Digital Disruptors Grow Up Fast

The digital disruptor has a finite life span before it too needs to recreate itself. The brave new world approach may have a finite life span before being re-consumed by the ‘old world’ it set out to destroy.

Remember the advent of Travelodge and Premier Inn’s et al. They took the hotel market by storm. Offering a low cost solution to overnight accommodation they initially occupied low cost industrial plots, built modular hotels and sold rooms for £19 a night. No breakfast. Hotels slowly responded seeing a way to offset competition by reducing their prices and the range of their offers. Breakfast a traditional element of an overnight stay become an optional extra.

In the meantime the budget hotels found their offer could be extended to the high street. Up went the nominal price accordingly. The £19 per night went up to £22, £29 and now knock around the £79 mark. The burgeoning budget hotel market had become a teenager. Improved room layouts, adjacent catering facilities and a substantial growth in the numbers of hotels built become the norm. Traditional hotels again responded, although the price comparison sites rip 15% of the price in commission, breakfast included became more widespread.

Now a digital disruptor in the hotels market has emerged in the form of Airbnb. The cheap rent a room approach had a massive swipe at conventional and budget hotels. The growth of Airbnb had been spectacular, but it too is now changing. The number of people renting out a spare room is being overtaken by the commercial approach. Commercial operations are buying up entire blocks of flats or half a street to become an Airbnb establishment. Luxury sheds are being installed in gardens. The income is appreciable but so also is the social impact on local residents. There is a treat looming to format of Airbnb.

Uber is a similar case. The cheap hailing service that threatened the conventional taxi spurred a gig economy. Criticism of its poorly controlled modus operandi spread. But now a change is emerging. Uber is allowing the drivers to set the price, they can respond to local conditions and competition more readily. Prices of the once eagerly competitive service are now destined to be less attractive. Drivers, as a result, are no longer part of the gig economy are now considered to be contractors. A new ball game is set to run. As the saying goes, disrupt or be disrupted something conventional and disruptor businesses need to keep in very sharp focus.

Unhelpful Helplines

The growth of technology, online accounts and e-commerce have forced us all to use help lines. On the plus side you get to speak to someone without having to travel to see them in a shop or office. On the negative side you never get to see the whites of their eyes.

The wretched start of the process is the multi choice advice at the start of the call. For ‘this’ press 1 for ‘that’ press 2 for the ‘other’ press 3. “We’re very busy at the moment but your call is important please hang on”. A great start as you, who are assumed are not that busy as you’ve had time to make the call, listen to the on hold music interrupted by having to listen adverts – possibly the reason why you are on hold.

You hang on hoping that the 1, 2, or 3 choice was correct and you won’t be faced with the phone being answered by someone saying you came through on the wrong line, and you are transferred to the back of the right queue.

Contract renewals are probably the bulk of the calls. You have the cheek to query the renewal cost. And this is where technology bites the call centre on the bottom. I recall a sales fundamental known was customer relationship management. CRM. One of the basic principles was the rule ‘the retention of one existing customer is worth 10 new ones’. In great swathes of companies this rule is ignored, replaced by spreadsheets showing just how many new customers they have gained!

The existing customers have just been told their premium is going up. A quick search through comparison sites reveal you are much better off being a new customer. The help line explains that your loyalty is valued but they prefer new customers to meet their targets. And you’re gone, preferring all the hassle of new accounts, direct debits, passwords and login details to the feeling you are being gently screwed.

The massive and basically sapping exercise of finding alternatives begins. Change your energy supplier every year. Use comparison sites to check all insurance policies, buy single tickets between stations en route to save over a return fare. All are technologically fuelled, all fighting the status quo. And the end result, a hefty commission paid to the comparison site, thank you very much.

Maybe we will continue to get more edgy about the remoteness of call centres, and I don’t mean those in India where “your call is important to us, that’s why we have moved the call centre overseas to increase profits”. The interaction with another human where you can actually interact is worth 10 call centres. But there is a cost and balance between the concept of CRM and the quest of profit growth over customer retention. The first guys to crack this code and introduce the solution could create a tsunami in the market that will be equivalent of the digital disruptors. We wait with bated breath.

Watch What You Say

The quotation “Publish and be Damned” originates from the retort of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington on being blackmailed by John Joseph Stockdale and Harriette Wilson. The advent of social media has made the quotation even more relevant.

The origins of the quote stems from a threat by Messrs Stockdale and Wilson to publish her memories and letters from the Duke. Letters may now be in decline, a massive headache for the Post Office but the dramatic and instantaneous nature of social media that have emerged in their place has left many ruining the day they hit the publish button.

I was taught by a sage to always leave a response, observation or retort in “a drawer overnight”. If you still agree with the content the next day then send – but guaranteed you will have changed your mind, reduced the content or want to modified the nature of the letter. Even chuck it in the bin! Amazing how overnight, any rage duly subsided, it proved him right on numerous occasions, even elicited an apology from one sender thanking me for not rising to issue! If he only knew.

