Yvonne and I take a cruise annually. Every-single-year-since-2001. Each year, we find out something new, about how we can experience things, life, how great the opposite sex looks in their national environments, where to shop for fantastic bargains, what kind of flora and fauna are endemic to the locales (meaning, we go to their zoos and frequent their aquariums) and most of all, we value an experience that's meant to be just that. An experience.
Thing is, though, that the cruise experience is almost the perfect paradigm for measuring and mapping a customer experience so my professional eye (the left one) gets mixed up with my personal eye (the right one) and I tend to view the entire trip in a cross-eyed kind of way.
What the hell does that mean?
Acually, I do know. I not only thoroughly enjoy, and at times, love, the trips (like this one), but I also get a more acute insight into how to think about the customer experience - so there is even some CRM professional value that I get from the trip.
No. I don't use that as a justification to write off the trip. I don't write off the trip. I shouldn't.
Don't answer that.
In any case, there are a number of things that are memorable about cruises.
In fact, there is nothing more "experiential" than a cruise because the entirety of the cruise is designed to be an experience that is far more than its elements. Everything from the design of the lounges to the art on the wall to the level of service provided by the varying attendants and other staff, to (very importantly) the quality and variety of the food, is part of the totality of what you're paying for.
Which also means that since that's the case, a screw-up by the cruise line, depending on what the expectations are for the cruise, is something almost elemental, not just a f-up. It is feels like something really BIG - a core problem within its context, because the expectations within the context of the cruise are so high.
The irony of a bad experience within the high expectations of the journey is that in the grander scheme of things, it isn't much at all - a pipsqueak of a problem, at most. A screw-up on a well-appointed boat in a luxurious environment, is NOTHING by comparison to a missed food delivery to Ethiopia. But, know what? As misplaced as it seems to those of us who are strongly liberal, it feels really bad anyway.
But this isn't the story of screwups. Actually, we are having a great time and what screwups there have been are not mission critical or experience-desecrating in any way. I'll outline one or two later just to give you a flavor of what I mean by this odd statement.
We are having a fantastic time in the Royal Suite of the Azamara Journey as we sit docked in Hamilton Bermuda (we're actually at sea heading back to the U.S), a beautiful town that is both high energy and low key - vibrant with life but enclouded with a rare kind of friendliness that suffuses and enmeshes everyone captured in it. Lovely, friendly folks zipping around on motorscooters, many of the scooters bright red with a couple of monogram letters on the side of them - JR - or something like that. There is something in the air, tonight, oh lord. (Phil Collins, sorry).
In fact, Bermuda is beautiful. Deep azure really does describe the bright Perrier-sparkling waters, and there are zillions of feathery cirrus clouds floating in the equally blue skies. The island is dense with foliage and good human beings who offer their seats to others on crowded buses, and a generally laid back good will.
In fact, Bermuda is not only beautiful but an oddly well run, smart casual country. "Smart casual" is literally the national dress code and the national demeanor. They actually have a dress code for day to day living that says that tank tops and bathing suits are unacceptable as regular attire and that the generally acceptable clothes code is "smart casual" - something a little less "formal" than our (the U.S.) "business casual" - at least during the day. In fact, its not unusual to see men walking around in incredibly well tailored suits - but the pants are Bermuda shorts. Looked smart and casual - but a little strange to my American eyes.
But it isn't Hamilton that drives the cruise experience, though the choice of Bermuda is an integral part of this cruise experience. The ship, the Azamara Journey - the new luxury ship for the Celebrity Cruise line - is the focus of the experience - which can be called "smart casual" as much as Bermuda calls itself that.
Its funny how cruise experiences can be so intense in a sort of comfortable way. Smart casual fits this ship. The very idea of a great Greenberg-savvy cruise experience is that it is intensely easy on you. I'm not using "intensely easy" as a cute literary metaphor either. That intensity is a profound part of the experience itself - and each ship differs - though there are ships with similar personalities - for example, the Azamara Qwest is probably similar to the Journey - though without the mistakes of this initial boat.
The intense easiness is characterized by its lack of decision-making. Pretty much the most important decision you have to make is are you going to take the elevator or the stairs to dinner.
Thing that makes this different from any other cruise is our past history with cruises and thus our expectations and the nature of how this particular line of cruise experiences is constructed. Not the ships, not the amenities, not just the environment, but the cruise experience as a whole.
For those of you who've read me for god-knows-what-reasons, you'll understand this one. Because I've been harping on the fact that the new business models are built around the idea of the company as the aggregator of the products, services, tools and environments necessary to create what the customer perceives to be an authentic (thank you, Joe Pine 2) experience that's suited for them - and yet can be shared with others so that its value becomes social.
What that means is that every single feature of a cruise, which all in all is a vacation getaway, has to be sculpted to both address a certain financial strata and yet at the same time, create a specific ambiance that each customer/cruiser wants his/her vacation to be.
In the case of the Azamara Journey, it was born of a collaboration between the small Azamara Cruise line and the more mega-cruiseline, Celebrity, owned by the oh-so-very-mega cruiseline Royal Caribbean, to provide a luxurious experience that is low key and laid back.
The differences between it and the regular Celebrity experience and other cruise lines are notable.
First, the ship is smaller than a typical Celebritiy cruise experience. On a Celebrity ship, there are 1700 passengers (about 3/5 of the passengers on a Royal Caribbean Blank of the Seas ship). On the Azamara Journey there are 700 passengers. On the Celebrity, around 850 crew (1:2 ratio to passengers) - on the Journey 400 crew (4:7 ratio - whatever that is - better than 1:2 though). On the Celebrity, the Royal Suite, which Yvonne and I bought for a 2-weeker to Hawaii last year, was 850 square feet of contemporary good taste and TV sets and internet connectivity. Here the Royal Suite, which we were upgraded to (great experience #1) - twice actually (see bad experiences below if you have a second), it is perhaps 600 square feet but is entirely comfortable. One big interesting difference. On this one - complimentary bar including a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV. Didn't have that on the last ship. Also a bottle of J &B Rare Scotch, Absolut Vodka and another sparkling bubby - Bouvet Signature Brut - to add to the alcoloot. Plus complimentary soft drinks and Evian to either add to the spirits or to swallow frequently. Even though the room was not quite the wonderful Royal Suite of the Celebrity ship, the amenities were better and thus the feeling of luxury greater. Plus if we want to, we can take them home. Though we drank the Perrier-Jouet, opened the J&B and had a little, but won't be taking the other bottles home. Too much to carry given the other things we bought in Bermuda.
Additional examples, movies that were the $11.00 per variety on pay per view on the last ship (Celebrity Zenith), such as Will Ferrell's best ever in "Stranger Than Fiction" and "Flags of Our Fathers" etc. are all free here and "free" is part of the ambiance. So we've watched a lot of movies, which may seem ridiculous to many since we're sitting in Bermuda, (BTW, which we did extensively tour and shop in. Awesome Zoo and Aquarium), but it added to the laid back coziness we were looking for on this trip.
