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BlackBerry’s vision of customer service’s future is bright

What does the future of customer service look like? Hint: it still involves people, retailers, and devices, but is streamlined, faster, and customized to each consumer.



BlackBerry forges ahead

We all know that Research In Motion (RIM), the creators or BlackBerry devices, are struggling – stocks are falling, they are no longer the media darlings, devices hitting the market right now are criticized for being less than visionary. Despite their challenges, BlackBerry envisions an amazing future filled with their devices in a way that automates life but doesn’t eliminate the need for human interaction.

[ba-youtubeflex videoid=”6TQtrXyeIhY”]

A jazzed up version of today’s technologies

Some have criticized this video for being unrealistic, but there are already existing technologies that do everything in the video, but with a more disjointed interface and functioning through various devices and apps rather than just a single device that handles all of the functions, and they all look the same.

In the video, RIM imagines [ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]device integration[/ba-highlight], which is similar to how internet-connected Blu-ray players already behave. Point a device at a television and control it. You can even plug your iPhone or Android in to your HDTV, and even more amazing, there is already an app that turns any tv into a browser. Having all of your devices communicate already exists, although it remains disjointed.

Also in the video, we see [ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]mobile and social[/ba-highlight], which of course already exists. Most retail sites allow you to share content directly from the site, but the advantage RIM is pointing out in their device is that it could be tied to your device’s contacts rather than just your Facebook, or just your Twitter. Even companies like Bing are mixing in mobile and social, for example, as they have made search social, and even though that is only one aspect of a device’s use, the groundwork has been laid.

[ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]Immediate customer response[/ba-highlight] is envisioned in the video, which exists today through a variety of web apps, website plug-ins, and e-commerce features, and at its most crude form is available through web chat on a standard website. [ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]Retail management apps[/ba-highlight] and [ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]supply chain management[/ba-highlight] tools already exist and have amazing analytics that are improving constantly, but RIM’s vision of how the user sees and interacts with the app is definitely above and beyond sexy. The goal here appears to be reducing many tasks down to a single click, which would definitely a plus.

In the cab, the woman is given her total electronically, pays by holding up her app, collaborates through chat and browser sharing, and her device knows she is on the way to the station and offers to sell her a ticket with one click. These are all current technologies, using GPS, geo-fencing, and mobile payment systems, some of which you can already use without pulling out a credit card, like TabbedOut, and collaboration tools as simple as Skype.

[ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]Augmented reality[/ba-highlight] (AR) has existed for years, allowing people to hold up their phone and see messages and pop ups through their camera, typically showing where a business is or what its offers are. This technology is, however, getting a boost from companies like Google with their augmented reality glasses which is not the same vision RIM has of AR, but close.

[ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]Point of sale[/ba-highlight] specials, and custom tailored offers are already done through loyalty program apps through phones, and the [ba-highlight bg=”#DDDDDD” color=”#333333″]connected home[/ba-highlight] is already here in many forms. Now, the one part of Minority Report that has not become a mainstream reality is walking into a store that recognizes your device, and begins communicating with you through a hologram. It’s coming though. We applaud RIM’s vision still including humans, rather than the idea that everything will be run by robots by 2020.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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  1. Roland Estrada

    June 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I started laughing out loud when I read the headline. I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him – In reading the article I wasn’t quite sure if it was in praise of BlackBerry or just the fanciful vision the future they paint in the video. In any case, as “visionary” as the video is, I doubt that BlackBerry will be on the forefront of any of these technologies.
    We are five years into the touch screen revolution and BlackBerry has yet to produce a touch screen phone that anyone will buy. They also can’t seem to put out an OS that doesn’t feel like one is using DOS. Their new OS won’t be out until late this year and may be to little to late. Has the rotund lady started singing? No, not yet but she is on her way to the theatre. BlackBerry has been down before and might make it back this time but it will be a long hard slog.   

    • Yves Cuyugan

      June 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm

       @Roland EstradaRoland, let’s not forget the acquisitions of several companies made by RIM. These companies acquired by RIM knew RIM’s position in the smart phone market. The vision must’ve made sense for these companies for them to allow RIM to buy them. QNX, TAT, Paratek, etc… They all play major roles on what can/will happen down the road with these device integration.

      • Roland Estrada

        June 9, 2012 at 10:35 am

         @Yves Cuyugan Maybe. The jury is still out. Companies agree to be aquured mostly for money not someone elses grand vision. Usually, the talent within the acquired company will leave to do other things. RIM’s problem for the last five years has been the lack of vision and lack of execution. You can buy all the great tech in the world but if you have lousy management, forget it.
        Palm had an operating system with great potential when they were bought by HP. Problem, HP could not execute. If RIM can’t win hearts and minds later this year with their new operating system then the future looks bleak for them.  

