What is “Word of mouth” reach to Customer

“Word of mouth is 10 times more effective than traditional ad,”

A major influence on consumer’s mind is word-of-mouth recommendation, as it cuts across the overwhelming marketing noise quickly and effectively. Word of mouth is behind 20 to 50 % of all purchase decisions and has peak influence when consumers purchases a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive and where people conduct more research, seek more opinions, and deliberate longer than usual.

Digital world has accelerated its reach from intimate, one-on-one communication to a one-to-many basis. People post their product reviews online and opinions spread through social networks. Some customers even create Web sites or blogs to praise or punish brands. While marketers recognize WOM importance, it is not easy to measure and manage the same.

With advent of social networks, marketers craft a coordinated, consistent response to reaches the right people with the right content in the right setting. With more information available online, consumer feels overloaded with mass marketing emails and become skeptical about them. Their decisions become independent of what companies tell them about products.

This also creates challenges to customer. The product/service marketed extensively or marketed with low price is known to many people and gets more consumed irrespective of its quality. Good products developed with low budgets are less known and hence less consumed. For some good low-budget movies, consumers used word of mouth publicity to lead to more crowd to the theater. Social media can take air from their Tyre and social media can add extra stepney to the good but lesser known products.

How word of mouth reaches customer?  Reach to customer in one of the below approaches

  • Customer Experienced WOM result from a consumer’s direct experience with a product/service and experience deviates from what’s expected. Negative experience affect brand sentiment, positive generates a tailwind for a product or service.
  • Consequential WOM is result of marketing activities performed by marketers. They are driven by messages delivered via marketing campaigns. These messages have stronger impact on consumers than advertisements.
  • Influenced WOM is influence created through celebrity endorsements to trigger  positive buzz. Marketers find them difficult to measure their impact and are unsure when to call campaign execution successful.

Consumers rarely complain or praise a company when they receive what they expect.
Customer Experienced word of mouth accounts for 50 to 80 percent. The word-of-mouth recommendation or dissuasion to change behavior is reflected by what is said, who says it, and where it is said and what is the product category.How to measure word of mouth? 

  • What’s said primarily drives word-of-mouth reach. The content of a message must address product or service features that qualifies to influence consumer decisions. While battery life is a crucial thing for mobile-handset consumers, they talk about it less than design and usability.
  • The receiver trusts the message based on who is the sender and the belief whether sender really knows the product or service in question. Be-aware of digital influential bloggers with disproportionate power.
  • Messages from tight, trusted networks has less reach but greater impact than those circulated through dispersed communities. A person close-knit network of trusted friends has the real influence on him than the people connected casually with him
  • What is trigger for the WOM message? It is from customer own experience or something he heard on the way from others.

The creation of consequential WOM is influenced by interactivity and creativity. They are more important in relatively low-innovation categories that struggle to gain consumer attention.

Intention matters less to actual actions in customer service. The strength of customer service gets decided by its weakest link. In offering a well designed customer experience, one weak link can spoil the entire experience. Design end to end customer experience to cover all the customer touch points till the end.

Do all mgmt intentions transform in to superior customer experience? Challenge lies here. When will your customers become you sales and marketing crew? 


Copy of song from http://gayanmusic.com/blackmadonna/ for my reference to learn “How to forgive”

Black Madonna: Lyrics

They brought Tiger Knowles to the courtroom
His legs shackled in chains
Swastika tattoo on his forearm
His face twisted in pain

But there were tears in his eyes that morning
When he said I’m here to admit it
I killed your son like they said I did
I wish I hadn’t done it but I did

We got to stop all this, it just ain’t right
I got to live with it the rest of my life
I’d give back your son if I could
If I could take his place I would

What is it in him that makes him repent
That softens a heart breast fed on hate
Whatever it is, bring us closer to this
Bring us closer to this, I pray