Another thing is that theater-style entertainment on this trip is largely nonexistent. Most cruises have elaborate shows with things like pro-level figure skaters doing ice shows on board the ships in the middle of the Caribbean as you pass by active volcanoes, or small budget shows that appears to look big budget but are entertaining B-level Broadway show tunes singers and dancers. But here, there is no real entertainment - in fact, so little that the first three days consisted of a magician, a dance contest for the passengers and an encore for the magician.
That suits us fine. We are just looking to do little more than relax.
But, this is all part of the experience.
Let me take you to somewhere else for a minute. I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's IV: A Decade of Curious People And Dangerous Ideas, an enormously entertaining series of his always funny, sometimes great essays on pop culture. He's known for his pretty damned cogent take on the meaning of pop culture which he identifies by viewing things from the eyes of pop culture - (Pop-eye?) and with a very "I'm cool, but not faking it" perspective.
He has one essay in this book on a cruise called "Deep Blue Something: That '70s Cruise" that he wrote in 2005 about a "Rock & Roll Cruise" that featured (the real) Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Journey. And he points out that its not the cruise in this case as much as the idea that these rock bands from the 70s are on it - and they know how to play unlike contemporary musicians (this is of course disputable, but don't shoot me, I'm the messenger here) - and that's why people are willing to pay to see REO Speedwagon on a boat. The other reason that he says that it's meaningful for these guys to pay $3K per person is that these rock stars are also normal people which becomes apparent when they are comingling on the boat and people "f-ing LOVE that." That's right. They rock to pay the mortgage. The experience that THESE cruisers are having is intensely PERSONAL with these rockers and that is the dream that is real (my phrase, not his) for these ordinary folk-cruisers. That their rock heroes are like them - and thus, of course, ARE them, also.
How can you characterize this unique and singular cruise-not cruise experience? By the brilliant last sentence that Klosterman pens in the essay to the cruisers themselves:
"Don't ever stop believing. I mean it. Don't."
And if you read the essay, you'd realize he really does mean it.
What did I just tell you about, though? A cruise ship. An experience. But one entirely different than ours and one that I suspect that I would have loved too - if it had different groups. But you get the picture. These are designed to provide you with something that is memorable enough for you to want to repeat it with a particular and potentially different set of expectations for the next time out.
Before I get to the final part - the nitty gritty - a few (very few) of the problems on the ship and in one case, before we ever got on and a brief discussion of how we weighed them (and why this means anything at all)
That's just three of the issues. Again, I don't want you to think that this was some bad cruise. It was great (though, the question is, should I care what you think? I do, but why is that - to get all existential on you for a bit - we had a great time, which really is enough, isn't it?). We would do it again in a heartbeat and I know I feel refreshed - which will probably last me all of another week.
That's what its all about, isn't it?
But you can't underestimate the need to share these things. Its not just a matter of how great it was for you - no matter how much you protest it was - it matters that you can tell someone about it. BTW, the business value of knowing that humans like to share, as obvious as that is, is immense.
Again, I quote that wise pop culture dude, Chuck Klosterman on this. He says in his essay on Johnny Carson, written when J.C. died in 2005, that art and culture's biggest social benefits are when it can provide "shared experiences (which) are how we connect with other people and how we understand our own identity." But the "pockets of shared experience" (the individual personalized experiences) may not be experiences that are easy to share. There is no guarantee that experiences by nature can be shared. There have to be vehicles created to share them.
These vehicles can be YouTube - I can't create the video on YouTube, but I can share it. It can be a Facebook application. The most popular applications - with downloads often in the million are the ones that can compare your likes and dislikes to those of your friends - ILike, the music sharing application, for example.
But the vehicle can be as simple as telling a story and the means to do that on a blog (like this one) or a social review site (like the aforementioned cruisecritics.com). The idea is that each time you read something about the cruise Yvonne and I took and the experience we had, you're not only reflecting on the experience we had, but the "what-if" experience you might have had, also. You are weighing and judging what we had.
But we get to tell the story and it feels good.
I hope the business value of this is obvious to you - my left eye shows me you see that. A great experience that I had and propagate can drive further customers - so its in the interest of Celebrity/Azamara to provide me with what I need to not just have a great experience but to tell a great story about it. And that means cruise veteran evangelists. That story leads to(potentially) new business as y'all who read this who want to go on a good cruise might consider Celebrity/Azarmara because I seemed to enjoy it. And Celebrity/Azamara might read this because it points out what they have to do to make me improve my story next time.
Oh yeah, one postscript. Probably because this ship left from Bayonne, NJ, there is an INCREDIBLE number of Yankees fans on the ship - I'd estimate (no joke) about 1/3 of the ship - rife with hats and teeshirts saying Posada, Jeter, and just the everpresent NY Yankees logo. The Yankees discussions (all diehards - of course, like me) was a way of bonding with people. Seriously. It was amazing.
"Welcome, Mr. Greenberg."
Just three words and you realize that not only ain't CRM so bad after all, but that an entire country can practice it and once again remind you why can be in love - with something that's also good business.
Of course, I'm talking about my trip to Singapore again and once again, I'm completely in love - with an entire nation. Or is it a city? Or is it a city-state?
All of the above.
The only downside of Singapore is that it is so unbelievably far from Manassas that a round trip to and from is 20,000 miles and THAT, my customer-seeking buds, is a LOOOOONG way.
But, damn if it isn't worth it.
As many of you know from my prior reports on Singapore, in August 2005, Prime Minister Lee announced what remains a unique and amazing program - the National Service Excellence Initiative. In his speech calling upon every citizen to make sure that the customer experience for every citizen, ex-pat and foreigner was in his words, equated with that of the Ritz-Carleton. It had been about 20 months since I had been there last. It was apparent that they had been continuing the effort because in June of this year Accenture had announced that Singapore was number 1 in the world (with Canada number 2 and the United States number 3) for their superb national customer service. But getting an award from Accenture - a company that, honestly, isn't exactly a company known for their own wonderful service culture - is nowhere near the same as actually experiencing it and I was going to see how well it was doing - at least anecdotally - because I had the opportunity to travel there due to the good graces of SAP - who brought me over to address the Singaporean equivalent of SAPPHIRE - the SAP Summit. In fact, I had three speeches in 2 days. One to the SAP CxO luncheon at the conference and another to the general body. Then on August 1, my dear, dear friend, colleague, contributing author to CRM at the Speed of Light and CRM veteran big time, Mei Lin Fung (see her superb article at Greater China CRM on all that Singapore is doing to earn the title the best) had me speak to a gathering of 125 members of the PMO office after a smaller lively meeting with three members of the Permanent Secretary's Office.
They really know how to put together a conference. Thanks to Alicia Woo, SAP senior marketing manager and event organizer extraordinaire, this conference (and how I was treated) didn't miss a single detail or a beat. Not a one. Alicia was the glue that held the whole thing together and what was amazing, she did it with a brief conversation here, a longer one there, a gesture and a look. Take them in combination and twenty five things were done. My engagements went off without a hitch.
I spoke to both audiences (ultimately all three) on the new wave CRM that focuses on customer engagement, not managing relationships with customers. This means something more concerned with how to capture the attention of customers using the contemporary methods and tools that the customers are already using. I did the CxO one first to roughly 70 or so senior people at a luncheon for them and while I got some solid kudos for that from the attendees, I wasn't totally happy with the presentation I gave.
