Internet Pioneers Prague Meeting Highlights Need for ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) in E-commerce

These are my minutes from the discussions amongst the members of the private Youstice* meeting which took place in Prague on October 18-19, 2014 at the Aria hotel, right in the centre of the Czech capital, and barely a stone’s throw from the house where Franz Kafka used to live. Yet, our discussions were by no way Kafkian. On the opposite, they made it possible for us to link all the issues related to today’s e-commerce customer relationship management. The notions of trust and respect were at the centre of all debates, therefore highlighting the need for trusted third parties, mostly in Europe, even though the approach, as often, is different from country to country.

[*Disclosure: Youstice is my client]

ODR - Doc Searls

Doc Searls in Prague: despite what the message in Czech on the screen says, a clear signal was sent by the co-author of the Cluetrain manifesto during our meeting: respect your clients!

E-commerce: it’s a matter of trust

Doc Searls’ initial title for this discussion was “terms and policies individuals assert”. The discussion started with a consensus around Doc’s introduction to the meeting: “freedom of contract was established a long time ago in order to do business but in 1943, in order to gain scale, the law was changed, which means that one party is issuing the contract and the other is forced to accept or reject it (as when we buy stuff from Websites and are forced to accept terms of conditions which keep changing)” Doc said. Doc Searls, for those who can’t remember, is a co-author of the Cluetrain manifesto, which is still available at http://cluetrain.com; a fundamental piece of Internet marketing literature which was already pinpointing the need to consider Web viewers not as “eyeballs”, but human beings(1).

As is always the case with the Internet, all users are decision makers, whether some merchants like it or not; and from there came the idea of ‘do not track(2)’. “We are right at the beginning of that” Doc went on. A company called the Respect Network(3) have issued a document entitled the “respect trust framework(4)” which spells out principles like “both parties will respect the boundaries of the other party”. These issues of trust and respect are at the heart of the need for Online Dispute Revolution (ODR) as we will find out later on.

Two parties of equal power

Essentially, there is a need to “establish contracts between two parties of equal power” Doc went on. It is very early days but one thing that is happening is that “the system we have is broken and it needs to be fixed”. What was working well for few large companies in the industrial age isn’t working that well in the Internet age at all. “A lot of people are coming to us from Salesforce.com and other large Internet companies” Doc Searls added, and they understand that they need to deal with customers in a much better way. They used to think we were “communists” but this is over, they are jumping on the bandwagon now.

A new effort is also going on in the UK about what Doc called “consent receipt” for which any time a customer gives consent, they get a receipt. “This is a step forward in the right direction” he added. They are working on the “log in with respect” button with regard to Facebook and other social connect mechanisms. It’s hard to say what Facebook will be up to with your data. “If one comes up with this alternative button, there’s code which one will be able to install on site-side. This ensures that one enforces respect and issues statements you won’t tamper with users’ data” Doc explained. January is the potential release date, currently going through Kickstarter.

B.A. may not need an ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) system, but smaller players do

Esther Dyson, once head of ICANN in the early days of the Internet, joined the conversation mentioning that if there is “an issue with privacy, there is also one with regard to trust”. “British Airways doesn’t really need an ODR system like Youstice because they already have a reputation” Dyson said; even though there has been some traction with larger merchants and e-merchants which would tend to prove that a trusted third party for dispute resolutions is not only a technical solution; it is also instrumental in reassuring clients who expect neutrality and fairness. “The target for ODR is the sites that customers don’t trust” Dyson went on. Respect isn’t enough. Indeed, consumers want to be able to trust the shops they buy from. This is only natural in an increasingly globalised world where extra European buyers can make online purchases from 3-4 different merchants, not always located in the same country. It is hard to trust someone you cannot see in a country you know nothing about.

ODR - Esther Dyson

Esther Dyson (middle) with entrepreneur Zbynek Loebl (right). Meeting with Esther was like meeting a legend. The first time I heard about the Internet was in a Channel 4 program in 1994! (the program was entitled “Visions of Heaven and Hell” things haven’t changed that much after all!

