Switching to a Mac, My experience


The first computer operating system that I used was MSDOS during my college days and after that, it was only Windows, Windows and Windows. A month and a half ago decided to take a stab at Mac notebook and a recent driver to this switch was the poor-quality Windows Lenovo laptop I own that went through frequent breakdowns both hardware and software.

Though in general, I know Mac is a better product for personal use, I was sceptical about using one machine for both Business and Personal purpose as I am not sure about the support Mac extends to some of the products (common) that I use in Windows world. I hope this blog would be of interest to those who are contemplating on switching to Mac world.

Before getting into that, let me tell you how this beautiful piece of machine made my professional life easy in general.

·     First and foremost, it is always ON. You open the laptop, you click the “Power” button you are ready and all applications respond instantaneously without any lag. I work with my team early morning hours over web conference and it used to take at least a 10 – 15 minutes of my time in Windows to get on to a call as it takes its own time to boot / wake-up and the applications take a lot of time to respond, unlike Mac. I tell you it’s frustrating at 5 AM J

·     It’s also brilliant in handling back to back mixed meetings, one face to face and one over the web. I can never make it on-time in the windows world as it never responds when I need it. Now I am quite confident to schedule and manage back to back meetings without any hesitations, all I need a couple of minutes to be on my Mac.

·     Second, it’s charging capacity is fantastic. If my laptop is fully charged, I don’t need to carry around my charger to office/client meetings. The battery life is good enough for 8 to 10 hours and it is big relief / great peace of mind when compared to my old Lenovo that doesn’t hold the charge for more than an hour or two. Finding charging points in a client’s place, in an outdoor meeting setup etc. is a big nuisance of the past.

·     Third, it gels perfectly with my Apple ecosystem and the most important one is iPhone. My iPhone is always connected to my Mac when both are on the same Wi-Fi network and it means I can handle my voice calls, messages, hear voice mails all right in the Mac without running around to locate my iPhone. This is a big productivity booster

·     The Last one is it is plug and play. It just detects and connects to the right audio/video accessories for a meeting without juggling around

As far as Business applications are concerned, this is how it works for me now.

·     As an Organization, we live and breathe CLOUD. So, to deal with our customer deliverables, I don’t need anything other than a web browser so this is not an issue at all, unlike my other friends who might need some special software to access environments that might be supported only in Windows. Our internal systems including HRMS, email are all 100% cloud based so this part is no brainer.

·     The second most import set of apps is Microsoft office apps. The same office 360 license can be reassigned and reused in Mac and there is no need for any special licensing for Microsoft office apps to work on a Mac. More importantly, my personal take is office apps work better in Mac than in Windows :). The difference in UX is very minimal to Nil between Windows and Mac.

·     The third one is Chrome. Chrome has become part and parcel for my web access by laptop, desktop, mobile or tablet. Chrome is 100% complete in Mac and you don’t miss anything from access to bookmarks across your devices to Chrome apps.

·     Over and beyond the above, I got most of the other apps in Apple Mac App store including but not limited to Skype, Dropbox, Google Drive etc.

So, what is the catch here ?. All you must do is a make the right decision to switch to a Mac (it’s not cheap and don’t waste your money in a better windows laptop) and be prepared to go through the Mac learning curve for a week or two to get comfortable with the User Experience.

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Walmart.com – Makes omnichannel experience a reality


Walmart, the famous American multi-national retailer doesn’t need an introduction to anyone, but probably their app / wamart.com needs one 🙂

While everyone is still figuring out their customer journey maps to provide a true omnichannel experience, Walmart seems to be one step ahead of all, leading this space leveraging its great offline assets (physical stores) and growing online presence(walmart.com)

Omnichannel is a jargon for “Seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store” 🙂

For many of you who are not aware of Walmart’s online presence, it may be interesting to know that they stand No. 3 in e-retailing in the USA and do business worth ~$15 Billion annually.

Here are things I like about Walmart’s omnichannel experience.