  2. Roland Estrada

    June 13, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I decided to circle back to this subject in light of two things – Apple’a developer conference being held this week and BlackBerry’s one trick pony announcement, the BlackBerry Music Gateway. I know, the one trick pony comment is a cheap shot, but it was served right over the plate, so I hit it. 
    The BlackBerry Music Gateway is already behind the curve. It costs fifty dollars and only does one thing, stream music. You can spend $100 on an Apple TV and stream music,  movies, videos, photos and play games  from an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. With the arrival of the new Mac OS this next month, you will also be able view your laptop display on your HDTV using Apple’s AirPlay. The Apple TV also lets you view Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, MLB, NBA, NHL, and more. Apple of course is not alone. Vudu, Roku and others make great alternatives to Apple’s set top box, albeit without the ecosystem. 
    The point is that you can hire out to present a gorgeous gee-wiz video, but that doesn’t mean your company will be the company to bring these technologies to market. Given BlackBerry’s recent troubles and horrible leadership, they will be hard pressed to deliver on anything shown in the video to any great degree of success.
    The idea of a unified consumer experience complete with geo-fencing is outlined in Apple’s press release below. This will be available in iOS 6.
    Apple iOS 6 Passbook”The new Passbook app is the simplest way to get all your passes in one place, such as boarding passes and baseball tickets. Passbook lets you scan your iPhone or iPod touch to use a coupon, get into a concert or check into your hotel. Passbook automatically displays your passes on your Lock Screen based on a specific time or location, so when you walk into your favorite coffee shop your loyalty card appears and you can scan it to buy a coffee or check your balance. Passbook can even alert you to last minute gate changes or flight delays at the airport.”

  3. Roland Estrada

    June 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve found the perfect term for times I read dubious tech posts on real estate tech sites – Claim Chowder. I know I sometimes come off as a jerk on these posts. But you can’t just have a bunch of cheerleaders. 
    “There’s a term called Claim Chowder that was, as far as I can tell, coined by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber. It refers to when someone makes a prediction with an aura of certainty and knowledge that turns out to be horribly wrong.” Credit – The 401st Blow. 
    This is a great post on Claim Chowder.

  4. Roland Estrada

    June 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Well, this doesn’t look good. 🙂 I know like Apple, that BlackBerry has it’s fanboys but I think it’s time look elsewhere at least for now. 

    • Yves Cuyugan

      June 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm

       @Roland Estrada 

    • Yves Cuyugan

      June 29, 2012 at 7:42 pm

       @Roland Estrada It’s rough and will only get rougher. I’m not going to say tides are going to turn for RIM either. All scenarios at this point diverts to a gloomy end. Yes i will admit that I am fan and been a user of RIM products since 2000 but as a fan, all i can do is hope for the better. I’m not a blind fanboy and when the time comes to throw the flag, i will gladly do so.

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Business News

Asking the wrong questions can ruin your job opportunity

(BUSINESS NEWS) An HR expert discusses the best (and worst) questions she’s experienced during candidate interviews. it’s best to learn from others mistakes.



interview candidates answers

When talking to hiring managers outside of an interview setting, I always find myself asking about their horror stories as they’re usually good for a laugh (and a crash course in what not to do in an interview). A good friend of mine has worked in HR for the last decade and has sat in on her fair share of interviews, so naturally I asked her what some of her most notable experiences were with candidates – the good and the bad, in her own words…

“Let’s see, I think the worst questions I’ve ever had are typically related to benefits or vacation as it demonstrates that their priorities are not focused on the actual job they will be performing. I’ve had candidates ask how much vacation time they’ll receive during an initial phone screen (as their only question!). I’ve also had them ask about benefits and make comparisons to me over the phone about how our benefits compare to their current employer.

I once had a candidate ask me about the age demographics of our office, which was very uncomfortable and inappropriate! They were trying to determine if the attorneys at our law firm were older than the ones they were currently supporting. It was quite strange!

I also once had a candidate ask me about the work environment, which was fine, but they then launched into a story about how they are in a terrible environment and are planning on suing their company. While I understand that candidates may have faced challenges in their previous roles or worked for companies that had toxic working environments, it is important that you do not disparage them.

In all honesty, the worst is when they do not have any questions at all. In my opinion, it shows that they are not really invested in the position or have not put enough thought into their decision to change jobs. Moving to a new company is not a decision that should be made lightly and it’s important for me as an employer to make sure I am hiring employees who are genuinely interesting in the work they will be doing.

The best questions that I’ve been asked typically demonstrate that they’re interested in the position and have a strong understanding of the work they would be doing if they were hired. My personal favorite question that I’ve been asked is if there are any hesitations or concerns that I may have based on the information they’ve provided that they can address on the spot. To me, this demonstrates that they care about the impression that they’ve made. I’ve asked this question in interviews and been able to clarify information that I did not properly explain when answering a question. It was really important to me that I was able to correct the misinformation as it may have stopped me from moving forward in the process!

Also, questions that demonstrate their knowledge base about the role in which they’re applying for is always a good sign. I particularly like when candidates reference items that I’ve touched on and weave them into a question.