The aim of ODR: reduce the number of disreputable merchants

“The ODR promise is that we’ll give customers the potential to negotiate one to one and resolve issue on an individual basis” Esther Dyson pointed out. The idea is to reduce the number of disreputable merchants. One of the issue with privacy though, is “that you never know when it’s been reached; you only know when it’s too late” the former head of ICANN and member of the Youstice board of advisors added. A tower of Babel, and the need for a common language Trust and respect aren’t sufficient, and there are more things in that balance of modern e-commerce which is more and more a cross-border issue: “there is a need for an enforcement mechanism and current legal systems can’t help because they are different in all parts of the world” explained Zbynek Loebl, co-founder of Youstice and our host for that week-end in Prague. And it’s very hard to predict that such enforcement mechanisms could be in place any time soon according to the Czech entrepreneur.

Joyce Searls, co-president, with her husband, of Searls Group(5), commented on Zbynek Loebl’s statement: “there are a lot of little things which can create a river of change when all those efforts will be aggregated and it won’t solve the problem just on the legal side but on the company side too.

We have been tracking this area for so long and it seems that something is happening here at last and all these things are coming together. Things have to be solved,” She said. It is no longer possible indeed, to ignore the need for respect and trust on the part of clients, as well as the requirement to solve disputes when they arise. The future of e-commerce hinges on that, the need to fix its principles, both ethically and technically. Online Dispute Resolution is part of that.

“Resolving claims is how you build a reputation” (Esther Dyson)

Pablo Cortes, our Spanish representative – also a Professor from the Leicester University in the United Kingdom, emphasised the requirement for the market to evolve beyond current practices: “trustees have been in the market for a long time and they have had their code of conduct,” he said, “but if a customer complains about a breach of privacy they never do anything against large businesses because there is a conflict of interest.

Yet, settling disputes isn’t just a negative thing, as pointed out rightfully by Esther Dyson: “one has to understand”, she commented, “that resolving claims is how you build a reputation”. Zbynek Loebl can however see “that this movement is happening, slowly but surely. The obvious example is BBB(6) in the US and there are similar trust marks in Europe” he said. “We at Youstice have well established that retailers could see that improved public policies would be seen as positive by customers and retailers alike and it could be a game changer. And it’s a matter of things catching up with all”.

ODR

The BBB Website banner: for US businesses only

Professor Ethan Katsch(7), who is credited for inventing the field of ODR(8) (Online Dispute Resolution) added that “conflicts of interest become more prominent because of so many entities being in relationship with so many others. You have got to build trust in spite of these conflicts of interests. The old way of building trust was to avoid conflicts of interest,” ODR offers a way to table these issues and solve them. “Is it safe to buy from this retailer?” Asked Zbynek Loebl.

A couple of months ago he just got an email from a VP from a retailer: “we have a request that someone from a country wants to buy from a small e-shop from France, and they want to know whether this e-merchant is safe to buy from; can you help us?” “This,” Zbynek Loebl said, “is a very simple issue, a very simple question and yet, answering that question is almost impossible and the reason for this is globalisation. There are still no simple answers to such simple questions but there are potential solutions.”

ODR

Internet pioneers: some of the attendees of the Prague meeting on Saturday 18 October, 2014

A simple complex question

As a matter of fact, this isn’t a simple question, as pointed out by Esther Dyson in response to Zbynerk Loebl’s anecdote. Yet, with such complex issues, third party services can help: “If customers were asked to have their problems solved by internal departments or third party, I’m certain they would choose third party” Leah Wing, lecturer at the University of Massachussetts/Amherst(9), commented.

“There is a need for that, but as seen in Germany with ‘Trusted shops10’, traction is only being gained and we are not there yet”. Ivan Debnar from Slovakia added: “if I were an merchant, I would like to show I care about my client and there is need for first line support from within the company. This is also instrumental in building trust with one’s customers”. “It is indeed a two step-process,” Ivan Stefanko joined in, “first and foremost, there is customer care”, and next comes Online Dispute Resolution.