The problem now is the instant access to potential damnation. The opportunity for trolls to vent demented and instant opinion is remarkable. The poison pen letter of old at least took a few days to arrive. But we all can be tempted to voice opinion; it’s so easy, I am writing this as an example.

Contrary to the modus operandi of social media who thrive on the good and bad commentary that it generates, fuelled by its immediacy, perhaps there should be an enforced delay in publication. A series of checks and balances to ensure the sender is sure about the content and completes a checklist to promote sensible content.

This process will still allow meaningful objectives and repossess to be published, but hopefully prevent the irrational and emotive opinions that could haunt the publisher for decades. How many people have had past beliefs re-emerge as damaging content even though their opinions have now mellowed, or changed direction.

The instantaneous publication craved by the social media owners to generate response and traffic could be replaced by a new theme – slow news with thoughtful and considered comment. Westminster could take the lead.

Challenge To The Taste Buds

The day started well, up with the larks the sun shining the day held all the freshness of what promised to be a good ‘un.

You start with a bowl of cereal, the good sort the advert promised and to enhance the nourishing qualities you whack on a spoon full of yoghurt. This is the stuff that contains billions and billions of micro things that power up your day. Yet who actually counts the little blighters. Is it a figure dreamt up by the marketing team, or an actual census conducted by an intern – go count the bugs in yoghurt, no not all the bugs just the good guys. Where do you start. Anyhow be that as it may there is one further caveat to the start of your day right. Do make absolutely sure that the pot of life giving yoghurt which’s lives in a white pot in the fridge is the one you pull out half asleep, and definitely not the adjacent very similar pot marked mayonnaise. This provides an altogether extremely weird combination with your favourite cereal, and best avoided. It is impossible to scrape it all off.

Needless Notice

The sign below is a classic example of wasted energy. It is in effect an oxymoron. The message says the information board is broken, feels poorly, unloved, it is a non-sign because the same message would be just as apparent if it was switched off!

Anyway it has been broken for over three months so doubtless no one takes any notice of it anyway. It reminds me of the classic sign in a kids playground which read “It is forbidden to throw stones at this sign”

Coalition Is Best Bet

The electioneering talk is escalating as we loom up the the12th December election. The trouble is who to believe. But I have “a cunning plan”, if we all go for the safe option of voting equally for conservatives, labour and Lib Dem’s we could force a coalition, and totalling up their individual manifestos we should see a total investment in the U.K. of around £2 trillion. Gawd knows where the money will come from but that’s their problem isn’t it, and perish the thought they were telling fibs.

Where’s There’s Muck There’s Money

One of the consequences of Brexit over the past three years is the governments abandonment of ongoing national issues. For the past three years and nothing seems to be coming out of Westminster. The most visual signs throughout the country being the grotesque level of fly tipping rubbish.

The situation is potentially being exacerbated by councils charging for the disposal or collection of household waste. This has tempted the less socially minded members of the population to dispose of their rubbish in other ways. It has also seen the growth of organised disposable operations led by illegal gangs who have dumped truckloads in the highways and byways of the UK.

In the defence of councils their central funding has been seriously reduced over the years requiring councils to impose waste charges which have done the opposite to resolve the problem. Some councils seem to have applied inverse logic to the problem. Restrictions on the shape, size and content have resulted in alternative disposal plans.

One council have restricted the disposal of waste engine oil to one litre per resident per six months. The collection tank was too small and they needed to be “fair to all residents”. As the average car engine has an oil capacity of five litres this would require the diligent resident to make five trips over two and half years. Ironically waste oil has a residual value. It can be sold for reprocessing or use as a low grade heating oil in industry; both a source of additional income whilst saving the countryside from being used as a vast alternative land fill site. All that is needed is an entrepreneurial approach by councils.

Brand Offer

A key role of marketing is to promote a product that we need to rush out and buy or start tapping furiously to buy on line, preferably immediately.

Yet there is a strange logic as to how different categories of product are promoted. Most give you an idea of the end result; paint that is easily washed, mattresses that induce sleep just by looking at them. But a weird category is associated with hair and teeth care. These tend to give you the start point. Shampoo for dandruff, broken ends, oily scalp. Toothpaste for cavities, bad breath or stained teeth. Get the marketing message the wrong way and you enter a whole new and rather disconcerting world.

The same goes for the corporate slogan dreamt up by the advertising agency. The vast majority depict a utopian world known only by the chief marketing guru of the company. Next time you are following a truck have a look at the slogan and see if you can work out what the company does. Around 90 per cent are so all grand they look ludicrous. “Making the world a better place” is a classic. Joe Bloggs “famous pork pies” tells you exactly what they do. But my all time favourite is “We shovel shit ”  on the side of a cess pool emptying truck.

X Marks The Spotify

The campaign for the general election, although only a day old is already stirring up issues many of us have only dreamt of…mostly in nightmares. Cue some dark and dramatic mood music from Spotify whilst you read on.