I know. I always here I'm my hardest critic. But the reality is that I have to be my hardest critic. Look, in 45 minutes, I can't solve the problems of 55 companies and 15 government agencies by a speech I give. So as a speaker, all I can do is provide ideas that they can get excited about which comes when I can establish a coherent framework, make a strategic case, do it in a way that excites and fires the neural paths of the imagination and the passions of the desire to accomplish something. The ideas themselves, in the interest of the short time are high level but substantial enough to provide value. And, that means I have to be continously and serially coherent - AND focused in a framework. I do that, and people will get excited. I don't do that and they may get excited (though they may not) but I won't be satisfied.
No personal quarter taken. Leave no contextual prisoners.
At the end of the presentation two extraordinarily interesting things.
I had a conversation with Desmond T., who was part of the Ministry of Defense, who told me of their nascent efforts at blogging - a gasp-inducing revelation. Something that I intend to follow up on.
But my personal dissatisfaction lingered. I had the opportunity to chat with Tarun Mathur., President of ECnet a company that links its engine to procurement and other backoffice systems so they can operate in the environment they are comfortable with. Kind of the mirror end of what InvisibleCRM does.
(Whew. I'm gonna take a bit of a break now. I'm on the leg of my return from Tokyo to Washington D.C. and am starting to feel sleep deprived so its time to sleep. I'll pick this up at some ungodly hour later on this trip because I have a lot to. Another PG wordy entry. Listening to Hendrix on my iPhone)
Back. Just slept for hours. Feelin' jet lagged refreshed.
Now onto the story.
So I told Tarun that I wasn't happy with how things flowed at the CxO lunch. Again, I got feedback that said great, great, great, but I didn't love the way it flowed and I thold him that. He said, "well, i took a lot of notes, would you like my feedback?
He sat with me for about 20 minutes and gave me some good insights which led to some good ideas and the afternoon, before a crowd of perhaps 600 or more attendees. I rolled through and did I what I always have to do with the rather shy Singaporean audiences. Watched their eyes closely to see how they are responding. I can't say for sure that eyes are windows to the soul, but they are windows to the responsiveness of the audience. I liked what I saw and if you see the blog entry I did before I left, I had a response before I ever got on the plane to come home. Take a look. So my new friend Tarun helped me quite a bit. Thanks, man.
SAP sent some good messages throughout the day and people such as Alicia Woo, Maggie Chua, and Ben Nottle were (and are) and pleasure to work with.
What is absolutely STRIKING about Singapore is the levels that the people of this country will go to so that anyone who touches the ground there to make them feel important, This is in addition to the beauty of the city's greenery and the remarkable growth that is evident everywhere, and the intelligence and electricity of the people. And their charm.
And, in public meetings, their shyness. In the three speeches I gave, there wasn't a single question. But their eyes "betrayed" their interest.
But the most striking thing of all was the government interest in how to apply CRM and how to deal with citizen engagement as their new strategy. This was a BIG, BIG leap.
When I was here a year and a half ago and did he a get together of multiple government agencies (17 in all), aside from being impressed with a few of them like the Land Transport Authority (LTA) who were doing some remarkable things and SPRING who were driving the National Service Excellence Initiative, I realized their was a long way to go when the first question I got was "why do we need CRM, we're the government?"
But what has become apparent is that this desire has come a long, long way. I'd say a good 25% of the SAP conference attendees were from government agencies. The DSTA (Defense Science and Technology Agency) was everywhere....I mean everywhere. Dozens of attendees from that agency alone.
It became even more apparent the next day when Alicia and I met with three members of the Permanent Secretary's office to discuss how to deal with the frequently activie citizenry - something quite similar to problems that the Congress has. But unlike Congress which doesn't seem at this point with a few exceptions to deal with it, The Permanant Secretary's Office seems to sincerely want to try to figure out how to solve this. The problem in a nutshell is that they are vociferous citizens, which means some of the best, but in a left-brained world, they are a serious budgetary drain that is paid for by taxpayers money. So the condundrum is how to take care of the 20% of the population that 100% of the population is paying for, so to speak. We came up with some suggestions in what I would have to call a short, but exceptionally lively meeting.
Then a speech to the Prime Minister's Office. I did the big picture, Mei Lin the "how to" in front of 125 (roughly) middle management staffers from the PMO. Again, only questions from email and the Internet - not from the crowd - a crowd response that is easy to get used to because a. its cultural and b. eyes still are windows to the engagement.
It's all so very cool. One interesting result, I'll be writing an article for Ethos Magazine's April issue (a publication of theCivil Service College) in Singapore.
But now the Mr. Greenberg story because of what it represents
After about 21 hours of flying from Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. through Narita Airport in Tokyo, I landed at Changhi in Singapore. Before I got 50 feet I was greeted by Mark, part of Jet Quay (pronounced "key") who was there to shepherd me through immigration and get me into a taxi. He was a very friendly, intelligent and helpful person, making sure I understood the process, making sure that I had my luggage, making sure that life would be easy for me through the airport itself (which, given that I left at noon on the 29th of July and arrived at 11:55pm on the 30th, with a screwed up body clock, was REALLY welcome). He got my luggage while I got through a SLOOOOOW immigration line and I hopped into a Mercedes E200 and was driven to the Marine Mandarin Hotel by a friendly, well informed and interesting driver. As soon as I steppped out of the taxi, before the trunk was even open to get my luggage, I was greeted by a hotel attendant with, "Welcome Mr. Greenberg,"
Not "Welcome" or "Welcome sir" but "Welcome, Mr. Greenberg"
I was befuddled, trying figure out how he knew my name, given that my luggage tags weren't even showing yet.
I went into the hotel.
Another attendant came up along side me:
"Will you be needing help with your luggage, Mr. Greenberg?"
I headed to the reception/registration desk on the 4th floor of this contemporary beautiful hotel. Before I even hit the desk,
"Hello Mr. Greenberg, please step over here and let me take care of you."
There is an important lesson in customer value in all this, in addition to making me feel really, really good.
What if they said, "Welcome, sir." Will you be needing help with your luggage, sir?" or Hello, sir, please step over here and let me take of you."
Even though the utilitarian side would be exactly the same and the quality of the service processes and procedures would be no doubt superbly executed, the difference maker was "Mr. Greenberg" instead of "sir." That alone shows that value to the customer is very different than expected corporate value.
Value to a company is typically left brained - measurable profitability, revenue increases, cost efficiencies and the like. Value to a customer is NOT that. Value to a customer is beauty, creation, validation and attribution, a sense of community, etc. The effect of simply knowing my name rather than a generic sir gave me all three of those latter customer value attributes and it amounted to two words.
So, imagine a whole country that is beautiful with green initiatives, and significant historical preservation programs, also committed in every way to being like the "Ritz Carleton."
That's what Singapore is like and they've made incalculable progress - both to my surprise and not to my surprise at all in the last 18-20 months. And they should be proud of it.
And the rest of the world? Learn from it.