The beginning of a new era: VRM supersedes CRM

There is still a lot of evangelisation to do in order that the term ODR is known and the concept develops. Even some of our meeting attendees declared they had never heard the term before. By and large however, the future of e-commerce is no longer a matter of CRM but a matter of trust and respect, and the ability to resolve issues which are sometimes, unfortunately, ignored or minimised by merchants according to Pr. Ethan Katsh.

The empowerment of users and the maturation of e-commerce and especially cross-border ecommerce is calling for new standards where consumers will be able to manage their relationship with their vendors, in much the same way that vendors started managing their relationship with their consumers through CRM, twenty years or so ago.

This, is the beginning of a new era.

______footnotes

(1) Suffice it to say that I have been a fan of the Cluetrain manifesto from day one, and still am. I hold that text for one of the most significant marketing texts ever written. A lot of what Doc referred to during that meeting in terms of respect and trust has to be seen in the light of the manifesto.

(2) http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/tag/do-not-track-no-track/

(3) https://www.respectnetwork.com/

(4) http://openidentityexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/respect-trust-framework-v2.pdf

(5) http://searls.com/tsg/

(6) http://www.bbb.org/ Better Business Bureau

(7) http://odr.info/katsh

(8) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_dispute_resolution#cite_ref-15

(9) https://polsci.umass.edu/profiles/wing_leah

(10) http://www.trustedshops.com/

6th Webit Congress 2014: a viral marketing campaign worthy of note

Webit CongressThe 6th Webit congress will take place in Istanbul on Oct 1-2, 2014. The congress launched an initiative which I found very interesting from a viral marketing point of view and I wished to tip my hat to them as well as make a bit of publicity for my application. After all, one should never leave such matters to others. The Webit congress organisers have indeed asked potential speakers to apply online and let their networks vote for them. Those with most votes will be invited to speak at the congress. Very shrewd indeed as most of these applicants are influencers who tend to share their applications with their numerous contact lists on the various social media platforms they are working with. There are a few bugs on the mobile version of the application and the service seems to be going in a loop I was told. The various desktop browser versions are more reliable. I found the idea so good that I couldn’t resist the urge to invite my readers to vote for me, if they so wish. Let them be thanked in anticipation for their kind help.

6th Webit Congress in Istanbul – October 1-2, 2014

My presentation title : 10 key success factors for successful digital content strategies

GWC event: Digital Marketing & Innovation Conference

Event stream: Content Strategy and Marketing (Brand Social Strategies Stream and Storytelling)

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Descriptif anglais de ma présentation : What has changed in the past 18 years in the area of digital content strategies? Is content marketing becoming mainstream? If so, are enterprises handling it properly and what are the critical success factors for good implementations of digital content strategies in the field? Yann Gourvennec has devised online content marketing strategies since the mid 1990s. He will use his field experience and the work he is now carrying for his clients to shed light on that question and to provide straightforward, easy to implement tips and tricks for businesses wanting to succeed online even when their budgets are very tight.

Personal bio: Yann Gourvennec has a long-standing experience in marketing, information systems and Web marketing. He created visionarymarketing.com in 1996 and since then, he has practiced Web strategy, e-business and Web communications in the field. He has been a member of socialmedia.org from 2008 till 2013 and he co-founded Media Aces, the French Association for enterprises and social media. He is a lecturer, a keynote speaker, an author and blogger. His upcoming book Mastering Digital Marketing Like A Boss will be published soon. In early 2014, he went from intrapreneur to entrepreneur when he founded his digital marketing agency Visionary Marketing, in partnership with Effiliation.

https://twitter.com/ygourven

via Support Yann to become speaker of the 6th Global Webit Congress 2014 | @WebitCongress #webiit

Enterprise Social Networks: Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris Feb 10-14

enterprise social networksA few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Bjön Negelmann, the creator and organiser of the enterprise 2.0 summit which is due to take place in Paris on the 10 – 12 February 2014. This event is the unmissable conference on the subject of enterprise social networks and will not only be the chance for the audience (100 – 200 professionals from the ESN market and clients) to listen to some of the most inspiring speakers on the subject, but also to interact with each other in some very exciting workshop sessions. Here are in a few bullet points, the most important takeaways from Bjorn’s interview:

enterprise social networks

 