She made herself come to the courtroom
To see the man who had murdered her son
Who’d had a few beers, grabbed a rope and a hammer
To kill a nigger, it didn’t matter which one

She sat there and rocked at the table
While Tiger Knowles wept in his hands
She’d come here to see pure evil
But saw a lost child instead

She said, you hurt me bad but why hurt you
I’m tired of hate, what good does it do
The Lord will judge what you done
She bowed her head, said I forgive you son

What is it in her that makes her forgive
That softens a heart with such reason to hate
Whatever it is bring us closer to this
Bring us closer to this I pray


Music and lyrics—Gayan Macher
Guitar and vocals—Gayan
Second guitars—Tom Finch, Ben Leinbach
Cello—Moses Sedler
Engineering and Production—Ben Leinbach

Should schools focus to teach tools?

I heard my daughter  studying in second standard asking my wife that ” I completed studying. Ask me questions. I will answer”. As she was busy, I volunteered to ask questions. Here are the questions in her classwork. Please have a look at them. Answer these questions. Should schools focus to teach tools and have exams to evaluate tool usage? What is impact by tool  taught in school on your child? if you want to deep dive, more questions below the classwork.

Introduction to Word 2007

  1. Give steps to start MS-Word?
    • Answer: Click on start – All Programs-> Microsoft Office -> Microsoft Office Word 2007
  2. List different components of MS-Word
    • Answer: The different components are Title Bar, Ribbon, Ruler, Scroll bars, work area, Cursor, Status bar, Quick Access toolbar, Office Button and View button
  3. Which commands are used to store text in MS-Word 2007?
    • Answer: The Save and SaveAs Commands are used to store the typed next
  4. Explain the function of Quick Access toolbar
    • Answer: The quick access toolbar is used to directly save, undo or redo changes in the word file while working on it.

Some additional questions to think and ponder.

  1. They taught tool. Why not schools just have only practical tests?
  2. They are teaching tool version that is quite old. Do we realize the tool usage is not same on  iPad?
  3. When children get used Microsoft Word 2007,  Will it be easy for children to change themselves later to a different tool later?

Start-up did not fail or pass. What next ?

” Can I become a developer again?”.  Looking 4 years earlier from today,  I have not thought of founding a start-up and was happy as employee.

  • Being involved in multiple outsourced product/platform development cycles and some of them are successful and run for years.  Being outsourced vendor, I cannot claim association with product in public.  I wanted to associate my name behind a product.
  • Being involved in social volunteering space, I explored experiments in education with school children and got satisfied from their warmth in return to my small  contributions for them. I wanted to offer underprivileged what my daughter receives .

I co-founded mobile learning start-up and founder member for skill development start-up in F & A space.   Both start-ups developed products worked to reduce digital divide among students and bridge gap between corporate and college. In addition to writing code, I played role of product evangelist and business development person.  Handling partnerships, involved to create partner relationship for mobile start-up with mobile OEMS and explore joint proposals as technology partner. Worked with a lot of NGOS and worked on the ground. I can demo product that is not in alpha stage and make people interested. I stand alone in meetings/conferences and know how to connect with industry leader. I was involved across long steps to make skill development start-up value partner of BPM companies and industry bodies.

I was emotionally attached to start-ups and that made me perform things that were assumed to be not feasible for me. At end of 4 years,  my family finance goals are not met. I decided to move forward and go back to sanity. This decision came with lot of reflections

  • Questioned my self whether I was letting down my partners. Contributing to re-position company website as service company, and preparing collateral’s lightened up.
  • Cursed myself why I did not plan well before starting. Then I realized the truth ” If I have analyzed and planned, I would have never started at the first place”.
  • Acknowledge to myself the reality that my 2 dreams are fulfilled and money was not in my dream.
  • Accepted the fact that I need money for me and my family.
  • Not sure whether it was right for me to decide my preference to be in Bangalore. Deciding to open with right opportunity.

With these reflections, I decided to perform 4 things to keep my level of confidence.