We'll get the rest right there in time. For now, light years is pretty much the measure ahead they are in their progress.
You have to love that Mr. Mrs. Ms. Whatever Your Name Is. (Okay, I don't know how to do that with a blog yet. After Singapore a blogger mail merge just doesn't seem to cut it).
Take a trip there. You won't regret and you can learn all about a CRM initiative and the customer experience "process" without hiring some expensive consultant (like me) by showing up at some door at some hotel. Marine Mandarin for sure.
Just a couple of things....
I'm heading off to Singapore today by way of Tokyo and will be there sometime tomorrow - actually closer to the day after. I'm speaking at an SAP "Sapphire-like" conference in Singapore twice - once to the CxOs at a luncheon - and then to the general body - on the new media stuff and will then be doing a similar presentation at the Prime Minister's Office the next day. Then back here.
When I get back, the CRM iPhone bakeoff will begin. Everyone seems to be onboard and assigning me accounts to get going. I'll keep you posted both from Singapore and when I get back.
Wish me luck.
What a trip....the most amazing and possibly the most disconcerting trip I've ever made - and one I would do again in a heartbeat.
Last week, I traveled to Bogota Colombia, to be one of the keynotes in a 2-day CRM gala event - the number 1 CRM Conference in Colombia, and possibly in all of South America- run by Rafael Rodriguez, a managing principal of Focused Management Inc., a CRM guru in his own right, a genuinely nice man, and a good friend and coordinated by the meticulous event planner, Diego Ramirez of Practica - easily the most organized event I ever attended.
Prior to coming to Bogota, I have to admit I had some trepidations. I mean, the stories of kidnapped Americanos and drug lords in Medellin and Cali didn't exactly excite me . But I really wanted to do this conference. I had planned on doing it last year, but there were some parental issues that took me out of the picture for that event.
So I went.
I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised and at the same time, the security was DEFINITELY top of mind of the entire country.
Let's get this part out of the way.
Okay, that's out of the way. Oddly, you feel quite safe because Colombia is taking its security situation seriously and I never once, other than observationally, thought about it. I didn't worry a bit, once I got there.
But the conference, ahhhh, the conference.....
This was easily the best conference I ever spoke at, no insult intended to any of them in the past. There were 200 attendees - most in their 20s and 30s, some in their 40s and 50s - all with an electric intelligence that was manifested in multiple ways throughout the conference. There was constant discussion, serious interest in how CRM was changing, what the customer experience was like, how to measure all this. The questions were restless, they were well thought out, they were lively.
The format of the conference was a major speaker, then a case study, another major speaker, another case study and then a panel of the speakers from the day. It went for two days. So the lead speakers were Naras Eechambadi, President/CEO of Quaero, who I have spoken on extensively here; Bob Thompson, CEO and founder of CustomerThink, formerly CRMGuru, the world's largest online customer-centric community (150,000 subscribers), Rafael Rodriguez, the founder of FMI (see above) and arguably one of the, if not the, leader of CRM efforts in South America; Jay Curry, a pioneer in CRM and measurement, also, apocryphally the father of Adam Curry, creator of the podcast; and me. There were case studies from IBM and Grupo Aval, one of the largest bank groups in Colombia.
Each of the primary speakers had three hours. Seems like a lot but, personally, I ran out of time!!
What was amazing wasn't just the speakers - all of whom had a lot to contribute, but the intelligence of the audience. It was a nonstop question fest for two days. How do you measure the customer experience? What impact do customers have on the supply chain? Who would you say are the vendors who actually get the new world that we're moving into? How does one focus this around financial services? Does a CRM implementation take the new tools into account? Does workflow have an impact on measurement when it comes to how productive the managers and staff are with their customer-centric goals?
This was also the best looking group of humans in a single place I ever saw. The women were gorgeous and the men were handsome and they all exuded an individual confidence that was both staggering and heartwarming to behold.
Which highlighted a really peculiar irony.
While it wasn't unusual to see a stunning young woman in her late 20s who was in a position of influence at a major Colombian corporation, or a 35 year old man running his own successful company in Colombia, there was this what we used to call a "little me" sense of national identity, though not of personal identity. The refrain I heard both days was, "well, Colombia is so far behind" or "all these new technologies and new business models are for aficionados, not for us generally." This attitude was prevalent.
After thinking about it, I decided to take it on head on in my presentation on the 2.0 world and the business models that are appropriate to it. I used Threadless as the polemic. Basically, my comments were along these lines.
"I've heard for the last two days that Colombia is 'behind' and that 'this new model is for aficianados.' I don't mean to be disrespectful, but that's not true. First, you complain about the infrastructure. Well, I'm using EDGE here in Bogota with my Blackberry and that is no different that what I have available to my Blackberry in the U.S. So the infrastructure is there. Second, Threadless, as I pointed out was formed by 4 college graduate students with an Internet connection. I've shown you that you have the Internet connection. Are you telling me you can't come up with four graduate students in the entire country?....You are the most electrifying intelligent audience I've ever dealt with, bar none. And, I'd have to say, the best looking. Thank you."
In a condensed fashion, that's what I said.
The fact is that the size of this conference, the enthusiastic interest shown by the 200 participants, and level of questions asked by this crowd points out the amazing possibilities for providing the customer-centric culture that will be necessary to lead Latin America to providing the kind of human "service excellence" committed to by only Singapore to date and by various individual agencies of government in the United States and the UK among others.
Colombia is ripe for Business 2.0.
And there is a coalition to prove it. While in Bogota I met with Eduardo Sanchez of Mass Digital, one of the largest interactive marketing firms in South America (I think he said second largest, though don't hold me to that). Oddly, Eduardo happened to work at El Tiempo, Colombia and one of South America's leading newspapers on their web presence seven years ago - and worked with Rafael Rodriguez there. Weird coincidence....though I've seen weirder --- stories for another time another place and another dimension. Eduardo is also the Colombian representative of a coalition of companies called CustomersForever that is providing CRM and social media services as a coalition throughout Latin America and also has an annual CRM Conference, CRMC CALA each year. They are a BPT Partners business partner for us in South America and represent a cutting edge for the Latin American nations CRM initiatives.
In other words, there is a lot of advanced CRM activity going on in South America and its exciting, vibrant, intelligent and very pretty too.
I hope they invite me back.
Soy un gran, muy gran, fan.
I'm sitting here at 1:55am Dallas time, post-night-of-tornado-warnings-and-bad-weather-that-mostly-bypassed us. Also another night of a pitching-induced Yankees loss and I'm feeling a little....gloomy...tired...but I can't sleep.
Figgered that (I KNOW its figured - figgered is a figger of speech) I would wrap up a bunch of things, throw out some not-so-random thoughts amidst the noir.
.....First, if you remember an entry of a few day ago, I wrote about Verticals On Demand, a company that I think merits a REAL close look. I speculated on Marc Benioff's rumored investment in the company. Last night I received this email from Matt Wallach, their very smart VP of Marketing and Sales:
Loved your coverage of Verticals onDemand. Thanks for your kind words.
I am writing to officially deny the rumor that Marc Benioff is an investor in Verticals onDemand. Salesforce.com has lots of partners and Marc cannot show favoritism.