Enteprise 2.0 Summit: The Enterprise Socal Network Event

  • France is considered by Bjorn as the centre of Europe. The event is definitely international and moved away from Germany a few years ago in order to open up to the rest of Europe even better than it had done before
  • The European market is as usual very varied, if we except multinationals which tend to be pretty much the same throughout the continent. Bjorn however describes the SME market as a very local market for each of the countries involved, with 3 major hotspots being the usual suspects (UK, Germany and France).
  • Regarding enterprise social network adoption, Bjorn has established a 3 tier hierarchy of companies having embarked on enterprise social network projects:
    • first, the first generation projects, mostly in big companies, which tend to be “stuck in the Middle”. These accounts started off with management support and failed to gain momentum within a broader employee base,
    • Secondly, the new players, still mostly in big companies, with major examples like Solvay or Bosch, who are coming late in the game, but are better implementing enterprise social networks with a broader managerial vision,
    • Thirdly, SMEs all over Europe which are leapfrogging all the other types of clients because they tend to be more agile and more business focused.

Don’t miss the Enterprise 2.0 Summit of which Media Aces is a partner

Ballmer “everywhere I go I see paper and pencils; there is still room for innovation” #ebg

briefcase-largeI attended an EBG (Electronic Business Group, an influential French e-business Think-Tank) conference on Nov 8 in Paris, at which Steve Ballmer was speaking. It has taken a while to process my notes but here they are at last, sometimes answering my questions about the future of Microsoft, sometimes not. However, undoubtedly, Ballmer has managed to captivate the massive audience in the small theatre room of the Espace Pierre Cardin at the Heart of Paris, France. Ballmer was interviewed by EBG’s founder and Secretary General, Pierre Reboul. Steve Ballmer is also a member of the board of directors of EBG.

There has been a great deal of questions asked about the future of Microsoft lately, with regard to their apparent inability to cope with the mobile market (even by Gates’s own admission). However, it would be wrong to think that Microsoft has lost the War even though it may have lost a few battles. As a matter of fact, the software giant from Redmond, Wash. is still very strong in many areas, including Business Cloud, enterprise collaboration (more than 70% market share with SharePoint, not to mention yammer), home gaming with the very successful Xbox platform, and of course, Microsoft office which is, like it or not, still broadly used, despite a flurry of free more or less open source office suites which are available from the Internet. Yet, Microsoft’s business models are challenged, office is slowly turning into a pay per use model with Office 365 and Windows 8 is just about coming back to life after a much awaited 8.1 facelift a couple weeks ago. So where is Microsoft headed? That is the question. Let us see what Steve Ballmer, the current CEO who is soon to retire, has to say about this, even though he has  managed to evade quite a few questions…

Right after the introduction , Steve Ballmer answered a question about the newly released surface 2 tablet. “Surface 2, is the evidence that Microsoft is moving from regular PCs to becoming a device company” Steve Ballmer explained, therefore confirming the impression is that many analysts had had, after the announcement of the purchase of Nokia, or rather as part of Nokia as Mr Ballmer explained a few moments later.

Does that mean that Microsoft is going to stop working with OEMs? “I would say something different” Ballmer said. “We continue to work with OEMs, but we will produce more devices”. Microsoft is definitely choosing a different path from Apple, its model seems to be far more akin to Google’s, even though its business model is a lot different.

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Ballmer with EBG’s Reboul on stage in Paris

“Everywhere I go I see paper and pencil there is still room for innovation”

Reboul said that Microsoft’s surface 2 was a good device yet, he wondered, “how do you make this a bestseller?”

“You want a different value proposition” Ballmer explained. “This device is meant to make you more productive; it is better than just watching movies.” Besides, a “continued stream of innovation is required too. Every meeting I go to, we still come across paper and pencil” Ballmer pointe out. We see a lot of opportunity for more innovation”. I couldn’t agree more with that. 10 years ago, I used to take notes using handwriting recognition off my iPAQ mini tablet. Now this is something which is no longer available, and I am still longing to find a good technology which can free me of paper and pencil and let me take notes naturally in a handwritten manner together with intelligent character recognition (ICR). After all, it used to be possible 10 years ago it should be now too!

