May 23 Meeting notes 2007

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Conference Call Notes

Drafted by Joe Andrieu, May 23, 2007

IRC

  1. vrm at chat.freenode.net

Other Calls

Category:conference call

Attendees

  • Joe Andrieu
  • Dean Landsman
  • Alan Mitchell
  • Sean Bohan
  • Doc Searls
  • Drummond Reed
  • Britt Blaser
  • Richard Reukema

Notes

Is VRM the right name?

Perhaps it is too much inside baseball.

Personal Information Management Services is a term that has been used for similar services/concepts in the UK. However, that opens it up to anything and everything.

I've used VRM as reciprocal of CRM and folks who get CRM get the lightbulb very quickly.

Apparently CRM didn't get as much traction in the UK, so it has a bit of a negative connotation.

The US seems to have a fixation on IP: copyrights and patents and trademarks. Whereas in EU and Canada, privacy is much more important.

VRM, right now, has taken a certain hold. To move forward, we know what we are trying to do, we are generally of a common mind. We should continue our work and not focus so much on the name. If we need to get a better term as a "public" brand, that will be a bridge to cross when we are ready for a public push.

Customer Managed Relationships (CMR) is a term in use. Although perhaps in practice it isn't actually in the VRM direction. It is sort of a perverse way to say the user is in charge, but they aren't really.

For now, there seems to be a consensus that VRM is good for now and we would have diminishing returns investing more time in renaming. So, onward VRM!

No More Phone Trees?

The idea of a phone tree is parallel to the problem that CRM isn't really a relationship management. So often when you call a phone tree, you are shuffled around, often to places you don't want, talking to people who can't help.

If you are a monolithic company and you know you need a call-in line but you don't really want to help people, you will have one of these maze-intentional phone tree systems.

We won't change company cultures if companies are of a mind to treat customers and buyers badly. But attacking the phone tree isn't really the approach.

The email thread actually morphed into different items. It started out as cutting through to the person. But often finding the person is not the right solution.

In any area, there are generally a fairly well constrained questions that people are going to ask. So at first, you funnel them to the experts to answer it. But as that question gets asked more and more, then the marginal cost of answering that question goes down... if the system can leverage the prior answer effectively. This is currently being tested with a head-hunting service that dropped the cost of answering questions by a factor of ten. This is now being rolled out in a broader way. More on that as it comes.

What are they buying?

Several folks asked questions about what are people buying with VRM?

There was also a question of what are people really going to use this? And what is the business model?

We do have to come up with stuff that is useful to the mediators (Travelocity, Orbitz, etc) and an improvement on it. That's a tall order. But one that can be done. By focusing on building blocks, something simple that the customer uses. Maybe its a database accessed by a card or stored on a card. Card metaphors have come up a lot in the Identity conversations.

This has to be a simplifier, not a complicator. It has to simplify stuff that's already out there as well as new stuff and it has to enable people to make money.

Because it has to sit on the customer side, and customers are not going to adopt anything that is complicated, it /has/ to be simple.

There's a /thing/ here that maybe needs to be invented. Maybe something physical. The CardSpace/InfoCard metaphor came from the real world.

We must not get lost and only deal with the tech-advanced manner of speaking and thinking. Real people have to use this. Not just geeks.

There is an idea that real people will carry around a device of sorts, a card, would carry all kinds of data that the card carrier has control of. They could then use this wherever they go for whatever they want. Users hold it, own it, operate it. If they were to swipe this or have it read, it would already obviate a lot of data-transmission errors, including the natural misdirection of salespeople who want to sell you something you don't want.

In the end, this needs to be simple enough for regular people to use it. It needs to be HTML not XHTML.

Setting the bar for VRM

It has to be simple enough for adoption.

On the other hand, it actually is driven by the early adopters, by people who are willing to go through a lot of pain because they love it.

Some of these things we are talking about /does/ require extra work. It's very easy for skeptics to say who would ever do that extra work?

If you can take the time, and can make the UI work correctly, we can do that. The issue is that we need to invest the extra time to do it right. The phone trees suck because no one wanted to invest the time.

We should remember that Alan Kay always used children to learn to touch type.

One point is that we want to make sure that those for whom the complex is useful are not excluded by making things too simple. And that there is an evolutionary process here. We can't make it too simple in the beginning. If you compare the Model T to today's best selling Camry, we would never have accepted the Model T.

Embrace the tension of simple UI verses flexibility. We are surfing the line between keeping things simple enough for users without limiting the capability to any particular problem domain. The simplest travel RFP tool won't allow house buying RFPs. For example.

VRM will involve idioms we don't know yet. Just as the car is idiomatic to the extent that we don't even think it many cases of the risks involved. The challenge in coming at markets from the customer side is a new thing. It hasn't been done very much. The closest thing to it is the credit card or the wallet. Tools that people just take for granted.

The evolutionary steps the banking industry took to introduce the credit card were significant. It does provide a great metaphor... what would it look like when you get there, e.g.,"we would have a VRM datacard that we could use anyplace."

In addition to bringing up the credit card as a metaphor, people have also brought up Dee Hok's chaordic concept. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dee_Hock

Interra Card is a combined online/offline loyalty card. Merchants that accept Interra Card, agree to share the information in a particular way. User's and merchants each get a portion of the purchase, that they control for donating to a good cause. http://interraproject.org/blog/2007/04/welcome-to-interra.html

Incoming Email Query

Case studies about VRM? Anything we can point her to?

There are a few limited cases:

  • Priceline
  • Doc's VRM gesture for his phone
  • Interra card

All of these fail to embrace the entirety of VRM. They just show pieces of VRM, but none hold it all together.

ATM Card -- in the sense that it is a new way of doing things, on the user's terms. Even more so with the nationwide and international networks that let you use a card from one bank at another bank's machine.

Credit Card -- the universal credit card (VISA etc) changed the game compared to department store cards.

(Credit cards however kept the VISA/MC/Amex firm at the center of the transaction.)

What we are trying to do is create a new idiom, a new methodology, a new idiom. That's why the simplicity principle has to override a lot of other stuff.

One of the reasons banks wanted to go forward with ATMs was not to help users, but to lower transaction costs with their customers. Banks became 24 hours because of this. This is interesting because it was a profit-driven motive that incidentally created value for customers and gave them increased control over their banking transactions.


Status

what who when status
---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
open id on wiki david no date
static website development doc, dean, joe, chris no date
group blog/RSS to wiki (venus) doc no date up, but only one author
project VRM definition doc 1 week still working on it
brainstorm Initiatives all ongoing
Set up Jabber Host for conference calls doc no date done as IRC

Action Items

what who when status

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