Digital success needs a matured partnership mindset

I believe that smart matured digital players will need to develop deep  partnerships.

Let me explain why.

With the growing consumption of digital media, there is considerable noise that a consumer is now exposed to. This would mean that the brands have a fast shrinking window of opportunity where they have their prospects attention.

Most brands do understand this and hence have started investing heavily in better designs and more meaningful content.

But when it comes to acquisitions, it seems that this underlying assumption is usually forgotten. Maybe the acquisition teams are overwhelmed by the amount of digital data they are expected to digest and optimize for. In order to increase the leads volumes, most brands usually explore new partners who have possibly captive audiences.

In many cases these captive audiences are merely email id lists/bases that the partner has sourced not even built. And this might be the root-cause of my recent bad experience with a MNC Bank in India.

I have been using a premium variant of this bank’s Credit Card very regularly for the last 8-10 years. I have my email registered with the bank’s card team where I regularly receive official communication from the bank.

Interestingly I received am email for a gold card from the same bank on the same email id. This wasn’t a proposal to downgrade the plastic, but an email to take up a new card from the bank. I was confused. So I checked the email headers and discovered that this was sent by some partner of the bank who had my email id on its base.

The bank didn’t scrub the partner’s base for emails already registered by existing customers. I can understand why the bank would not want to scrub and give back a base to the partner. Because then the partner could do a delta check and figure out which email ids are registered with the bank.

Nevertheless the bottom line is that the customer experience was significantly compromised.

So what could the bank do? What should other brands do?

Partnerships in Digital WorldI feel they need to pick & choose partners carefully and then deeply integrate with them. They should in fact look at sending emailers from their own servers so that scrubbing is done real time and the partner just gets a report of how many emails were shortlisted for the blast rather than a list of which ones were shortlisted or rejected.

Even if the partner is just worth the customer base it holds, banks would need to step up and control the subsequent stages of the lead generation process. On personalized platforms like emails, its customers can not be treated like New To Bank (NTB) applicants.

In today’s world, we talk about data quality and data velocity. Maturity in both these aspects is possible only through an eco-system mindset and not in the current vendor-client approach.

It would definitely add to the cost of acquisitions. And there might be other better, cleaner solutions but the current process just does not cut it.

Why mobile payments must arrive soon

I try to go walking on most weekdays. And I prefer to do so light – carry just the minimal stuff.

On my way out for a walk yesterday, I stopped by to take some cash along with me – just in case.

And this got me thinking, with my smartphone (& earphones) I do not need so many other things.

I know the time(so that I am in time for that movie), can listen to music while I walk, I can track my work emails (allows me to stay away from my laptop) , I know I can be reached anytime if the need arises(through calls, SMS, messengers etc).

I can track my workout (and its just amazing what all some of the fitness apps can do), click high resolution photos while I am on the move and share it with my friends & family.

But I still need to carry my wallet when I go for my walk. I do so, because I might want to buy fruits on my way back. Or I might get a call from home to pick up some other groceries. Its usually not a planned spend but I want to have the confidence that I have money available to spend when I am out for a walk.


I don’t like the feel of the wallet while walking. I would love my phone – which is the digital swiss army life in most our lives – to be able to do that. I would want my phone to give me a sense of financial security too.

Swiss army phone

I know business strategists would say this an isolated and small use case. And I agree. But my point is, its a matter of time. While mobile has brought all these solutions into one gadget, payments cannot stay away for too long.

But then again, its not just me. When my mother goes out for a walk, she carries her phone and a small purse. Does she spend money every day – No. Would she go out without money/purse – No. Would she go out without her phone – No.

Crowdsourcing from a captive audience – New approach to complimentary breakfasts

Crowdsourcing is all the rage. And restaurants seem to have caught the fancy.

There is this guy who is spending a good time just getting real feedback before he decides what and where of his restaurant. A few restaurants have decided to skip the printed menu completely. Who wants to pay professional photographers when the customers can click the dishes with their smartphones and create a more powerful visual menu?

Crowdsourced restaurant

So let’s take the example of the first guy – are restaurants keen to know which dishes to keep in their menu? In most of the cases – Yes !