  • You can place an order online / app and pick the product from one of the retail stores or get it delivered at home (basics)
  • Any product shipped to your home or picked from the store can be returned to any Walmart store and all purchase from online to offline adhere to the standard return policy of 90 days
  • You can walk-in to a store and if you like a product but don’t find your sizesimply scan the bar code in your app and look for your size in walmart.com universe to get it shipped to your home right in the store.
  • Load your credit card in your app, scan the QR code displayed in POS machine before billing starts and make the bill payment with the card stored in your mobile and do the purchase without taking your wallet to the nearby Walmart store
  • The receipt of the offline purchase (along with other online) is in your mobile for your ready reference for an exchange / refund anytime in future and no hassles of searching around for bills to exchange / refund
  • Receive store pick-up notifications on online orders as and when the status change from Ordered to “ready for pickup”
  • Find out the nearest store in your app, set the one you like as your home store and get to know all info about the store from phone number to operation timings.

It is interesting to see how great technologies are converging to make true CX a reality.

I read in a recent article that Walmart is making a huge CAPEX investments in their offline assets and intend to leverage their true omnichannel experience to beat the number 1, you all aware of…

I would call this as a “Strategy” to build sustainable competitive advantage 🙂

Image Courtesy : http://www.mytotalretail.com/

Schedule a meeting – The Modern Way


Getting an Opportunity to meet the person of your interest during Sales Cycle, is difficult and able to schedule it at a time that suits his availability is a lot more difficult.

The problem gets multifold if there are more than one participant needed for the meeting and these participants come from different Organizations like You / Your Organization, Your Partner Organization, Customer and Customer IT service provider etc.

Though CRM in general, has brought in improvements in Calendaring feature to schedule meetings internally with you and your team, it generally stayed within the boundaries of your Organization. A step forward in recent years is the introduction ofPartner Relationship Management (PRM) modules in CRM to extend the access of the data as well as to facilitate collaboration with your partners including but not limited to just meetings.

One of the welcoming features that I see in today’s CRM is about breaking the above boundary and extending it beyond your Organization as value add-ons

Recently got a chance to review through Hubspot team meeting feature that helps to send out a link in your request for a meeting where the recipient can  choose / select their availability considering your availability too. This is a fantastic aid to schedule a meeting without much of back and fro emails and most of the times if the person of your interest is a “Busy” executive, it is going to be a nightmare to get the response over emails …

Similarly, SalesforceIQ Inbox offers a fantastic toolkit that helps to embed inline in your email a range of available meeting slots for the recipient to pick and choose one that is convenient to him

I am sure most of the other CRM vendors are taking a note of it and it is a question of time to see this interesting feature in other products too…

Embrace electronic signature & integrate it with your CRM to cut down lead time


Signing a contract electronically is gaining legal acceptance across the globe and its penetration is widespread today in both B2C and B2B space.

Organizations running their sales processes in CRM should seriously consider integrating their CRM systems to e-signature solutions like Adobe Sign, DocuSign etc to collate and organize signed copies of contracts in their centralized CRM system, cut down the effort and time involved in the traditional wet ink signature process and provide a great customer experience (CX).

Most of the CRM platforms and e-signature vendors provide sophisticated APIs that can help you to generate contract documents on the fly from your CRM data (like account, opportunity info), push it through signature process electronically, get it signed by one or more parties electronically and tag it with appropriate CRM records for quicker retrieval for any future needs.

With ever growing support of CRM and e-signature systems to wide variety of handheld devices, you can virtually run the entire sales process right in your palm without any hassles. It also frees up your sales team’s productive time to be with your most important asset, your customers….

Empowering front line executives – My recent experience


It is a fact that empowering frontline executives would positively impact your customer’s experience on your products / services as after all they are the ones who your customers see every day.

Saying that not that many times you would have really felt it as in reality either most of the staffs are not really empowered enough to make decisions or even if empowered, they may not be the right material to leverage it .

My recent experience with American Airlines is a true demonstration of a positive experience with an empowered staff using her presence of mind to create an impact.