Hope to speak to you again sometime,
So, consider the rumored investment put to bed (unlike me, dammit). I have no reason not to believe Matt, who seems to be a standup guy.
An add appeared in the Wall St. Journal on Monday that was entitled "Siebel CRM on Demand: CRM On Demand."
It was a simple chart that compared what they called Oracle/Siebel to Salesforce.com. What it was set up like was something like this:
Pre-built industry specific solutions
Pre-built integration to ERP
Built in Email Marketing
Expand to a Complete Application Suite
Hosted on or Off Site
What made this typical Oracle trash was the last entry in particular - which implied that salesforce.com didn't have secure multi-tenant hosting. That's just a straighforward lie. While you could make the case some of the entries might be true (salesforce.com is not hosted onsite for example), some twisted (pre-built industry solutions - not integrated into the out of the box offering (nor is Oracle for that matter) but VOD is building verticals on the salesforce.com platform (see below), but I happened to write a part of CRM at the Speed of Light in 2004 that detailed the physical, internet, server level, data, etc. security depth that salesforce.com had and it was powerful - and that was 3 years ago and its improved since.
Oracle knows that. This is just a lie.
Let Oracle prove all of their checkmarked claims. I'll print them here and give salesforce.com equal time for the bakeoff.
Every Monday morning, I get this free, I don't know what to call it...newsletter...bulletin...at 2:30am CST insomniac hours, I don't really care...from AMR Research written by Bruce Richardson (that's Bruce Richardson, not Bruce Dickinson who puts his pants on one leg at a time and then produces gold records - who knows what I'm talking about here?), AMR's enterprise applications thought driver. What fascinates me about this analyst is that his stuff is solid as a rock and insightful. He's not a big Enterprise 2.0 guy. Can't think of any time he addressed the social media issues at all. But he KNOWS the market space and covers it with intelligence and a thoughtful set of insights.
Last week, in his discussion on the successful earnings report of SAP, he noted one number that stood WAY out to me - 30% of NetWeaver sales were for standalone deals, with no other SAP applications involved. In a separate segment, he noted that salesforce.com was unbundling their platform from the applications.
As you well know, I've been a longstanding trend-watcher when it came to the platform play of the CRM vendor leaders like SAP and salesforce.com. I think its smart and a great way to position oneself against the owners of the desktop and to be the leader of the new desktop - the webtop. SAP is using NetWeaver to do the agnostic thing here and clearly is being successful. Salesforce.com did it with AppExchange first and now this official unbundling of the platform. Rearden Commerce does it with an SOA that attaches 135,000 concierge services. The battle for the hearts, minds, and walletshare of the business world/consumers has moved another step forward.
Read Bruce Richardson and someday you'll be wearing gold diapers - oh wait, that's Bruce Dickinson again. But DO read Bruce Richardson.
I'm tired and I want to sleep.
But I can't.
I'm using the Blackberry 8800 and I have to say that I love it. It does almost everything I want and unlike the Pearl which had a camera that was pretty shabby, this one eliminated the camera and add TelNav GPS which has been genuinely useful though it costs an extra $10 a month. I'd get it or wait for the rumored 8820 which is the 8800 with WiFi. How cool is that?
I want one.
But that's not why I'm writing this entry actually. If you noticed, day before yesterday, RIM announced that they were unbundling a version of their software/OS from their now very slick prosumer devices and providing true Blackberry services (with the Blackberry rather spartan interface) on Windows Mobile 6.0 devices. In other words, providing a mobile devicetop (lots of tops floating around at this hour) service set that isn't device-dependent. That is a great strategy and I applaud them for it. Crackberry loyalists should recognize this as a move to spread the RIMjoy that can improve their market position - whatever device you own. So style trumps utility because you can get Blackberry utility now for real or virtually.
Very good move.
I'm gonna try and get some sleep. I could use a coupla hours. Wish me luck.
Oh BTW, SAP said, CRM is its fastest growing horizontal applications. From the mouth of President SAP USA Bill McDermott, no less. Cool.
Its been too long but the time is right now. I have to cover Rearden Commerce and the only excuse I have for not doing much more than mentioning this rather amazing bunch is a "the dog ate my homework" excuse. I was actually writing something on Rearden a few months ago - I forget exactly how long ago (ummm, convenient memory loss?) and my system went down and I had to rebuild it. My system that is. Arf. Woof.
In any case, I'm a long time fan of Rearden Commerce for a lot of reasons and their recent announcement on their partnership with American Express is both something comment-worthy on the one hand, a good excuse to talk about Rearden and why I like them on the other hand, and a place where I can mouth a bit on the integration of work and personal life rather than the balance of work and personal life and the smart behavior that companies should be exhibiting by recognizing this, on the third hand (okay, so I'm a mutant...maybe its a spiritual, or ghostly or mystical third hand. But then, maybe not...).
(This headline is an homage to the 60s, BTW. Can anyone remember the original that went with it? First one to give me the right answer - there are more than one - wins $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon.com)
Rearden Commerce, on November 13, announced a partnership with American Express that can be called CRM 2.0 - The Right Way.
The idea is simple. American Express and Rearden are offering the Rearden Personal Assistant Service to American Express's (?) 4000 corporate customers so that they can have an array of mainstream and long tail travel services in a coherent web-fed environment.
The premise behind this one (and Rearden Commerce in general) is twofold. First, that it is understood by intelligent businesses who happen to reside in a 21st century milieu that their workforce is working a lot longer hours than it used to. That work-life balance is not really that but work-life integration. Ergo, the individual employee is going to need to do two things. One, be more productive and two, be more productive. But both in different ways.
The first "more productive" is the recognition by businesses that providing a wide array of services to the employee, makes the organized scheduling and use of those services that much more effective, efficient and productive. Isn't it easier, my fine untethered friends, to be able to utilize multiple channels to do things like book travel, line up cars, hotels, etc. and airport parking, PLUS provide the evening's entertainment through ticketing and concierge services and A/V conferencing space ad infinitum or at least ad thousands more servicesum all in one convenient and coherent personalized portalized service-oriented-architectural way? The answer here is a resounding YES!
The second "more productive" has to do with the increasing recognition by employers that since their employees ARE working longer hours and even from home that it is highly likely that employees are going to do personal things from work - the same way they do work things from home. The smart employers are saying, "well, I suppose that means that we should provide make the services easily available to our employees so that they can take care of those personal things more efficiently and thus will be more productive because they were able to do the personal stuff fasterbetter and thus have more time to work at work AND they will like us for not only letting them do it but for giving them the tools to do it better."
Rearden is perhaps the first company to both recognize the two "more productives" and then develop the technology AND procure the services to take care of it.
With an on-demand platform, no less. AND a fully realized service oriented architecture. The first one that I've seen that I can comfortably say is a true SOA, not just a bunch of advanced web services that try to link a few business rules to it - typically reminds me of bunch of ugly hair extensions on a bald guy.
And THAT starts the story....