  • Do consulting and contribute to other. You get paid and your confidence does not broken. I am involved in part-time consulting with start-ups in last 2 months and earned money for home.  Feels good to earn money based on your own strength( little it might be). If you know start-up or corporate or college has problems to be solved or want to explore new opportunity, please do connect with me. Support initiative that enables students to improve their IT employ-ability  quotient and get jobs.
  • Be part of another start-up. I have been observing different problems in new areas and have blogged them.  Being open to being a co-founder or founding employee of start-up that meets my financial goals.  Thanks to start-ups reaching me to collaborate on equity to whom I have to express my inability to come on equity. For bootstrapped entrepreneurs, I am ready with  2 hour free consulting first time and followed with 1 hour free consulting per each week.
  • Meet more people, also entrepreneurs I have been meeting one new person and it is generally on Friday second half. it becomes quite lonely at this stage. People with whom you have superficial  relationship would like to stay away from you, being  worried of negative vibes they might receive from you. “When tide is low, you can see who are naked”.
  • Be employee and contribute to employer. Family is happy as they wish to live in certain times. I got my resume updated and corrected and shared with friends. I have attended few interviews. The fun part of attending interview is looking at interview as sales process ” You are selling your skills and they are selling their company. There is price that comes as salary.  you need to follow-up here too”. I look at every interactions as experiment

Here are my learning’s from my search for opportunities.

  • Be happy with support offered by entrepreneurs.  Do not expect successful entrepreneurs to support person being in an unsuccessful stage. The only thing you control is you can contribute support to people who need.
  • Once you are entrepreneur,you are not the guy with typical experience and believe me that it is not easy for other person to make decision to engage you. You have responsibility to create belief in other person of no risk to engage and arrive at a decision.
  • A person who has never been in start-up has probably experienced more successes and little or no failures. Hence he is not aware of investing best efforts without control over results.  Do not expect other person to know what it means to be in in your shoes.
  • Similar to product feedback, no one might offer feedback after exploratory discussion. Like product sales, you can follow-up if you want feedback. Be prepared to perform 3 follow-ups and beyond ignore and move forward.
  • Being fair and good to others does not earn right to expect that the world will be fair to you. Other might not  open whether there is match and take you for granted without much discussion. You can keep things open.
  • Do not get upset with people who lack respect for your time. You had opportunity to learn to respect others time. Be ready to empathize with folks who made you wait. They are teaching you to learn being patient and allow others to be happy.
  • You will get interesting inquiry whether you have specific skills. Every one know that skill becomes obsolete in limited period. Realize the ease to measure other person competency in my own skills and difficulty to identify potential of other person.
  • Recruiters are human beings. Do not fault with them when some one in organization comes late and fails to stand up to your expectations.

if you happen to be in my stage, be prepared to take opportunity meeting your  financial needs heads-on. Do not worry whether you have experience. The experience of entrepreneur enables you to jump on offer, learn on job to perform and be effective in short time. I can work on opportunities to contribute in  technology, product or business development.

SaaS: How is Customer Service?

After having undergone experience, I searched on internet and found the article Customer Service in SaaS and why it Matters reflecting our experience with  customer service in Indian SaaS start-up  and decided to write down.

Two of my friends, co-founders of non-IT start-ups worked in IT industry earlier and  leverage IT effectively in their start-ups today. There was a need for a call center solution in Tamil Nadu start-up and remote education solution in Bangalore start-up.  I heard about the problems they face and the problem was genuine. Both were aware of U.S based SaaS offerings, used earlier at work. His local staff includes a lot on non-IT savvy persons and also his retired father. There was doubt whether local staff can work with customer service of U.S based SaaS offerings without premium support( still with mismatch in time zones and accent and so on).

I wanted them to explore with Indian start-up and both were interested to leverage “Made in India” products, if it satisfied their needs and offers a decent customer service. Doing quick research, I shared a list of start-up websites for them to take directly with.