Does crowdsourcing help? Yes !

The data becomes more reliable with increasing volume.

But the challenge remains that if the customers are not repeat (as Groupon showed us) and if they are just looking for the next cullinary adventure, then crowdsourcing might not be too helpful at all. 

Why? Because we may be using the knowledge of segment A to cook and serve a dish for segment B ! There is no positive reinforcement for the individuals who gave feedback. Do they go back and see their feedback implemented?

But take the case where a restaurant has a captive audience.

Let’s say you checked into a hotel. Chances are the breakfast is complimentary and most of the guests would end up eating at the in-house restaurant. And on most days, in a typical hotel, there would only be a small majority of non-guest walk-ins for breakfast.

So shouldn’t the hotel/restaurant try to understand what the guests would like for breakfast? Well I guess if I recommend this to a 5 star hotel, they would say “Sir, our breakfast spread has been carefully crafted after years of research on what our guests typically like. Thats also the reason you will see so many dishes and cuisines. We really care about what you want… Blah Blah Blah”

But consider this. There might be a Bollywood festival in town and suddenly there are more Indians who want Aloo Parathas.Or a Tamilian wedding with guests staying in the hotel, who would all love a dosa.

Well it need not be so drastic, but wouldn’t it be great if the restaurant could ask me what I would like to have. And then maybe come up with the dish over the next few days of my stay. If there are others who like it. Would it not make me thrilled, would it not make me feel special. My guess is it would.

It would also make the chef’s job so much more challenging and exciting.

And also allow the hotel to stay connected with the guests – guests are not just a room number or ID in their CRM systems.

What do you think?


Image Credit :

TripAdvisor feature – add professional profile and ratings

What makes TripAdvisor a preferred choice in the process of identifying a hotel to stay at is the rich guest-feedback and reviews for most of the listed properties. The stuff about getting addresses, details, baking in a booking engine has been done by very many, but where TripAdvisor leads the pack is this recommendation layer built on top of this aggregated data.

This recommendation layer is what helps us in not only discovering but also deciding on the hotel/restaurant we want to go to. It also gives you a place to comeback and share your own views – which hopefully can influence future decisions. Which gives us a sense of being in control, of being an influencer of sorts

TripAdvisor’s recommendations product is indeed a very mature offering. They have baked in reviewer’s authority, social graph ( it shows reviews from your network clearly marked) etc.

But there is one huge opportunity which is clearly missing – Individual Professional profiles for the hospitality sector.

Let me explain this in detail.

We all know from our past experiences that the key to a great experience is much more than the architecture, luxury, ambiance etc- it is the staff which finally brings all of these together to give us a great stay. Right?

There have been times when I stayed in a great property but the staff just failed to step up to the expectations. On the other hand, some of the best times I had was when I was backpacking and staying at guest-houses and probably half star rooms in Rajasthan. The human connect is absolutely critical.

If this assumption is valid, shouldn’t we help build reputation for the hospitality sector professionals by sharing our feedback? Maybe we should avoid writing it when its an overall negative experience, but why wouldn’t I do it for a great manager/waiter?

A recent experience confirmed the need for this.

We were out on a road trip to Agra/Mathura/Vrindavan and my brother found this incredible property in Vrindavan (and not through Trip Advisor). We checked out the next day and in the whole confusion of getting all 11 people and their stuff together, my brother forgot his wallet at the reception.

We were on our way and almost back on the highway when the manager called to tell us about the wallet. On his own he checked where we were and sent out his guy on a bike to deliver the wallet. Kept calling us to check if we got it or not. When my brother called him up to say ThankYou, he just asked if we would write a positive review on TripAdvisor.

We did, but guess who gets the 5 star rating? This manager got mentioned, but he would get drowned in the list of fresh or helpful reviews that would float over my brothers review of the property.


Look at the image above from Dusit Devarana’s page. These are the top 2 reviews showing and one can see Varun Kutty being mentioned – unfortunately one guest got the name wrong. Many other reviews don’t mention Varun. Wouldn’t Varun love to have a small place on TripAdvisor which shows a summary of only those reviews which mention Varun. That would be a personal trophy for him – one that keeps getting bigger day-by-day !