Back to Windows 8: it was launched with a bad buzz, now a new has version just been released. What do you think?

As to sales, we have sold over 100 million units in a year : that’s pretty good!” Ballmer said. “Sales have been pretty good, but regarding consumer PCs there has been an impact with low end devices and we are working on this with new devices” he added. Sales have been better that the feedback in essence. “Regarding feedback, it has been more average” Steve Ballmer said. “Some like it, some not. There is a lot of diverging feedback. But what we did with was pretty bold. We’ll continue to move forward. Still, with enterprise customers, windows 7 is still most popular”.

What is the border between mobile and desktop? was Reboul’s next question

“There are no rigid borders” Ballmer said. “Phablets [a cross between tablets and phones] exist. People are moving from one device to another. We even make an 80 inch table you can hang on walls. There are no firm lines between devices.” he said.

photo by idownloadblog via the Verge > read on at http://bit.ly/ms80inchtab

What changes in Microsoft’s business model

What of Microsoft’s legacy licence-based business model? Is Microsoft forced to move to the SaaS model. How will they make money out of this? “The future of software is to be delivered as a service” Ballmer confirmed, “be it for b2bor b2c. Office 365 is already the number one SaaS application in the world” he added. But is Microsoft making as much money from this as it used to? “Services are small in revenue but they are growing rapidly and we are hoping for increased in the numbers of seats? Our revenue stream is still dominated by software licences, but things will change in the future” Steve Ballmer added. “For business customers, the best value is to go for online services” he added. “Also for consumers but some customers like to buy software licences once and for all and be done with it!” as the recent hoo-hah about the all SaaS version of Adobe Creative Cloud demonstrated (sample here).  Here I’m not really convinced on how all those revenue numbers will add up, but time will tell.

Nokia : what did you buy exactly?

Another question I had was about what Microsoft had actually bought from Nokia and what they intended to do with it: “Nokia has a lot of pieces” Ballmer said. “We didn’t buy maps, nor base stations for networks, we bought the phone business and the tablet business”. This also means that Microsoft now has two tablets! Surface and Nokia’s. Ballmer dismissed that issue altogether: “eventually, we’ll have two tablets (the deal is not yet approved), this is not a problem” he added. Time will tell again if having two aspiring products is enough to compete with 2 established leaders like Apple and Samsung. Surface 2 seems to be a nice product though, the concept is cool, and I’d really like to have a tablet which lets me work on my blog posts from cradle to grave … that is as long as both the apps and the hardware are up to scratch. I haven’t yet switched back to windows for mobiles but who knows, never say never…

Social strategy for Microsoft

Social is an area in which Microsoft has been either very successful (B2B) or very unsuccessful (B2C, despite the fact that it used to have a leg up in that game with MSN a long time before Facebook). “We are a player in certain parts for social networking” Ballmer confirmed. “We have a very successful offer with Yammer, and Skype, we are part of the social fabric” he added. Ballmer stressed that even Internet giant Google is struggling in that space. “Google has tried a bit but struggles against Facebook” alluding to Google+ even though it is now picking up a lot, mostly through the authorship and communities features, and I would not be surprised if things changed in the long run, in favour of Google. “Yammer has a free model. Once the IT department wants to add control then they go for the pay version” he said. It should be remembered that both Yammer and Skype are acquisitions.

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Gaming

Gaming is one of the very successful spaces for Microsoft: “Xbox is one of the most exciting experiences” Ballmer said. “The emerging model is freemium gaming but there will still be a model for hit games where production costs are huge. Both of those models are promising for the future, but they are for different kinds of games. Casual gaming will focus on freemium” Balllmer said. “The new Kinect sensor is phenomenal. It can even spot a finger moving” Ballmer said. “It will be used for games in which gamers shoots bows and arrows for instance” but there may be future applications for businesses as well. “The future will be the projection of the user IN the game” or even a show he added.  Imagine being able to kick a penalty kick in lieu of the player in the field? As more innovative features like these will be added, there will be a new space for costly games, but also “ a lot of the freemium models will start casual and grow serious”, even though “Microsoft’s games are for serious fun” Ballmer added.

