Prompted by reading Seth Godin’s post on the paradox of promises in the age of word of mouth recently, I have been thinking about the issue of honesty in the selling and delivery of services.
We do an awful lot of eCommerce platform replacement projects. During the initial pre-sales conversations most of our prospective clients have fixed expectations on go-live dates. Some of these are overly-optimistic. We are faced with the dilemma of either telling them the truth (with the risk of losing the work) or saying that the project can be done and finding a way to extend the deadline afterwards.
From the projects we’ve rescued and the stories we have heard, honesty is always best. Yes, we may lose some work (which is always painful) but I believe that the alternative is worse. Starting out with dishonesty (in this case an unachievable deadline) only causes a very costly, painful implementation and lack of trust between supplier and customer.
And let’s face it. These projects are always challenging enough anyway. They are complex, involve many stakeholders (internal and external), and affect many business process and IT systems. Customer and supplier are going to be working closely together for extended periods, often under pressure. The overall chances of success are much, much higher if we are honest with each other right from the start.
As an aside, and on the specific point of timescales, some suppliers may reply that they started out thinking that the overly short time scale was achievable – only to discover after they’ve won the project that it’s not. My view on this is that these kind of responses should be a warning flag to prospective customers because it demonstrates naivety. An experienced supplier knows what is likely to go wrong or take longer than envisaged and so only makes promises that they know they can deliver against. That same experience is what will help ensure the overall success both of any initial projects and the ongoing relationship.
Salmon have been working with Endsleigh Insurance to deliver a truly exceptional online experience.
To reflect the way its customers want to receive quotes and buy insurance products and services, Endsleigh Insurance – the #1 student insurance provider in the UK – chose Salmon to build an intelligent online quote and buy platform.
Here are some written details on the project:
Overview: Salmon implemented a new intelligent eCommerce website for Endsleigh Insurance Services Ltd, ensuring its customers benefit from a truly exceptional online experience that includes the ability to purchase insurance & financial products and services directly.
Business Need: Endsleigh prides itself on understanding customers and their needs. The solution needed to be designed to allow Endsleigh to display relevant and targeted propositions, and additionally allow underwriters to develop competitive propositions and offers.
Solution: The new website’s design and experience based architecture is centered wholly on customer needs. The innovative solution leverages a unique “recognition system” conceived by Endsleigh and developed, implemented and integrated by Salmon, which intelligently determines which content to display to any given customer segment. Salmon have developed Endsleigh’s new eCommerce platform leveraging Microsoft Office SharePoint Server and Microsoft Web Content Management.
Benefits: Endsleigh’s diverse customer content including documents, web pages, video, photos and reviews are now managed via a central repository. This ensures better knowledge sharing, improved customer communications and increased process efficiency. For returning visitors, the solution automatically checks what knowledge Endsleigh already holds. Importantly this ensures visitors are not only given access to the detail of their cover and claims advice, but also visibility of complementary products and offers or discounts applicable. Other benefits include;
Capability to implement affinity partner strategy in areas such as co-branded landing pages and white labeled services.
Access to business tools that allow Endsleigh staff to manage and update the entire online solution themselves, whilst following approval cycles to meet FSA regulation.
Personalisation that allows Endsleigh to promote tailored products and advice designed to suit each individual and complementary products, offers or discounts.
Salmon demonstrated a high level of technical expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the insurance market and their passion and skills have helped us meet our vision to make endsleigh.co.uk an eCommerce website which can exceed customer expectation and help us lead the market when it comes to purchasing insurance online. Ian Passmore, Managing Director, Endsleigh Insurance
Crikey. News stories are coming through thick and fast out of Salmon HQ. And this is quite incredible. Halfords have surpassed their one-millionth “Reserve and Collect” milestone. Yes. 1,000,000.
Here is the full press release – but in essence Halfords “Reserve and Collect” proposition continues to be a resounding success with Halfords customers; driving 90% growth in multi-channel revenue in the year to 3 April 2009. Halfords.ie has also recently launched the “Reserve and Collect” service and initial sales in Ireland have been encouraging and are growing.