Experience of entrepreneur looking for solution in education space.  

The solution needs to work at multiple educational institutions in India. The solution needs to offer higher quality of user experience at lower bandwidth.  We are aware of Citrix and WebIQ  solutions and good case studies in education space to target U.S students. As we are targeting India use base, I decided to reach Indian start-ups, one in Bangalore and other in Hyderabad.

There was no email response from Bangalore start-up for our email. Hyderabad start-up send response within 2 hours and asked for a good time for Skype call.   Not comfortable with Skype calls in India, I called them over phone. The start-up service agents  asked to come for a Skype call or chat call.  Why are they not offering us phone support, when they have published phone number to reach?  We did not have any follow-up emails and calls later. Calling Hyderabad start-up lead to junior staff and was a limited experience.

Experience looking for solution in call-center space.  

We send emails. One Bangalore start-up failed to respond to emails for more than a week. On sending follow-up email, there was an email response offering a self- trial version with free hours to explore product.  His father, retired person called them and shares his observation as ” I was talking to some one who seem to be reading from script. The call agent handling looked as  junior sales  person, lacking breadth and depth of knowledge on the product / service. There was more interest to complete call and get feedback. i think it should  lead  me to a purchase decision.”

Another Bangalore start-up reached them, dispatched their state agent to our office to explain the solution. We were happy with human experience. For first time, we saw cloud solution in action, and got some confidence that it would replace older way of doing things and more confident to migrate to  a cloud based  solution.

The first experience made my friend lose his strong faith on start-up solutions. Took as challenge to look for open source solution and tried to see some initial success He is asking me whether he can hire intern and whether i can help to develop a solution.

I like Bangalore start-up that supported them to come closer to a decision to purchase. The impact of bad experience seems to negate good experience and my friend has failed to arrive at decision, purchase or self-develop. Some questions to myself are

  • Customer fails to perceive tangible value in phone support for technical solutions and not comfortable with chat support (company offers poor phone support). Which is important,chat support or better phone support? .
  • Based on age, his father is suited to interact better on phone and is not used to communication on chat. Is chat and Skype the efficient ways of delivering support to all customers (slow-typing customers, scheduling, staffing, etc.)?


Testing for Errors – Bring a Product(SLA) perspective

I had a good read of article  Testing for Errors – Bringing A Designer’s Perspective! by Parimala  and started to think whether it should be designer only or product manager.  In outsourced product development cycle, I observed that developers are more exposed in their work to designers and client side program/product managers and test engineers are less exposed to designers or product managers This make test engineers more dependent on developers and look less smart in others eyes. With support of my client, I experimented to engage test engineer(on silent mode) as part of meeting between developers and designers/product manager.

Developing my own products in my start-up, there are 3  human skills required to develop and launch product.  technical skills( write code, design, architect and devOps), UX skills( user interface, usability and user experience) and product skills( customer, demos, product position, evangelize).  Who would perform testing? For our products, I was in shared role of product person working along with test engineers. Testing was with me.

When my test engineer was involved by me in product demos to customer, the test engineer was more matured in deciding what bugs impact customer and what do not.  For him the focus was no more in creating bugs, and focus was on better customer experience. if we scaled, I wanted to setup  practice where  product manager and test engineer works closely. Hence blog “Bring product manager perspective to testing for errors” and here is why test engineers to have product manager perspective.

When product manger offers service,  customer expects  service to offer pretty good reliability. To satisfy customer expectation, product manager comes with SLA to convince customers and win their trust and confidence. Even before that, the product manager needs to get convinced that the product meets SLA to be shared with customers.