According to one of the very Rearden-friendly reports I read (I found very little criticism out there, frankly, and because the Rearden VP of Marketing Jeff Pulver is a good bud of mine, I looked hard - as a counterbalance to possible prejudiced thinking, of course) from PhoCusWright (how cute!), the market for business services in the U.S. alone is $471 billion - a whole lotta jack. That also means that companies out there are crying for business services ranging from shipping packages to airport parking to web and telephone services to event planning to insurance services, gift services, couriers, charter flights, and any other of the services that the 135,000 providers that Rearden has direct and indirect access to can provide. That is a number that Rearden claims, not me exaggerating and knowing them, they can back it up. I'll ask them for a complete list immediately.
The fact is that the while many of the services offered are niche services that are now defined as "long tail" after the book of the same name, the user-centric approach that Rearden takes makes all that work. By aggregating the 135,000 services that Rearden can reach out to, and taking a user centric approach, the small niches become both successful and profitable as part of a personal value chain or, if you want to call it this, a user ecosystem. Rather than going to a series of disparate sites to take care of the services that you need for your business (and personal) requirements, you, as a user, have all the services aggregated to a single place for you to view - your very own business services portal door. Plus, based on the business rules and the workflow, changes and alerts can be pushed to your personal "site" so that you can access new services that might meet your profiled needs or learn about changes in your services as they occur.
The suppliers to this platform are part of the Rearden Commerce Network - RCN - you know them; the ones with Anderson Cooper's 360 - oh, waitaminute, that's CNN, not RCN. RCN means the Royal Canadian Navy - oh wait a minute, that's RCN, not RCN.
Actually, the Rearden Commerce Network is the supplier network. Its members are "attached" to the architecture by industry standard adapters or custom built ones when the industry standard adapters just won't do. Then the Services Console comes into action. That's where the group and individual profiles are created and permissions/roles etc. are created. So how the consumer/user accesses the RCN is done by the managers and administrators at the Services Console.
There are other technology pieces but the heart of the whole thing is The Personal Assistant that sits at the center of the American Express offering. This is where "service as a platform" gets transformed to "business services on demand." Assuming permissions set in the Service Console, you, as a consumer, or as a group of consumers, set your shopping requirements, booking needs, notifications and alerts depending on your interests. Do you want to have two different set of services - one to handle your business needs like airport parking and travel booking, hotel booking and equipment shipping and the other to handle your more personal shopping needs ranging from online grocery shopping and delivery to notifications that are sent to your friends and significant others about your travel plans? Done. Do you want the notifications to come to your cell phone, your travel companion's Blackberry, your spouse's laptop. Done. Done. Done. Done.
Cool model, isn't it?
Yeah it is. But not just cool. Its potentially disruptive and a step forward in the on demand world. Not only is "software as a service" (Industry-wide) or "service as a software" (NetSuite) but the idea that "service as a platform" (I coined this particular phrase, I think) becomes a reality as Rearden Commerce implements a massive offering of ancillary and direct services that are valuable to businesses on a fully realized services oriented architectural platter.
Rearden Commerce rocks. They are just so...so...CRM/Web 2.0.
I was thumbing through the most recent Brooks Brothers Holiday catalog last night and something stood out that I had never seen before. No, not a zoot suit or a Pee Wee Herman style guide. They were selling clothes (not surprising), accessories (not surprising) and what they called "experiences" (surprising). The two I noticed were a night of Jazz and a trip to Chorus Line (currently in revival on Broadway). Not TOTALLY what a customer experience is all about but it was notable.
I then picked up the newest edition of Electronic House and read the editorial that precedes the rest of the magazine in every issue. It was all about "customer service" but from the standpoint of the experience that a customer has at consumer electronic stores and how many, especially Tweeters, are redesigning and revamping their stores to provide a room by room unique electronics "experience" for each customer.
Couple that with my entry of a few days ago on the "revamp" of NBC and there is somethin' a goin' on that is becoming clearer and clearer.
The tsunami of the social customer and the so-called 2.0 changes (I wish I could figure out a better term that you'd all love and adopt and replace 2.0 with. I wish.) are hitting so hard that even the more conservative mainstream/traditional businesses are beginning to have to respond - even if its in that awkward way that those not figuring it out often do respond. "Sure, I know what that experience thing is. Ummm....yup....sure.....yeah...."
Not where I'd be looking for a first responder. But the social pressure to provide those experiences a la Joe Pine's mass customization are powerful indeed and no longer able to be ignored.
This is remarkably short for me because I'm heading out to San Antonio to do some training on Applied CRM Strategy for BPT and just finished a webinar on 21st C.customer strategies for SAP with Pat Bakey, who is SAP's Senior VP for CRM Solutions for North America and an all around good guy.
Off to Dulles.
Sometimes being a CRM guru/thought leader is really just being a CRM butthead.
I'm talking about me here. This is not about someone else.
I'm sitting here recalling two separate and disparate "lyrics" (only one is really a lyric and the other just musical) - one from Good Charlotte in their hit "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" and the other from Miguel De Cervantes masterwork "Don Quixote."
Here they are in reverse order:
"Good actions ennoble us, we are the sons of our own deeds" - Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes
"You say you have problems. That's because you can solve them." - Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous by Good Charlotte
I'm on a cruise right now. My wife and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary and we went all out and got the Royal Suite on Celebrity Cruise's GTS Summit - a ship that holds around 2200 passengers and nearly a thousand crew (great ratio). The Royal Suite is magnificent - about 800 square feet with a veranda, several rooms, two plasma TVs (I'm watching the A's - Twins first ALDS playoff as I write this - want to date stamp this? Frank Thomas JUST hit a homer off of Santana in the 2nd inning), a separate dining room, a Bang & Olufsen CD/Radio/etc. player on the wall, teak contemporary walls, a weird sort of jacuzzi in the bathroom that I can't figure out, sculptures, original art, a separate living room, and a full time (for the penthouse wing) butler. The food on this ship is exceptional with world class chefs trained by a guy who has a Michelin-starred restaurant and there are 10 bars all rather unique at this place. There is also a very good gym and jogging track. The gym has strength training machines and free weights in addition to a substantial amount of cardio stuff.
Plus, we're heading to Hawaii for two weeks.
Hard to complain isn't it? Not if you're a CRM "guru" it isn't.
The biggest problem with being a CRM guru-type is that I'm ALWAYS looking for what's wrong with the policies and processes of a business. Or right with them. This is, incidentally, different than a complaint about a customer service representative at an airlines or a telco. We have zillions of stories of that. We also have zillions, well okay, hundreds, of stories about good customer service reps. The CRM take on this is how baked in is the bad or good service as a policy or process that the company endorses or embeds. I'm not looking for the jerks who do bad or the angels who do good. I'm looking for how the company treats its customers and how well the logic of the company coheres with the logic of the customers they have.
That said, there is also a difference between being a CRM thought leader and being a big butthead. CRM thought leaders extract the crucial strategic value from the good and the bad and either present them in a novel way or easy to understand way or come up with new strategies or concepts that lead to strategies that support both customer and business value. CRM big buttheads are hypercritical and are carrying out their "jobs" when they should be enjoying their lives. It doesn't mean that you can't do your job - it just means that you (meaning, me) should sometimes enjoy what you have and not try to find the "problem."