Also given the churn in the hospitality sector, this manager would probably move to a new location and while he might dig out the review and show it during interviews, it might not be a compelling argument in his favor.

What if,

  • TripAdvisor allows hospitality sector professionals to build Linkedin kind of profiles
  • A guest who is reviewing a property can also mention the specific staff members who influenced their experience
  • Maybe we would want to keep the personnel mentions for positive reviews only- hence trigger the prompt or tagging option only when the rating is 4 or 5.  I would want to do this to keep the negative reviews out, which are rarely written objectively.
  • Aggregate the reviews/ratings mapped against the professional and show it as a summary. Also show this in combination with the property or brand they were associated with at that point of time.
  • This profile could also be used as a proxy for background/reference checking. Hospitality sector suffers from a very high level of CV fraud and most of those pertain to prior experience.
  • This would also get the hospitality staff fully integrated to the TripAdvisor platform. They might not feel the threat of competition right now, but this would help build a very strong hurdle against any future threat.

In my opinion, this would also motivate the staff to invest in each interaction they have with guests. The gap is that this would end up catering to the front-end staff only and miss out on the back-end folks. Very few people ask for the chef’s name at a restaurant if they have had a great meal.

Why I use Paytm for all bill payments except Airtel

Consumer behavior used to be a course that marketing folks took in 2nd year of Bschool.

I stayed away , like most other marketing courses.

But over the years, time and again I have seen the importance of understanding the consumer behavior – why do consumers behave a specific way, why and how are habits formed, are all habits sticky, what would prompt a habit change and so on.

My Online Bill Payments Behaviour

Recently I just noticed something interesting about how I pay my bills. It brought up the importance of consumer behavior yet again.

So here’s what happened.

Every month I end up paying some 5-6 different mobile/landline and a couple of DTH bills.

A few years back I started paying the Airtel bills online – the process was easy and it was the same interface for all Airtel Payments – mobile or landline.

Just one drawback – there was no “Make another transaction” button.

One had to go back to home page, and start the flow again. I shared this with my friends at Airtel Money and quite a coincidence that this button was added on their web page (they confirmed that my raising it with them had nothing to do with the feature going live).

Since then its been how I have paid all my Airtel bills.

PayTm bill payment
On the other hand, my experience with TATA Sky’s online payment was horrible to say the least.

During one such failed attempt, I remembered about Paytm and decided to use it.

And boy was it an amazingly designed service.

  • The UI was really neat and intuitive.
  • Credit Cards were masked and stored for easy subsequent payments. One just needs to repunch the CVV and the Verified by VISA passwords.
  • Old payments were stored and it was super easy to bring up an old payment and make a fresh one against the same DTH/mobile account.
  • In case of a failed payment to the service provider, the amount is kept in a Paytm virtual wallet that is “automatically”(this is true customer delight) picked up first during any subsequent payments and only the delta amount is required to be paid by the card.

Needless to say my bill payments have migrated to Paytm .

But not all.

I suddenly realized that my de-facto reaction when making the Airtel payments was still to go to the Airtel website and not PayTm. This was strange because from a rational perspective I had no reason to not switch my Airtel payments also to PayTm.

And this got me wondering.

  • I am not really loyal to the Airtel website, its just a question of habit I guess. Its not a strong habit to the extent that one can explain it through muscle memory. But the reality is that I followed the above steps without thinking much – picked up the bill, went to the Airtel site, paid and got it done with.
  • Is my behavior sticky with Airtel because they managed to get to me first and delivered a decent experience? If yes, then the first-mover-advantage for consumer services should be the possible stickiness-hurdle it creates for new entrants.
  • Has PayTm got me as a dedicated customer for their wallet services? Would I choose to pay at lets say Myntra (flipkart has its own wallet and Snapdeal is working on one) through a PayTm wallet? I am not too sure.
  • Although I am an avid Android user with a lot of apps that I use regularly but I still don’t have the PayTm app on my phone. Why? I am not sure. But I remember seeing their messages online and have seen their app in the Google Playstore also. Again no logic to explain this behavior. Wouldn’t the guy in charge of Data Analytics at PayTm be looking at my profile and thinking this guy probably doesn’t have a smartphone or a 3G connection.
  • Now that I have spent some time thinking about my strange behavior, would I go back to the Airtel site or migrate to PayTm? What do you think?


