New Year’s Resolutions
I am so glad to be back at my keyboard. Not that the holidays weren’t fun, but too much of a good thing combined with getting out of my usual rhythm has made me antsy. I honestly don’t understand how people retire.
To fend off boredom during my hiatus I read a few books and made some resolutions that are relevant to this column and I share them with you now.
It was a real eye-opener to read Lynn Truss’s book “Talk to the Hand” which is loosely about manners and their decline. You might recall her from “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, which is about proper grammar and punctuation. Indirectly, in both books, she says a lot about automation and impersonalization, which leads directly to CRM, but that’s not my point today. As you might guess, Truss is an Englishwoman with a decidedly and delightfully punctilious approach to grammar and punctuation.
Reading any English person exposes you to differences in spelling. For example, Truss trades “z’s” for “s’s” in words like “civilisation” and “organisation” — which are very hard to get through an American spell checker. There are other differences that might be worth a look-see in the American technology sector, which I think I will adopt, such as:
One thing that absolutely struck me was her use of “internet” instead of “Internet”. It made me think, ‘Of course it’s the internet! It’s been what, fifteen or so years?’ The internet is not new any more and it has achieved commodity status. Sure we still use the article “the” whenever we refer to it, but there isn’t any other internet, so why not use lower case?
I’ve always had some reservation about capitalizing the word anyhow. For me, its too much like Bart Simpson saying, ‘My bubble, my rules’. I had the uneasy feeling that we were making too much fuss about one of our own inventions, which quickly gets Freudian and I don’t want to go there. So, for me, in 2006, it’s the internet.
World Wide Whatever
While we’re at it can we do the same for the Web? I don’t mind maintaining capitalization for the World Wide Web though I have similar Freudian concerns. But when we’re discoursing about the Web it would be a little less pretentious and simply call it the web. I swear the only people remotely likely to be confused are a few etymologists stationed on Borneo for the last decade and a half. It’ll be OK, trust me on this.
And if we can do that, can we also agree to move Web site to website? Over the holidays I was reading a book about the Civil War. In correspondence between Lincoln and his cabinet you see expressions like “some body” and “every thing” which eventually became “somebody” and “everything”. That was also the period when “these” United States became “the” United States. It was a great time of bringing words and ideas together and it reminded me that we have the power even today of creating new compound words where they make sense. Website is certainly one instance where the amalgamation makes sense and I will henceforth use it.
While we have this momentum, can we also get some resolution about what to call our favorite software growth sector? Since Y2K we’ve been through at least four name changes including ASP, hosting, on demand, and now SaaS (with the cutesy upper and lower case letters that slow down hunt and peck typists like me) and the world can’t keep up. I was in Paris for a conference last April and the people there were two full jargon releases behind. No kidding. That’s not good for the industry, something has to be done.
Five years ago we did a report that identified 13 different business models all claiming to be ASP. Most were promoted by emerging phone companies with dark fiber optic cable they desperately needed to light up. Twelve of those models became museum pieces and the market saved us from terminal terminology redundancy.
But just when we thought it was safe to say “ASP”, the survivors started describing their offerings as “hosted”. I was OK with that since hosted is a better descriptor but then Siebel and IBM got into the act and tried to brand “OnDemand”, which was quickly commoditized to “on demand” and still I thought that was kosher.
In fact, I really like SaaS but now the stakes are getting higher. Real corporations are depending on this stuff and for the good of the industry, its customers, and Wall Street, we need a name that does not change as often as (pick your favorite Hollywood actress) changes her hair color. I say we stick with SaaS at least until the French catch up.
These might not be your exact ideas of New Year’s Resolutions but they’re practical and easier to weave into your life than that diet or your goal to train through the winter for the Boston Marathon. And, in an era of globalisation (couldnt resist) they’ll also serve to make us all a little more buzz-word compliant.
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It’s clear that manners have been outsourced, along with customer help and support.
The joke over the Holidays, as usual, with a local West Coast major computer, software, and electronics retailer was that XXX’s — where customer service is just a marketing slogan (not even searchable on their website [sic].
Richard Edelman, leader of the Edelman Worldwide group, recently wrote a couple fine Blogs about reconnecting and creating ongoing dialog directly with customers. It’s something that companies have found difficult to do as they’ve become so disintermediated or siloed.
But, I have a positive story — when I called an Austin-based computer company’s support/purchase line (and was routed overseas), after I inquired about 4 or 5 products, and I oscillated on buying, I was offered a purchase discount by the sales rep. I was shocked. The rep was empowered to offer me a discount. Halleluliah!
Now, can we take that ten steps further and create meaningful dialog across all points of a company — and create interaction where customer service is job one, not just a slogan/talk to the hand mantra?