I've often said that CRM is attempt to make the art of life into the science of business. You can take that literally or figuratively. That's up to you. They both apply. But the art of life isn't ALWAYS the science of business. Business is a part of it. But note, I said a part of it, not all of it.
Yet, I was on the ship two days and I found myself scrutinizing the Celebrity line policies relative to a couple of glitches in the customer service. The glitches? Lets just leave it at no big deal. Really. They were nondescript.
What was ridiculous was that I found myself scrutinizing things from a CRM guru's (read: butthead's) perspective. I'm on my 25th anniversary cruise and I'm looking at the science of business, not living the art of life.
Let me add one cliche to the lyrics from Good Charlotte and the poetic statement from Cervantes. Here it is: "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees."
So we have:
"Good actions ennoble us, we are the sons of our own deeds"
"You say you have problems. That's because you can solve them."
"Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees."
What being a CRM butthead means is that I sometimes forget what I actually have. I'm sitting here doing something that most people can't afford to do because I've been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when it came to CRM and business consulting. I'm on a cruise with someone I've loved for almost 30 years which makes me immensely lucky - someone who stood with me during the best and worst times - and there were some truly worst ones that most of you probably wouldn't ever imagine - and I'm trying to find out what's wrong with the customer focused policy of the cruise line. That's why the Good Charlotte line. "You say you have problems. That's because you can solve them." These are NOT problems. These aren't even business lessons. They are a matter of enjoying a life that many people can't enjoy and being grateful for the fact I can. It means enjoying the companionship of my wife of 25 years and recognizing that having someone like this (and my family) in my life is what the whole thing is all about to begin with. That's the "forest for the trees."
It also means that I have to continually understand that I am the son of my own deeds - meaning that the good I do does ennoble me but when I act stupidly and forget what the difference is between the "art of life" and the "science of business" that I debase or degrade myself - not a lot, but any is a lot if you aren't doing the good you should. It's why Cervantes is already a timeless artist while I don't think Good Charlotte will go down through the ages. Though they are pretty profound for a group of 20 year old rockers.
So what's the lesson for CRM folks? None other than to remember why you do what you do. Why do YOU want CRM for your company? Let's follow the logic for a sec.
But it also means that to avoid being a butthead like I was on this trip for a short time, remember there is a real difference between that art of life and science of business - even if governed by the same principles. The science of business is nothing more than a subset of the art of life - and its life that's worth living - not business. All in all, if it's done properly - supersets, sets, and subsets, we are all happy.
Enough. While I actually ENJOY writing the blog in a way that transcends my business interests, for now, I'm going to lay back, watch the game (only 9:10am here - we're at sea currently) and enjoy my art.
I wrote most of this sitting at Dulles airport in D.C. last Tuesday because of a plane delay, not rain delay. Though incredibly irritating since I had a lot of meetings when I got to SF, it was also a useful time delay, one that allowed me to do things like start to write this blog entry and start to write an article I owe CRMGuru - a semi-technologically focused article on realizing customer value across the enterprise value chain (Damn! That article needs to be finished today!). I actually enjoy writing for Bob Thompson and Gwynne Young at CRMGuru because not only do I have an incredibly wide audience, which gives my ego some wide and long strokes - but they are wonderful people to work with.
There's something ironic to me about my role in the CRM world. I'm considered a significant "industry influencer" as some like to call me - and I like that designation. Just universal enough to let me be analyst, consultant, author, speaker, and moshpit ranter, yet specific enough to cause those who care about the CRM industry to at least say "hmmmmmm." All of that is pretty damned cool. At least my ego and superego think so.
But that's not what gets me going about CRM. For whatever reason, the CRM industry is the repository for an incredibly nice group of people - let's just say, at least as far as I can see, this industry is well above the national "Nice Average" for specific industries. In fact there are some exceptionally talented people who are also excellent people with good souls and good hearts. Of course, I can think of some of those who are serious jackasses too, but they are shortshrifted with me and ultimately they are outcasts - in my head and heart at least. That's not who I'm concentrating on here.
There are an incredible number of awards in CRM for cool companies, industry leadership, great implementations, exceptional case studies, and all things corporate. But those are so retro-20th century. What about the core purpose of a customer centric ecosystem? That's the relationships between people and how they interact. I (and many of my colleagues) have talked about this forever. We call it time and time again, "The Experience Economy" or whatever. We say that the universe of business is based on the collaborative efforts between the customer and the "company." But we forget, the company is composed of people too. So ultimately, like everything other thing in life I can possibly think of, it boils down to whether or not someone likes you enough to continue to work with you in the provision of the services and products that your business provides. But note the key phrase. "Whether or not someone likes you enough...
So enough already with the awards to what are empheral reflections of human activity. I'm going to start with this particular blog entry an award that goes to the best hearts in CRM - those individuals in the CRM people that are simply exceptionally well liked by their colleagues, clients, friends and if I know them by more than reputation - by me too.
There'lll be many wonderful people not on this list. I'm limiting the winners to those who not only have I had direct experiences with but also have been mentioned as exceptionally decent by others that I've spoken to. The comments to me about the individuals have to have been unsolicited and at least two. So there will be people who I personally hold dear to my heart not on this list but remember all of those - I DO love you. But the winners are people where the anecdotal evidence is also very strong that they are wonderful human beings - not just great managers or exceptional business development people or highly skilled consultants. They are people that others deeply care about and admire - despite their positions, so to speak.
Ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for being here tonight. Turn down the kliegs, dudes! You're blinding me!!!
There will be three categories with up to five winners in each category. The categories are:
Once again, Mitch Hedberg, our host for tonight
This category is one that says that you can climb the corporate ladder but you don't have to be a jerk to do it. The people who are chosen here are or have seen senior management in companies that have potentially difficult cultures though not always, and have had the utmost respect of their co-workers, those that report to them, those that don't (or didn't), and others outside their companies. Their skills as management are superb but more importantly, they retained the hearts that good humans have, regardless of where they sat on the upper rungs of hierarchy. This will be the only category for today's blog because I have to actually select people. While of course, I know all of them, since there are I'm sure other worthies out there I never heard of, these are the ones I (and, if youi remember my criteria from oh so many words ago) and unsolicited others (at least 2) chose. I have a list of 21 people and I'm picking no more than five.