Was on a short (technically) trip from Atlanta to Raliegh recently and to save few bucks booked a 1 stop flight in American airlines with a stopover at Charollette while going and Miami on the way back …

The meeting overshoot by an hour at Raleigh but to my luck the flight from Raleigh to Miami too got delayed by an hour. But after seeing the boarding passes I realized that I am not going to make the connecting flight in Miami as there was only 20 minutes difference between the 2 flights ….

So went straight to the AA counter at Raleigh requesting them an alternative.With no options left (it being the last flight), the staff thought for few seconds and said, let me move you to the front seat in Aircraft to quickly get out of the plane to board the connecting flight …

I felt great …though technically it might not save more than 10 minutes, it created a big difference in my situation…Also, most of you may know the fact that AA sells every seat other than the one in Middle row at an extra price in the boarding pass kiosk… (This is my experience :))

The staff not only leveraged her empowerment to put me in the front seat that they can technically up-sell it for some bucks but also shrewd enough to think through and suggest the best possible alternative in customer’s interest in few minutes of interaction …

I know you might all be keen to know whether did I catch my flight from Miami to Atlanta …No, my flight from Raleigh to Miami got delayed further and ended up staying in Miami that night ….:) …Hmm, dreamt of vacationing Miami but never thought I would miss the flight and end up staying over night ….

Image Source : http://www.socialmediatoday.com/

 

Machiavellian way to promote you as a paid customer?


I do love open source, free to use tools…

The freebie vendors have an array of options to make revenue from something as legitimate as selling advertisements with your consent to selling your personal data to third parties without your knowledge ….It is also common that many of these vendors offer a full-fledged version for a trial period (from good old Microsoft days, expectations set well in advance) and post that you are expected to pay for it or offer a product with restricted features for free and charge you for anything more that you would love to…(like say Hubspot CRM)

My recent experience with one such interesting product to log timesheets was frustrating…Before sharing my frustration I definitely would like to give a credit to the vendor to develop such a user-friendly product that can help you to track time across devices seamlessly …I love it from day one I started using it and over a period of time, they added more and more interesting features and created a great user stickiness …All free to use with no strings attached

Though I always expected that at some point of the time they would release a “Pro” version with great features beyond what is there in the free version, I was taken by shock when they started making existing features as a “Paid” one and making the product today as an unusable one for free usage …To give you an example I was able to add a “comment” (very basic feature you expect) after logging a task against a project / task and recently they not only force upgraded the product but also made that feature available for “Paid” users only …

Though the vendor might think this as a great strategy to force convert you, I feel disgusted and deceived….

In this world of free apps with several interesting alternatives and who legitimately makes money  in many ways, I believe this strategy by the vendor is going to earn only disgruntled customers ….

 

A simple policy and its far reaching impact


The one thing that caught my attention in the U.S. and haven’t seen that dominant anywhere in the world is the unconditional return policy that most of the commercial organizations adopt.
The Organizations include some of the big ones like Walmart, COSTCO, BestBuy as well as small mom & pop shops. When I say unconditional, it is really unconditional with no questions asked and they return your money back in the same form you paid. I have done this myself few times on items that I am not happy with it. It includes items that are as less as $2. The policy typically covers everything in the store from expensive electronics to food and doesn’t matter what is condition of the product on return (not damaged though).
It is time bound but the time limit is more than sufficient to experience the products (most places 90 days)
Though it might look like a very expensive business decision, if you think through, the kind of impact that it has in the entire system is huge
(1) it ensures the Quality of Products / services delivered
(2) It entices people to “try” new things without any worries
(3) and the above (1) and (2) forces as well as encourages people to innovate
Though, there are obviously few people who might misuse (i have heard stories where people coming here in short term travel buy expensive cameras, take pictures, upload and return it back before going to U.S.), the fraction of such population is minuscule.
Every Organization going through challenges and want to really transform should come up with simple policies with far reaching impact which might really pain in short term but transforms the company over a period of time.