Microsoft, innovation and its future (unnamed) CEO

Microsoft is a big company and it will be even bigger after Nokia’s acquisition has been ratified. “Ther are 100,000 employees at Microsoft before Nokia, there will be 130,000 after” Microsoft’s boss said. “There’s room for innovation at Microsoft. At R&D and also from the bottom up. Good Innovation is a good mixture of bottom up and top-down. Good success doesn’t come all from the bottom”. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1990 and is planning to leave soon. “I love Microsoft” he said “but I have made my decision.  I want to have an active life outside of Microsoft. We are pivoting on devices and services, and it’s a good time to make the transition now. When we have a new leader we’ll have a new leader. I don’t know his name and I wouldn’t disclose it.” There has been rumours that Microsoft’s new boss would be Nokia’s Steven Elop but Ballmer didn’t comment on that.

Ballmer’s plan isn’t to retire though: “I wouldn’t retire and fish, I would scare the fish. I want to study, travel, look after the local basketball team, be part of boards of directors… I’ve got many things I’d like to study before I retire” he concluded.

Social Media in business today : SMI conference – Marrakech

SMI

I will take part in the forthcoming Social Media Impact conference due to take place in Marrakech, Morocco on October 11-12. Here is an interview I delivered a few weeks ago in order to introduce my pitch over there. I have included a video recording of the interview as well as an embed of my presentation.

What is social media’s place in the professional world today?

It’s actually quite different from what it used to be. We’re about eight years after the introduction of social media in the enterprise so my perspective in this SMI presentation in Marrakech will be that of somebody that manages social media in the enterprise and that has been doing so for the last five years. So obviously the kind of place we are in at the moment is that of the structuring of the initiative. We shall see three major phases in the project surrounding the presentation in social media within the enterprise:

  • the triggering of the project: proving the concept and that it is really worth doing.
  • the development phase: how one ramps up and scales.
  • the structuring phase: that’s where we’re at. The structuring of the organization, the processes and everything else.

With the constant growth and reach of these social networks, can a company survive without them today?

Obviously, certain companies can survive without social media, it depends what you do. If you deal in plastic for instance, there are very few chances that you’re going to be a major player in the collaborative web. Now, if you’re in a market like the telecoms, as we are, or in any CPG market, you’ll have to be where your customers are, and customers are there, online. Northern Africa has been absolutely booming in terms of social media usage and so yes, brands have to be where customers are, to initiate or engage in the conversation.

As a company, how do you know which social media fits best to the message you wish to pass along?

There are a number of things I will dwell on in this presentation. To start, I will change that notion of message, because this is not how social media is working. We’re not working with messages but with conversations which we may not have initiated, or at least not in a traditional way. I will also go through a number of business cases taken from Orange from all over the world (Spain, France, England, Romania), and I will go through all these examples and show some of these cases and their return on investments.

What are the major threats posed by the use of social media in a company?

Well, if you don’t handle social media very well then you could face a number of threats. I think threat number one is just not being there, thinking that the conversation doesn’t happen simply because you’re not listening to it. Threat number two is, once you’re actually there and have engaged in social media, letting things get out of hand. So you have to be there nurturing, every day, and be sure to respond to, if not everything, as much as you can. So there are loads of processes and organization: it’s probably easy to do social media for yourselves, but if you’re a large organization then it is very different.

How do you see the future of social media in the corporate world in the near future?

I think the landscape is going to change dramatically in the next few months and years. We’re going to see a lot more governance thrown in to social media and the way it is organized, or rather disorganized right now. There is going to be massive endeavours in terms of how we train people and get them up to speed with regards to social media, and not just the ‘experts’, or the ones in charge, but the entirety of the enterprise.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xu04om_en-social-media-in-the-workplace-with-yann-gourvennec-smi-conference_tech

Video Interview: interview : SMI conference