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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.

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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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  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. 
    https://401stblow.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/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. 
     
    https://www.macworld.com/article/1167496/rim_delays_blackberry_10_reports_plummeting_sales.html#lsrc.rss_main

    • 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

This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Business News

Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

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