Here comes the test engineer’s role to perform tests for reliability with discussion with product manager to make sure that product adheres to SLA. When test engineer reports product to be 60% reliable, the product manager needs to project product to be less than 60% reliable and  reliability cannot be more than 60%.

when there is product launch of next version,  the technical team is under pressure to ship new features and product manager is under pressure to launch from management. If product with new features is  found to be outside of its SLA promised to customer, the test engineer needs to collaborate with product manager before he puts his foot down either  to stop the roll out of new features  or drop features that impacts reliability and continue roll out. Effectively reliability needs to improve and SLAs have to be met.

This scenario brings to front the classic conflict of developers & test engineers or development team & product team.  Leader needs to resolve the conflict in favor of the customer and not in favor of specific  person or group.

Right leadership increases team collaboration to deliver benefits. When the test engineers are provided with responsibility to test for adhering to SLAs and developers are educated about SLAs and role of test engineer, some new things start to happen. Smart developers walk across floor to test engineers to understand whether the new feature added will impact reliability.  They also ask how to determine there is loss of reliability as they want the  features to be shipped after spending significant effort.

Hours lost with eCommerce delivery

My wife’s practical advise with worse e-Commerce delivery. Will I be able to follow the advise?

  1. D not get frustrated and waste my precious weekend hours with customer service
  2.  If the e-commerce site demonstrates similar experience, do not order from the website.
  3. Do not spend time believing engaging them would transform their customer service better.

For me customer experience starts from going to customer website, select items and order items.  Should experience not continue till goods delivery to customer’s address?  As customer, for me customer experience includes the experience with  the delivery boy, technician and the customer support portal on escalations.  Beyond the ordering portal to place order, the customer experience is really worse with most of the Indian e-commerce websites.  Here is my experiences and my wife experience and above practical advise.

We ordered study table for our daughter on PepperFry prior to previous Sunday.  On last week Tuesday, I saw missed call on phone after a meeting.  On reaching the missed call number, the delivery boy says that there is no one at home when we came for delivery. Is the message that learn to wait home for the delivery boy to call me?

He asks me whether he can deliver goods with security at front.  When asked “Can you deliver after an hour?”. He says “Yes” and then I start from office and reach home. When I entered home, I call the same number to get response that the item will be delivered within 15 minutes. After that, I keep waiting for more than one hour and no one turns up with delivery. Is the message that learn lesson for not being at the time the delivery boy comes to my home?

Disappointed, I call customer service, provide the order number. The customer service promises to get back by the end of day and assures of delivery within next day. For server issues, they fail to provide a case reference number. I forget this.  Yesterday Saturday , I called customer service. The customer service asks for previous case number say there is no track of my call and ask me to explain problem again. I explain and they claim that the call is recorded and they are not able to extract the previous call. Is the message that learn that  customer portal is not responsible for good delivery and it is my responsibility?

In conversations, I get a hidden message that there are more things to worry beyond the customer.  My wife overheard talk to customer portal and made comment ” Be happy that you are not asked whether to deliver product in your office. I know it is not easy for you carry this large furniture home.”.  Asking why  made me learn the following two experiences.

She shares her delivery experience with Indane domestic gas. She considers delivery experience of e-commerce company is similar to  delivery experience with Indane domestic gas. Both of them are pathetic and there is not much difference in effectiveness and this is her experience.

My wife works as teacher in school setup, where she does not pick phone calls during school hours. She started ordering in flip-kart. The delivery boys call her during here office hours and  she does not pick up the call. She comes home and call backs missed calls. Some times the delivery boy respond and some time they do not respond. When they respond, the answer is evasive and delivery fails to happen. When she calls customer service, she is informed that she was not at home and hence they were not able to deliver order. They recommend that she can provide her office address and they can deliver there. Bad taste of recommendation after learning from her that she cannot entertain calls and visitors as per school rules.

After the same episode happened twice, she decided not to order in Flipkart.com and no more visits their website.   She says that she has no option with domestic gas and atleast have option here to switch to  amazon.in. Till now, amazon.in provides decent delivery experience, even if it becomes late hours. If amazon.in fails to deliver, she would no more order from them too.