Bruce Culbert - Bruce is the creator of IBM E-business, the former SVP and GM in charge of BearingPoint's CRM and Supply Chain combined practice, did a stint running global services at salesforce.com and is now running both his own consulting firm and is my major partner in the CRM training company I mention here, BPT Partners, LLC. All of those credentials are wonderful as far as business accomplishments go but these aren't awards for business accomplishments, they are awards for showing a true heart and a good nature and the kindness of human nature in a package. What many who don't deal with Bruce don't know is that, while at BearingPoint, a company with a cutthroat culture that had (and may still have) such continuous "reductions in force" as the disgusting euphemism for layoffs and firings is now called that were so regular that the staff dreaded every single Friday because they knew that a RIF was coming. Can you imagine a better argument for a 4 day workweek than that. You had to dread a possible firing on a Friday just to get to the weekend - turning a weekend from a rejuvenation time to 2 days of stress relief and exhalation. Bruce, at BearingPoint was able to create a cujlture that was an island unto itself within the BearingPoint corporate hell, that both protected his staff from the dread and fear, sometimes by taking the blows himself and by having those who reported to him just plain like him. AND they performed like gangbusters as a unit. During the time I was doing some consulting work for BearingPoint, I can't tell you the countless times that the staff members would say, "I'd never be here if it weren't for Bruce." But let's take this one step further. What a lot of his business associates may or may not know is Bruce's (and his amazing wife Sue's) bigger than life hearts on the homefront. His home is a haven for kids who have had broken homes, young parents not quite up to the responsibilities yet of full parenthood, mentoring young, ambitious business "kids" and just what is always theologically called "Good Works." Even just entertaining, they touch a huge swath of people all the time. Which is why he deserves to win the Good Heart, Hot Soul Greenie first award. Congratulations to a great person. Not just a business leader.
Eric Greenberg - I didn't even know Eric 2 years ago. He is the Executive Director and Co-chairman (along with moi as the other co-chair, I can proudly say) of the Rutgers CRM Research Center, one of two research centers in the United States focused around CRM. Eric is both an incredibly hardwoking and smart executive director and one of the most humble and self-effacing good people I've ever met anywhere doing anything. He is so humble that I once asked him about his business prior to Rutgers and found out that this not-even-40 year old had founded a call center company that, reached, prior to him selling his interest to his partners had 35 centers and 5000 employees!! He doesn't tout it, trumpet it, even talk about it, but he "retired" to do something else with his life when he was in his mid-30s. What he wanted to do with his life is why he is the next winner of the Greenie. The thing that Eric wanted to do is simply this - "good." He wanted to do something good in the world that would have lasting effect and draw on his incredible business success. He did two things as a result. Became a teacher/professor at Rutgers in the Business school and created the CRM Research Center which is reaching its second anniversary with a stellar cast of leaders who have been industry heavyweight thought leaders (like me - at least the heavy weight part), senior business leaders in CRM and a core faculty group that are moving the center into a leading institution. But ask Eric about this and you'll hear a truly humble person who is just trying to do some real good for real people in the real world, not just float on a stupid yacht and have be ordered by the court to do something charitable (That's Larry Ellison from Oracle I'm talking about by the way). Eric is truly one of the good people who doesn' talk about it. But I do and he wins a Greenie for it.
Mei Li - Mei is the Vice President of Public Relations for NetSuite and a beautiful soul (the rest of her ain't bad either). Aside from being one of the most accomplished PR people in the CRM business bar none, Mei is also one who is beloved by a group that simply doesn't show the love to anyone very much - the press. People who could classify as old school, or cliched as "hard bitten" reporters, editors, and analysts sing Mei's praises not because she is some great PR person (though she is) but because she has a heart the size of California (NetSuite's headquarters). I've attended several NetSuite events in my day and I've never seen so many press who simply are close enough to her personally to give her hugs and kisses. This might not sound like a lot but two things to that. For the PRESS to do it is astonishing given their necessary though not all real public personas. And second, what I'm going to tell you IS astonishing. When my wife was going through chemotherapy in 2004, Mei called me up and told me that she was going to take time off and fly out from California to Virginia to help me take care of my wife while chemo was ripping my beloved up. If I hadn't insisted on her not coming, she would have been at the airport the next day. She is that good a person. When I flew the next year to a NetSuite event, at the end of the event Mei handed me a green My Flat in London (very trendy accessories store) bag with among other things two absolutely beautiful scarves in it. She simply said, "This is for Yvonne." (my wife for those of you who don't read my frequent references to her). She had knit the scarves herself. THAT and all those people who truly love who don't normally love anyone but their own families, gets her my third Greenie.
Steve Olyha - Steve is the Senior Vice President in charge of Global Sales for Unisys Consulting. He was recently promoted from his role as the GM and SVP for the coimbined CRM and SCM practice at Unisys because of his remarkable ability to drive business in ways that Unisys, the megamonster of a corporation, can barely comprehend. He did the same thing at CSC for their CRM practice and he has simply been an enormous success. He is as conservative as I am liberal and politically we agree on very little except one thing which I won't reveal out of respect for him - though I'm glad to agree with him on it. While his business success is astounding, even more so is his generous nature. He has worked his butt off to make the Rutgers CRM Research Center successful and to even make sure that he had the time to teach a class of these aspiring business leaders of the future (maybe). When he was promoted to his new position, his former reports told me that they were thrilled for him and going to miss him greatly. They loved working for him. He has taken his executive assistant, Michelle Hastings, with him from CSC to Unisys and through all his incarnations showing his personal commitment to her not just because he knows she is highly competent, but because he sees her as a friend and colleague too. He is that way with all those he works with and those who report to him. Not only remarkably successful in business but a success as a human being too.
Jeff Pulver - Jeff is the VP of Marketing (and so much more) at Rearden Commerce, one of my corporate candidates for either player or winner of the platform wars that we're now seeing. Jeff is one of those people, nearing 40, who has just been a leader whereever he goes and is just plain "cool" - and seen that way by his colleagues, his reports and friends. I've known him since he was a manager at PeopleSoft, a VP of Marketing at Epiphany, the VP of Marketing at Siebel and now in his current position. I have known and met dozens of people in the industry who either know Jeff, worked for Jeff and the universal feeling is that this is a great guy who is fair honest and loves a good time. He was brilliant at Siebel while Mike Lawrie was there and was one of the main people for changing their image to a company that people were beginning to like and get excited about - of course until Tom Siebel stepped back in and screwed it up again. But I'm going to tell you a Jeff story that goes way back that shows you the nature of the man. When he was at PeopleSoft, I was in charge at a different company of getting a partnership with PeopleSoft. During the course of my work toward that, I became friends with a very underappreciated person at PeopleSoft who did a great job but because PeopleSoft had an oddly rigid salary structure, was being underpaid despite her incredible competence. I decided I wanted to hire her away from PeopleSoft but to protect the fragile partnership negotiations I had to talk to her manager to make this happen. That person was Jeff. Here's the deal. He knew the capability of this individual; he knew she was being underpaid; he knew he couldn't do much about that given the structures and strictures of the salary levels; so he LET ME HIRE HER because he saw it was best for her. Not for him. Not for PeopleSoft. For her. This is Jeff Pulver. This is why countless people respect his terrific skills but love him for his truly giving nature and and he is thus, the recipient of the fifth and final Greenie in this category.
Congratulations to All of You. Please exit to the left of the stage, except you Steve, you can go to the right if you want. You've earned it.
This might have seemed easy but it was amazingly hard to choose. I had a list of 21 people who could have won this and more than 40 who, if the external validation wasn't a criterion, could have been a winner too. There are a large number of great people in CRM who don't get recognized as the great people they are and I'm going to do it. I don't care if you call me stupid or silly or ridiculous for personalizing CRM but its about time that CRM and personal qualities became something other than The Great Oxymoron. Now CRM and recognition of personal qualities are going to be The Greenies Hot Souls Awards