, for such an accomplishment.

I’ve been saying for a while that if I was to setup a new company tomorrow, the last thing I’d do would be to buy an email server. You can’t just buy an email server – you also need to think about archiving, backing up, and anti-virus. And pay for someone to run those four servers.

Google and Microsoft offer similar email applications that include variations of office productivity tools and then like. They also provide various levels of collaboration.

My current ISP who hosts this domain wanted to start charging for email services, but the webmail client is just awful. I chose to move my email account to Google Apps (for Business) because I’ve always like Gmail, and reading the how-to-migrate documentation made it look simple.

That was six weeks ago.

The first hurdle was that my domain name was already in use by Google Apps. The error message would have been funny if it weren’t so frustrating:

There are [0] users at bradbox.com using Google Apps.

If you don’t see the funny side, please read it again.

And this is where I hit the major issue with Google. There’s no one to call when things go wrong. There’s not even a premium rate phone number. Or an email address.

You need to rely on friendly users trawling through the Google forums helping people like me out.

So I posted my message, and a few days later someone answered. He asked me to wait a little longer, and I did. He then said he’d spoken to someone at Google who said I need to wait a little longer.

Fast forward a four weeks, and alas, I could register!

The Google interface is still very technical. I know that I’m unlikely to break anything too seriously (no sniggering at the back please), so I played around with a few settings to get Mail up and working. It’s really not for the feint-harded though. You can see they’ve tried making it relatively simple with some help bubbles and wizards, but I doubt many people continued their migration at this point.

One of the first things you need to do is prove that you own the domain (by adding a subdomain to the domain that was CNAMEd with a crazy, crazy long address). So I went through the wizard, and followed the wizard but I received an error. Again, a really big hurdle. I searched for the problem on the web, and many users reported the same problem – that long address was too long.

I contacted my ISP, but they couldn’t help, or rather than didn’t want to. And I don’t really blame them – try walking into Tesco and asking them how to cook the stuff you just bought at Asda. Or walk into a Ford dealer and ask how the radio in your VW works.

Hidden away was another method of verifying the domain by uploading a file to the web server. I went for that, and lo and behold, I had a verified domain.

I now wanted to move my existing emails over to the new account. So I clicked on help. But after a couple of clicks, I was seeing 404 broken links.

Two hours later, I decided to do it the old fashioned way and download the email from the previous ISP into Outlook, and then upload it again into Google. Actually, I still haven’t done it, because I’m in denial and don’t really want to see hundreds of email in my personal account – it’s bad enough at work!

And that’s my story about moving to Google Apps. It’s far, far too complex.

Now do you see why I deserve a medal?

Either Google needs to start offering real end user support (a phone number), or enable other companies to offer IT support for the home, or start handing out medals.

Why email should be taxed

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Yesterday’s news about the price of a first class stamp rising to 60p made me think about post’s arch nemesis: email.

Firstly, I still think that paying 60p for a near guarantee delivery the next day is remarkably cheap. To send a birthday card by post is cheaper than driving the card round to anyone who lives more than 1.5 miles away (I’m thinking about the round trip!). In Germany, a first class stamp costs £1.21.

Back to email – everyone seems to be complaining about receiving too much email. On the other hand, I complain about receiving too much post as well, because every item of post seems to be a bill – but that’s different.

Back to email again – and the fact we all seem to receive too much of it. I even get cc’d on social emails now. So my grand idea is… the government should tax email.

The government is losing revenue from falling post volumes: it’s fallen 25% since 2006, and more falls are expected.

All other forms of messaging have a direct or indirect tax – mail, phone calls, mobile phone calls and even text messages have a cost which includes 20% VAT. The only messaging I can think of that don’t include VAT are email and public messaging (Skype – assuming it’s free, Microsoft Messenger or Google Talk equivalents).

So in order to reduce the quantity of emails addressed to me, and to raise more money for government, please start taxing email!!!!

Photo courtesy of Zazzle, where you can buy that lovely mug.

How I would Yahoo!

Yahoo-logo1

So, apparently Yahoo! is up for sale, and even better, Google are willing to help fund it’s resurgence. This sounds so familiar – in 1997, Apple were having serious problems and Microsoft, their once main competitor, invested $150 million in the company, and now Apple is worth more than Microsoft!

