Ten Customer-Centric Things to Do With the New iPod

Bringing video to the Apple iPod opens up a wealth of ideas for attracting, selling to, serving and generating solid relationships with customers. While not primarily designed for this purpose I’ve been thinking about how many new opportunities Apple’s latest iPod opens up for serving customers and having a platform to constantly bring value to them.

Here are the top ten things you can do with the new iPod to strengthen relationships:

  • Priority One: Offer your customers a path out of IVR hell. The iPod has the potential to change how companies segment the service levels they offer customers. Customers with the highest lifetime value are the ones getting highly personalized service today while the masses get re-directed to Web sites and have to navigate Integrated Voice Response (IVR) menus. Getting things done in IVR hell takes a lot of patience and worst of all, it’s nearly impossible to do a few things at once when stuck in IVR hell.

    It’s going to be only a matter of time until a thought-leading company steps up, turns the more routine responses from their IVRs into graphical content you can navigate within an iPod, and actually see a video that helps you solve the problem you are working on. Imagine the implications for anyone in a services industry where IVR systems deliver mediocre performance at best today, and the immediate thought comes to mind of PC and personal networking support.

  • Sales and channel training on steroids. For any manufacturer fighting for mind share and frustrated with the stack of binders sitting in the corners of their distributors’ and channel partners’ offices that aren’t hidden even when they visit, the new iPod opens up the chance to product entertaining content that educates. Product marketing departments could create tailored podcasts geared to just a specific distributor, front-end loading the podcast with kudos to the top sales reps. Sales thrives on competition, so why not use a monthly podcast to give recognition to those in your channel that are delivering excellent results to your shared customers? It’s a great chance to give those who deliver exceptional results wide credit.
  • Customer references in real-time. Sales cycles of all types rely on customer references and testimonials. Instead of shipping out CDs full of these, consider creating smaller editions for downloading from your site. Implications for the channel are clear here too — no longer will your channel partners have to rely on either just brochures or DVDs that are expensive to produce and age fast.
  • Virtual conferences on your customers’ schedule. It’s only a matter of time until an entire conference is recorded for playback on iPods — that way your key customers can “attend” the conference virtually during a commute, traveling or when they want to refer back to a key point while preparing for a presentation on their own.
  • Prep certifications on complex products and services. Not only channel training but product training on networking and services products could be handled on the iPod. Again the focus would have to be on entertaining content that educates and stays away from static PowerPoint slide swapping.
  • Video magazines that share insights from other users. Oracle, SAP and Microsoft each publish their own print magazines, each with great content on how to accomplish complex tasks with their respective applications. Think of a monthly produced video magazine which interviews other users and says what’s working for getting more out of their enterprise software.
  • Reality show based on your CEO. You could call it “The Complex Life” — if it worked for Ozzy, it will work for your CEO. Now this would be entertaining — and I am half-joking but also half-serious. Think of the impact of this for Oracle users for example to see what Larry Ellison does in a typical day, or Steve Ballmer at Microsoft and if he really does chant “Developers! Developers! Developers!” in his office like the famous MPEG shows him doing during a conference a few years ago.
  • Virtual University. Far from talking heads, this would be a series of video downloads to do everything from how to get products to work, navigate services, learn about what your existing products are compatible with. Again, high tech would be a perfect fit for this in terms of meeting customers’ needs.
  • Monthly competition for the best success story. Many companies, especially ones in the software industry, struggle to get success stories from users. Turning this into a competition from users to produce their own success stories as part of the monthly video magazine would lead to creativity that is unimaginable in headquarters’ offices. It’s an approach to turning the tables on a tough problem for any company — getting success stories and references out with accuracy and enthusiasm.
  • Virtual voice of the customer. Consider making a select set of your customers your advisory council and giving them a new iPod so they can view and respond to monthly updates your company produces on all aspects of the business. Under a password-protected URL these advisory council members could respond back to the issues presented. That way when the council does get together in person there is much more consensus in place.

Bottom line: Consider using the new iPod as a platform to entertain, educate and invest in your customer relationships. While I am not on the Apple payroll and don’t own Apple stock, I see high value for enhancing customer relationships with the video capabilities of the new iPod.

Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He is the author of several books on making the most of analyst relationships, including Best Practices in Analyst Relations, which can be downloaded for free.

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