I have long since downloaded the PayTm app and it is now the default way to make ALL bill payments including the Airtel one(s). I no longer wait (or bother) for the bill to be delivered – PayTm manages my bill presentment and payment experience end to end.

Recommended feature for Google Maps Application

Gratitude First – I am really thankful for Google for the traffic layer on its Maps application. Like most others in Delhi, I have become a regular Google Maps user now, checking the traffic updates and choosing the route that I should take to reach my destination. So much so, that my driver also insists on it.

I started tracking my typical usage behavior and interesting things surfaced. I would open the application if:

  • I am going to a new/unusual place or
  • To the usual place at a not-the-usual time,
  • I don’t know the route or the traffic conditions or both
  • Faced with a traffic build-up on my usual route to work(or back) to see how long the jam was and what was the situation on alternate routes

And amongst the situations listed above, almost 90% of my usage was due to the last one – traffic buildup ahead of me on my usual route to work or back home.

Also, since my daily commute is almost 40kms one side, many a times there are multiple congestion points that I encounter. And some of those develop while I am on my way. Hence even if I check the traffic at point A and see that everything is clear downstream, chances are that the situation would change when I reach the downstream point B.It can be very frustrating, trust me.

There’s another scenario that kicks in – given the resolution at which maps open up basis my current location, I need to scroll a lot to check out the whole path. Many a times I miss out checking the traffic congestion at far-off points.

google-maps-traffic-layerAnd this set me thinking – wouldn’t it be a great feature for Google maps to

    • allow me to set my usual route for work/home
    • jump directly to my route showing the areas with traffic build-up or

better still, alert me even without my opening the Google Maps app that there are places where there is slow traffic. This would have been true delight.If this is possible, can we build a web-app to send traffic updates to people who do not have a smartphone. Can such users register their routes and get SMS updates? Why not?

As I toyed with the idea, I started wondering, why hasn’t Google done it already.

This is a very simple and intuitive need, surely someone at Google would have articulated such a need long time back.

So I started understanding how Google Maps work and what I discovered in a quick 2-3 hours of research was the following:

  • Google has a similar feature (time to destination – work or home) in its Google Now set of widgets. But its not really the kind of delight that I was referring to.
  • Google might not want to do it – Google collects and calculates traffic data from users who are using Google Maps and sending their locations to the Google servers. This means, Google would always need higher number of users to stay-on with their Maps/location services for them to get more data-points to have a better traffic estimate.
  • And maybe independent developers also cannot do it – The Traffic heat-maps are a “layer” on the Google maps and they are provided in a similar way in the API – a visual layer that sits on top of the geographical UI. This means that any developer would not get a feed of locations/latlons along with the traffic feed. To develop the kind of app/feature I referred above, the Google traffic API would not be helpful.


With today’s experience I think Google should still go ahead and build this feature. I now feel that this feature would kick-in more signins into Google Maps. Why?

If I get an alert that there is traffic in my usual path and the alert doesnt mention the specific points, I would be tempted to login into Maps and see where the blockage is. What are the alternate routes and what is the situation there.

One challenge here is that not every one might have their GPS on and it might be tough for Google to know if the person is already on the move or not. It could choose to send these alerts only to those with GPS on. This would serve two purposes – more people would keep GPS always on, hence provide the feed to Google’s server to better calculate traffic pattern. Also with the GPS on, Google would know when the user is on the move on the pre-defined specific route.

Prediction comes true – In-site search market heating up

Not so long ago, I had written a blog post on why Bing should focus on in-site search as a way to fight Google’s stranglehold on the search space. While no one at Bing or Google heard me out on this, Techcrunch now reports on how this space is heating up. Two start-ups have already raised serious Series A capital and are focussed on just this one opportunity – Making the In-Site-search experience better.