Back to Yahoo!, it’s amazing how many people are so dismissive of Yahoo!’s (that’s a lot of punctuation) value.

Here are the high level stats:

Yahoo has over 500 million unique visitors each month, around the World, in over 30 languages.

In the UK alone, adults spend over 3 hours a month just on Yahoo! Mail.

To build that audience of 500 million would cost a HUGE amount of money (and time), so in my opinion there’s never been a better time to Yahoo! Stock is set at a very reasonable price, and Google are willing to invest a significant amount of money.

Here’s what I would do if I took over Yahoo! tomorrow:

Focus

  • An Internet content portal above all else. In terms of competition, Google provide mail to compete with Yahoo! Mail however there is no one with similar a traffic size which provides the level of content as Yahoo!
  • Generate a cost/revenue model for services such as Yahoo! Mail and Flickr to see if it’s worth selling these on or keeping them and reinvesting.
  • Create a cloud development service model to compete with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft – turning a cost centre into a profit centre

Analytics

 Work out where my users are coming from – is it mainly from PC manufacturer-set-browser-homepages which haven’t been updated for 5 years? In fact, I’d probably do most of my initial work on the analysis of who uses the individual Yahoo! services to ascertain the users’ value, or even try to derive an ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

Innovation

Yahoo! strikes me as a company which is struggling to innovate. How many new services of note have their launched recently? I would look at why this has happened – have they all left to go to competitors? Internet companies need to have innovation at the centre of their philosophy, vision and corporate structure in order to keep users returning. I would reignite this passion for innovation immediately.

And finally, I think I’d rebrand Yahoo! to drop the exclamation mark! (Pun intended).

 

The future of consumerisation

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One of the major shifts in the last five years has been the “consumerisation” of technology. Consumerisation is a swanky word for technology moving outside of the office/professional life into personal lives, and then moving back into the office in a different guise.

The shift started with broadband Internet. Once staff had broadband installed at home, they checked their email from home. They stopped taking laptops home with them and used their home computer.

Smartphones have accelerated the amount of consumerisation. You definitely know some people who have been provided a mobile phone from their employer, and the same individuals also have a smartphone on a personal contract. They will then use their personal phone to check their work email because they prefer their personal device.

This grey area of using personally-paid-for devices is a real issue for IT departments at the moment because of lack of standardisation (having to support iPhones, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc.) and security risks.

Consumerisation isn’t limited to hardware either. I use Outlook 2010 at work, and mainly Google Mail for personal email. New features on Google Mail are appearing regularly. One of my favourites is if you type “I have attached the document” inside a GMail email and press send before attaching a file, Google gives you an alert to ask if you want to attach a document. Brilliant. I wish Microsoft had built the same functionality to prevent me forgetting to attach a file in Outlook.

In fact Google understands consumerisation on a new level. GMail and Google Docs started their lives as consumer tools and then became available as white labeled enterprise tools (a matter of opinion) for businesses. And there’s recently been a lot of commentary about Google refusing to let businesses on to their new social networks – they want end users on there first.

Technology is continuing to become more consumer-focussed, which means we’ll use more of our personally-paid-for technology in our working lives. As my post earlier this week demonstrated, once we start checking our work calendar on our bathroom sink as soon as we wake up, the grey line will been very broad indeed.

 

Tour de France on ITV Player

A huge congratulations to Mark Cavendish on winning the Tour de France’s green jersey. That’s the colour worn by the leader in the Tour’s points competition, which is the race’s most consistent high-finisher.

I watched more coverage of the Tour de France this year than ever before. It might be because I’ve been cycling more (myself) this year, but it’s probably got more to do with ITV’s superb coverage on TV and online.

The online coverage had a quick user registration process – literally just the email address. The benefit of the registration was twofold:

  1. Users could watch the coverage(!)
  2. Users received an email when coverage started the next day

The second advantage was very refreshing – literally receiving an email when “the Tour” started each day, and then I received notification when the entire Tour highlights was on TV and the Internet.

Websites that require registration for no apparent reason other than untargeted ‘spam’ email could learn a lot from ITV. The only piece of feedback to ITV for their online coverage is to increase the quality by increasing the video bitrate. I don’t mind the adverts because I understand they are paying for the content in the first place.

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