As a marker the conservatives appear to backing leaving the EU on a deal that is indistinguishable from staying in the EU. Thus raising the question why bother.

Labour wants us to either stay in the EU or leave it. Either way they have massive plans to spend buckets of money buying everything the government does not currently own. Interestingly the money to achieve this involves some very clever maths that is to become part of the national curriculum. You sell your company to the labour government in exchange for several Blue Peter badges and the altruistic chance to make Britain great again. No money need change hands thus avoiding the need for bank charges and shady accountancy firms to be involved.

The conservatives want to leave the EU table but still eat their cake. The competence needed to negotiate a deal was a little spartan within our civil service. They were all trying to work out why smart meters were actually really stupid and why HS2 needed to go north as no one in the government goes there, and anyway none understood what the EU wanted in a deal. It was all in French and double Dutch they said.

The liberals comprise of anyone who fell or was pushed out of their own party. Some ricocheting through several other parties en route. They believe the word referendum is very, very rude and should never be mentioned in public unless you put money in a cuss box.

The Brexit party want to leave the EU as it was their idea first and nobody else should mess it up, least of all the British public. They don’t have any plans beyond that. That’s all they have to say on this matter as Donald Trump hasn’t yet sent them a tweet as to what to say next.

The SNP want to remain in the EU, leave the UK, rebuild Hadrian’s wall and double the price of haggis before Burn’s night. They are furious someone nerd mentioned the need for an English backstop to do this. They pointed out that nobody from London goes to Scotland so the guys in Westminster would ever notice they had left.

The Welsh want everyone to know they are furious about what’s going on just as soon as they understand what actually is going on.

The clearest route ahead is promoted by ex labour MP’s who said whatever we do vote conservative as labour have already ordered several hundred statues of Karl Marx and Leo Trotsky to be stuck on the front of every train and power station chimney. Some really tiny ones will flow out in the water from ours taps like smart water.

Fast Food Man Fried

At the top of many large organisations there are individuals that are manipulated by power or profit. It is difficult to argue they have not achieved something good but in their wake many leave a trail of intrigue bordering on corruption.

The recent demise of the global head of McDonald’s is a strange case. The exceptional and rigid moral standards of the company have been crossed resulting in the abrupt exclusion of the top man. Yet this is a company producing foodstuffs of questionable standard, employing personnel on zero hours contracts, whilst our man in question earns £12m a year. He is also set to be paid £6m severance. During his tenure he jacked up the share price by 100 per cent and generated handsome profits. Yet he crossed a consensual “moral line” and has to go. Admitting a gross error of judgement, possibly of his own rules, the poor lady in question has since been dumped. The executive instigating the departure, turning a blind eye to the many other moral issues previously mentioned, appear happier with the profit he made.

Brexit Finished What Guy Fawkes Started.

The old adage “How long is a piece of string?” has been updated. Future generations will be able to say “How long does is a Brexit?” The three and a half years so far is way beyond any prediction. Parliament has been ripped apart in such a comprehensive way we need to rewrite the history book.

In 1605 Guy Fawkes and a few of his mates failed to blow up the houses of parliament. He can rest in piece now; 414 years later current members of parliament have done it all by themselves. Concern now pervades as to whether parliament can ever recover and start to run the country again after three and half years of achieving nowt.

A real irony of the Guy Fawkes story is that our man Guy – also had an alias; ‘John Johnson’. And he wasn’t even the ring leader, this fell to Robert Catesby. Thus history is repeating itself. The real ring leader of Brexit could be considered to either Nigel Farage or David Cameron. We could possibly chuck in another three ringleaders; add your selection here…… and we have the Brexit plot. Eat your heart out Guy Fawkes!

Nationwide Ban On B Words

As Britain sloshes along on the crest of wave nobody wishes to ride, a novel solution has been designed that will help alleviate the British Nation from parliamentary overload.

The scheme aims to ban all words, written or spoken for one week that begin with the letter ‘B’

The following are examples of such banned words:

  • Brexit
  • Boris
  • Blonde
  • Bercow
  • Backstop
  • Brussels
  • Breakaway
  • Bollocks
  • Banter
  • Behaviour
  • Barnier
  • Brainstorm
  • Bruising
  • Britain
  • Ballot

Terms And Conditions

In the ‘olden days’, customer relations management (CRM) was designed to entice customers to stay with a supplier. Now in the modern era it seems this mantra has almost disappeared.

The rise of the comparison sites fed the inevitable desire to avoid being screwed by your existing supplier. Car, house, travel insurance for example saw the renewal hiked in the knowledge most of us would take it as a given and not bother to review things.

Virtually every contract needed to be scrutinised at the renewal point as virtually every supplier applied the ‘screw you’ algorithm. But there is spark hovering common sense, the emergence of CRM and OK some smokey legislation are outlawing the practice. Suppliers are having a minor rethink – until a new way to screw you has evolved. But as testament to the bad old days the above notice gives potential customers the terms and conditions placed on all customers wanting to buy a new pair of Adidas trainers in Singapore. Wow is all I can say.