Bing GoogleWhile the start-ups and its investors can rest assured of acquisition offers coming their way, it is still surprising to see that Bing and other Google challengers haven’t exploited this opportunity so far.

The Techcrunch article assumes that Google wouldnt want a great in-Site-search product as it would mean fewer hits on While people at Google might buy this logic (I wouldn’t – better to cannibalize own product rather than let another player come in), but how can someone at Bing justify leaving this space? Beats me. Any ideas?

Why Financial Services Cos need Designers and fast !

I just came back from depositing a cheque into a relative’s HDFC Bank account. I know, its a crime that I did not use the Online Money Transfer services, especially since I am a self proclaimed Digital guy working in the Financial Services sector.

Anyways, I was filling in the deposit slip with details of the cheque and the beneficiary account details and suddenly there was this huge frustration in filling the same information twice.  HDFC Bank does not use a carbonated Deposit slip like Citibank India does. And it stuck me that once I have experienced the Citibank’s way of filling the information once, I refuse to be forced through the seemingly ill-designed process. I eventually did fill in the bank’s half of the deposit slip but just scribbled the bare essentials in my half of it.

So it got me thinking, why is it that our banks and other Financial Services companies do not “design” with the customer-experience at the center. In today’s world when better designed products and services are beating-the-shit out of their established competitors, why are Banks and Insurance Firms so slow to react.

The rise of well-designed products and services is not something which is purely outside of BFSI sector. Any payments industry person would tell you that Square is a serious threat to VISA and MasterCard in specific business segments. Square’s well designed product and application just removed a few major hurdles in the overall process.

The Branch

The branch is probably the single most important customer touchpoint.  You might argue otherwise that your call-center or the website gets more traffic and handles more transcations. But the reality is that its at your branch that a true face-to-face interaction happens and that too because the customer wanted it. The customer is so keen to do that transaction or resolve that query that she has taken the pains to walk to you.

Have you been to a branch of a Public Sector bank? Chances are that the iron-grill was chained and you had to take care while entering the branch premise. Sounds familiar? What do you think a customer feels while entering such a premise? Is he in a mood to listen to someone telling him to buy an Insurance product or is he likely to just walk out of the branch as soon as his chosen transaction for the day is done?

I recently went to a TCS powered Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) and boy did it feel like a whole different world. The premises were clean, air-conditioned, there was line and crowd control. A token system which ensured timely processing, a display announcing which desk you had to report to and the works. Compared to my first experience this was a complete contrast.

While getting your branch to look like the Jabong ad  might be an easy task, what is needed is a design oriented approach towards all the aspects of the customer touch points. Do we expect the customer to wait on us, if yes, is there a waiting area. Are our clients senior citizens, if yes, what facilities do we have for them (say dedicated desks). Do we serve them just water or tea/coffee too? Is it a self-service kiosk or we have a kitchen hidden somewhere. This very simple question is something that many MNC companies have failed to understand in the Indian context. I have been to a few corporate reception areas, where there is no one to ask you for water, leave aside tea/coffee. If you serve Indian customers, you might have created a big wall right there. Its part of our culture and just because its a corporate set-up we cannot ignore it.


Beyond the branch

Opportunity to design better goes beyond just the branch or the physical world interactions. Here are a few others that are ripe for design-disruption:

  • Credit/Debit-Card chargeslips. I remember that a French company presented to us way back in 2004 about printing chargeslips with detachable coupons. In almost a decade the only variations one has seen is probably an ad on the reverse instead of the usual T&Cs. The key thing that any designer would probably do is ask why a customer is given a chrageslip in the first place. If this is to keep as a proof of transcation, then most of current thermal printers beat the whole purpose. The ink just fades away. Does the customer need it to file for expense claims and reimbursement? How does the customer store it? Does it stay in their wallets or does it go into some envelope or drawer. I don’t know the answers but I sure know that chargelsips in their current avatar just don’t cut it.
  • Websites. I remember reading the findings of a Kern report which states that almost all Life Insurance co’s websites had a poor overall user experience.

