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FEATURE1 March 2009

60 Second Soapbox – Richard Owen

?Richard Owen, president and CEO of customer loyalty specialist Satmetrix, is enjoying going back to the 80s with Virgin Atlantic’s latest ad and listening to UK traffic news from the Pacific coast

?The product I’m excited about at the moment is…
The Logitech Squeezebox Boom is making my inner geek very happy. Forget an IPod, I want music and internet radio streamed around my home wirelessly and this product line does it all. Yes, I can listen to London traffic jams at 10pm, Pacific Standard Time, and feel right at home.

A client I’d like to get my hands on is…
Amazon.com. I’ve always admired Jeff Bezos’ relentless focus on the customer experience, even (especially) during the dark days of their business in the early parts of this decade. It wasn’t always a popular message for Wall Street to hear, but Amazon stayed focused on word of mouth and customer experience rather than advertising-led growth as the driver of expansion. Amazon is quietly becoming the master of high-volume, low margin businesses.

An idea I wish I’d had is…
Online dating. These products have captured massive changes in social norms driven by the internet, together with a solution to a practical problem. It’s a great solution to an ancient problem. I suspect that by the time my 8-year-old is 18, most social introductions will occur over the internet.

A campaign that grabbed me recently is…
I enjoyed the Virgin Atlantic 25th anniversary campaign, in no small part because it might be considered risqué here in the US. As a child of the 80s, you have to love the images of the time and the soundtrack. And you know what? Virgin Atlantic really is that good. We should be celebrating.

A campaign that needed more research is…
Another airline, United, advertising its flatbed business class service (a US campaign). The campaign is beautiful. The problem is, the service wasn’t ready and nothing kills a bad product like good advertising. If you are going to claim that you offer a luxurious travel experience you’d better make sure that it’s available on your planes.

One thing this industry could use more of is…
A focus on working with operating businesses to actually make things happen for customers. Customer experience happens where real customers connect with your firm at many touchpoints with thousands of employees. We can’t make it happen through advertising campaigns. We need to make data relevant for the front line employees of the firms who are not experts.

One thing this industry could use less of is…
Data. Yes, we need less data. I don’t know a single business that is short of data, but I know a lot of businesses that find it hard to take action. We need less data, but more of the kind of data that will create change in the business. And that’s data that everyone can use, not PhD statistics.

In five years time we’ll all be talking about…
The companies and products that were created, or prospered during the current recession. Adversity creates some amazing success stories; the iPod was launched in the last technology recession. This kind of economic mess throws all the chips up in the air and when they land there will be some fantastic success stories as well as those names who are gone forever.

And the one thing never to forget is…
It’s the customer, stupid.

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