A few other good questions:
• Asking about what it takes to succeed in the position
• Asking about what areas or issues may need to be addressed when first joining the company
• Asking about challenges that may be faced if you were to be hired
• Asking the employer what they enjoy most about the company
• I am also self-centered, so I always like when candidates ask about my background and how my current company compares to previous employers that I’ve worked for. Bonus points if they’ve actually looked me up on LinkedIn and reference specifics :)”

Think about the best and worst experiences you’ve had during an interview – and talk to others about the same topic – and see how that can help you with future interviews.

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Business News

AdvoCare MLM was painted as a pyramid scheme! Well color me surprised

(BUSINESS NEWS) AdvoCare is the most recent case of an MLM being called out as a pyramid scheme by FTC, but there’s plenty more MLMs where that came from…



AdvoCare business structure

It’s always a good day when an MLM (multi-level marketing business) actually suffers legal repercussions. Granted, these days don’t happen nearly as often as we’d like – MLM CEOs have historically had deep pockets and a far reach – which means it’s all the more reason to celebrate when one gets called out.

Today’s culprit is AdvoCare, a Texas-based “wellness” company. AdvoCare has been fined $150 million by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for operating a pyramid scheme. The company, as well as a few of its top influencers, have been misleading people when it comes to how much money they could earn. This is pretty typical behavior for MLMs in general, though many are careful to couch your potential earnings in vague terms.

For the record, the majority of users lost money, and most who managed to turn a profit made a maximum of just $250. I say ‘just’ because it’s hard to know how long someone would have had to work to not only break even, but manage to turn a profit. MLMs make big claims about earning money, but when you have to pour a hefty sum of cash into the products, it can take a while just to break even.

That’s why many MLMs, including AdvoCare, push contributors to recruit, rather than sell the product. And if you’re thinking that sounds like a pyramid scheme, you’re totally right. This method of putting recruiting first is part of the reason AdvoCare has gotten in trouble with the FTC.

In response, AdvoCare is moving away from multi-level marketing sales and pivoting to selling products directly to retail stores, which in turn sell to customers.

Now, with AdvoCare’s downfall, don’t be surprised if other MLMs insist that they’re different because they haven’t gotten in trouble with the FTC. In fact, plenty of MLMs are quick to tell you that they’re totally legal and totally not a pyramid scheme. Sure, Jan.

First of all, if there’s a big focus on recruiting, that’s obviously a big red flag. There are plenty of pyramid scheme MLMs out there that just haven’t gotten caught yet. But there are other sneaky ways an MLM will try to rip you off. For instance, some companies will insist you buy tons of product to keep your place, and that product can be very hard to unload. Not to mention, many of the products MLMs tout are subpar at best.

AdvoCare getting called out by the FTC is a great start, but MLMs seem kind of like hydras. Cut down one and two more seem to spring up in its place. So be vigilant, y’all. Just because an MLM hasn’t gotten caught yet doesn’t guarantee it won’t still scam you out of your hard earned cash.

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Business News

Bose is closing their retail stores, but we haven’t heard the last of them

(BUSINESS NEWS) Over the last 30 years Bose has become so well understood by consumers that they don’t even need retail stores anymore. We hear them just fine.



bose closing retail stores

Over the next few months, Bose plans to close all of their retail stores in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. The company made the announcement last week. With 119 stores closing, presumably hundreds of Bose employees will be laid off, but the company has not revealed exact numbers.

However, this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the maker of audio equipment is struggling to stay afloat. Rather, the move marks a major change in how consumers purchase tech gear.

When the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company opened its first U.S. retail store in 1993, it was making home entertainment systems for watching DVDs and listening to CDs. According to Colette Burke, Bose’s vice president of global sales, these first brick-and-mortar locations “gave people a way to experience, test, and talk to us” about Bose products. “At the time, it was a radical idea,” she says, “but we focused on what our customers needed and where they needed it – and we’re doing the same thing now.”

When a lot of this equipment was new, consumers may have had more questions and a need to see the products in action before purchasing. Nowadays, we all know what noise-canceling headphones are; we all know what a Bluetooth speaker is. We’re happy to read about the details online before adding products to our virtual shopping cart. The ability for Bose to close its retail stores is probably also an indicator that Bose has earned strong brand recognition and a reputation as a reliable maker of audio equipment.

In other words, consumers are less and less inclined to need to check out equipment in person before they buy it. For those who do, Bose products can still be purchased at stores like Best Buy, Target, and Apple. But overall, Bose can’t ignore the fact that their products “are increasingly purchased through e-commerce,” such as on Amazon or directly from their website.

In a statement, Bose also said that it has become a “larger multi-national company, with a localized mix of channels tailored for the country or region.” While Bose is shutting down its retail stores in several continents, it will continue to operate stores in China, the United Arab Emirates, India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea.

Burke said the decision to close so many retail stores was “difficult” because it “impacts some of our amazing store teams who make us proud every day.” Bose is offering “outplacement assistance and severance to employees that are being laid off.”

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