“Most online insurance websites provided minimal details about the policy, mostly hidden in a PDF brochure, making it very difficult for the customers to find details. The customers had to spend time to search for information, which was distributed throughout the website, in the absence of any reasonable user flow.”

  • Even Mobile apps. A friend on my Facebook network posted this. Enough said.

American Express App

9 challenges in digitizing the sales force

Very few of us embrace change.Most of us would try our best to avoid any change in the status quo. Especially if it drastically impacts the way we work.

Hence any initiative to convert an offline banking/insurance sales channel into a digitally-enabled online one, is sure to face a lot of resistance from the existing teams and one must be prepared to weather these strong head-winds. While there is no single solution which you could adopt, but a deeper understanding of what causes this overall resistance, would help you understand what needs to be done in your specific instance.



Here’s my list of 9 challenges you might face in digitizing the sales channels at your bank/insurance company

  1. Sales force was not kept in the loop. Implementation was just thrust on them one fine day. Time and again we see that the lack of confidence-building measures lead to a clear mistrust in the new system and its capabilities. As the CIO or project owner you should start engaging with the end-users early on. Talk to the sales managers, their executives and articulate the clear value-add this would bring to their lives. Tell them how this system would make them more productive and help them grow in their art. Keep them posted about the progress of the implementation. If possible try and incorporate their feedback in the design/feature specs of the chosen solution. This would create local evangelists for your project and make your implementation so much smoother.
  2. Fear within the sales team, due to the sudden transparency. One of the key reasons, most enterprises wish to move their sales teams onto a digital platform is to bring transparency in the sales engine. There is an accurate real-time understanding of the key business metrics and hence a realistic estimate of the business pipeline. While this might be great for the Head Office staff, this is a matter of great fear for the sales executives and junior sales managers. They know that such a system would mean that anyone can drill down deep into a specific case and verify the details. Or the fact that the country head can also track each person in the sales machinery. This can be really intimidating for a junior sales resource. Imagine a magician’s trick being laid threadbare by a scientist – surely the magician would feel kind of naked. The way to address this fear is to ensure that the senior management refrains from micro-managing the sales team in the early days of the implementation. They should control the urge to dig-out a specific case, jump all hierarchies and talk directly to the sales manager. If your organization is not already used to a hands-on approach by the senior management, such jumping-of-hierarchies would spell disaster.
  3. Information Overkill. One of the advantages of any digital solution is the fact that it can store a whole wealth of data on the prospect, customer, channel and hopefully churn out beautiful reports in the process. If one gets carried away with such beautiful-reports-promise, the system might tend towards an information overkill.And the sales staff would be wasting time collecting “un-necessary” information when they should be out there talking to your prospects. Hence try and look at the system implementation as a phased journey. Get the basic feature spec out, build traction and revisit for further enhancements. It might be a good idea to read the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach now being promoted by most Silicon Valley Start-ups.
  4.  Non-existent or inefficient mobile interface. This is really relevant for enterprises where the sales happen face-to-face rather than on the phone etc. If your sales team is expected to be out in the field, your solution should go along with them. Many enterprises fail to imagine and develop a mobile solution and then focus on work-arounds. There are companies that expect their sales teams to call up a central number after each visit and update the details. In some others, the agent first notes the feedback on paper and is then expected to come to an e-enabled site (branch or café) and update the system online. In today’s world with such a high smartphone and 3G penetration, a mobile-first-interface would show a clear value to the sales teams.
  5.  Cluttered Design or too many screens. Unlike the glamorous world of consumer solutions, enterprise solutions have not been blessed with the talent of awesome designers. I personally feel this is a big big drawback because end of the day, the enterprise solution user is the same person. He would react the same way to a better design. If he has a great intuitive interface on his Gmail, Dropbox and Facebook, why not on his Leads Management System (LMS).
  6. Complicated Incentives. Increased transparency of the sales engine, suddenly throws up a bunch of metrics that the business managers love to track. While the incentives are simple to calculate and manage in the offline world, a LMS implementation usually comes with a highly complicated incentive plan. Most sales agents fail to have confidence in a new incentive system if there is no baseline. DO NOT coincide your system go-live with an incentive model change. Better idea would be to track the metrics for a while, show the agents how they are anyways performing on these metrics and then gradually build these metrics into the incentive system. Such an approach would mean that the sales team can “calculate” their possible incentives on Day 0 and be motivated to stretch their performance.
  7. Lack of helpful features. This usually stems from the lack of an agent-centric design (which is discussed separately in pt 8). Build features that really help them sell better, help them save time (e.g. tablet based insurance quotes means zero error in policy submission and hence no rework).
  8. Lack of agent-centric design. Enterprise solutions usually fail to deliver on their promises because of their inherent design (or architecture). Many an enterprise CRM solutions are not designed with the customer at the center. Similarly if our sales systems are not designed by keeping the agent at the core, it surely would see a lot of resistance and would fail to deliver. A good design where agents were involved from a very early stage, would take care of most of the issues mentioned above.
  9. System Roll-out plan
    • Lack of training before and during roll-out. Even if you are working under serious budget constraints, find a way to train the end-users. Build a knowledge repository, run a small help-desk for them to call/reach for any immediate help.
    • Find and promote early adopters. Even better find evangelists who carry a collective sense of ownership in the system and its promise. This needs to be done at all levels. I remember when I was rolling a LMS for the bank that I was working for, I had to convince the business head about the need for such a solution. All the usual advantages of a scientific way to run the sales channel couldn’t cut any ice. I had to finally show him the maths around system’s ability to uniquely pull-out non-contactable cases from his tele-calling units and hence a smaller base to work on for subsequent months. This simple feature was powerful enough (with enough cost savings on back of lower manpower requirement) for him to get excited and seek his business as the first one to cut-over.
    • Version 2.0. Do you hear what your users are saying? Are you evaluating the impact for the new features or changes they are asking? How soon can you give them a version 2? Its not so much about the number of days they end up using the version 1. It’s more about how soon, they start believing that this is their system and the company hears what they have to say.
    • Study how your users are actually using the system. Try and shadow some of the end users to see if they come up with their own work-around, own ways of using a feature for something that it wasn’t really meant for. What are they not using at all. Why? This is usually a great surprise and teaches most system designers a whole lot of stuff they had never imagined or seen before. Try and document these observations. Analyze and see if they can help you in a more acceptable version 2.0.

In summary, some level of resistance is inevitable once you decide to digitize your sales team. But how you design your solution, how you engage with the end-users and how the enterprise uses in the early days, can decide if this will be a success or not.

The curious case of single order and multiple delivery consignments @ Flipkart

This just happened to me again in a short span of time. I ordered 4/5 books from Flipkart and the ordered was split into multiple consignments and the two consignments were delivered within one day of each other.

Initially I thought this was because the books might have been shipped from different warehouses or even merchant-locations. And maybe the second consignment’s availability and delivery- date wasn’t estimated before the first gets shipped out. But then again, both were delivered within 24 hrs of each other.

Flipkart Deliveries

Interestingly, since Flipkart does its own delivery, the same guy comes to deliver all Flikpart stuff at my place. He knows me pretty well by now and I asked him if why the same order was being split into multiple consignments. Even he was finding it funny that he delivers two days in a row to my house. He only knew that he has a certain area allocated to him and all his delivery packets come from one holding warehouse in NCR.

Maybe thats where this is coming from. That Flipkart has a beat allocated to each guy, and the delivery guy has to work that beat each day. Hence it doesnt make much of a difference in splitting the delivery into two parts – he would be around in the neighborhood anyways.

Also, I figured out that many of these deliveries were COD and maybe this was a way to put a cap on how much cash the delivery guy handles. Or maybe the risk of not shipping a big consignment to someone who turns it away or acts funny.

But I still feel, they might find an opporutnity to further trim down their logistics cost and maybe even enhance the customer experience if they could find a way to re-aggregate consignments at the last-mile. Or will that put pressure on the mini-warehouse ? What do you think?