Much is said about the “Customer Experience” at the moment, and rightly so. But a compelling customer experience is not about visual design as the headlines too often infer. Jon Asbury, Channel Development Manager for Halfords sums it up just perfectly;
“The benefits of “Reserve and Collect” are plain. The channel is a powerful tool in driving incremental sales and one we will continue to develop with Salmon over the next few months. We believe it offers customers what they want, choice! It allows customers to do their research online and secure items for collection in store. Many of our customers don’t want to wait at home for a delivery, or pay delivery charges. By checking stock on line and reserving in store they avoid the disappointment of turning up to a store to find the item is out of stock, it also caters for those last minute buyers who don’t have 24 hours to wait for an item to be delivered.”
Now in their fourth year the Retail Systems Awards look to recognise excellence and innovation in the field of information technology within the UK retail sector. The primary criteria for judging are the delivery of definable and significant business benefits, innovation and originality of application, ROI and project management issues such as delivery on time and within budget.
Salmon’s entry demonstrated excellent technical expertise and foresight in delivering eCommerce solutions for retailers, as a result of using our Application Framework for eCommerce (SAFE™) – a repeatable eCommerce solution which extends IBM WebSphere Commerce and can be implemented in just 35 days.
In the last 12 months Salmon has successfully implemented and supported the launch of 25 branded eCommerce websites for leading brands including: Barratts Priceless Limited, Ben Sherman, Boots, Hotter Comfort Concept Shoes, Scotts & Co, Sleepy’s and the Regatta Group.
Here is a very nice podcast that discusses project failure (I am not going to use the phrase ‘IT Project’ out of principal).
For any real younglings reading, Judith Hurwitz has been an infrastructure and enterprise software industry analyst and strategy consultant for several decades, and in this interview (with Asuet Inc’s CEO, Michael Krigsman) she nails the topic completely.
Successful organizations have a CEO who views IT as a strategic asset. If you execute IT strategically, move fast, and break a lot of glass along the way, you can achieve dramatic results.
Hot on the heels of news related to our projects for Novae and Boots.com, we are pleased to be able to draw your attention to an announcement of a successful implementation of a new B2C eCommerce platform – this time supporting Stylo plc – the UK’s second largest independent shoe retailer. The project – built with SAFE™ (Salmon’s Application Framework for eCommerce) supports Stylo’s multiple brands including, PriceLess, Barratts, Discount Shoe Store, Petitfeet, Big Shoe Boutique and Nineteen Twentyone.
Talking about the project, Ken Platt (E-Commerce Manager at Stylo) said,
SAFE™ was affordable, fast to implement and supported our multiple brands. Its “out of the box” functionality met all of our requirements, supporting our online needs as well as giving us complete control over our eCommerce environment. We now have a scalable platform in place that meets our customers’ desires now and will cope with increasing levels of traffic and our changing business needs in the future.
As a result of the engagement with Salmon, Stylo will benefit from sophisticated functionality for marketing campaigns, as well as better merchandising, content and order management. Common business processes are re-used across the business and at each point of interaction (store, contact centre, web, etc). The technology behind the eCommerce platform is a single instance of IBM WebSphere Commerce Enterprise Edition.
SAFE™ (Salmon’s Application Framework for eCommerce), is a series of pre-configured, reusable and customisable eCommerce components combined with a mature project delivery methodology. SAFE™ speeds and simplifies the delivery of very sophisticated eCommerce solutions, significantly lowering the risks traditionally associated with launching a new eCommerce capability, or replacing an existing eCommerce platform.
Salmon has integrated IBM WebSphere Commerce with CyberSource payment gateway, Mercado for optimised search and browse and Coremetrics for online analytics and marketing optimisation. The eCommerce platform has also been integrated with Stylo’s back office systems including sales, despatch and catalogue requests, so that information can be horizontally shared across the business, resulting in the ability to provide a totally integrated experience for the customer.
The sites will be hosted by Rackspace whilst Salmon are responsible for supporting the databases and application software.
Retail Systems have just announced the finalists for the Retail Systems Awards 2008, which will take place on Wednesday, 29 October at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s Park Lane. And the great news is that Halfords and Salmon have been shortlisted in the Retail website of the year category.
Now into their third year, the Retail Systems Awards look to recognise excellence and innovation in the field of information technology within the UK retail sector. The primary criteria for judging are the delivery of definable and significant business benefits, innovation and originality of application, ROI and project management issues such as delivery on time and within budget.
The other award categories are;
EPoS solution of the year
Supply chain solution of the year
Best use of in-store marketing technology in retail
Best use of technology in the hospitality and leisure sector
Citing a solution that was “quick to implement” would “scale to meet customer needs” and the provision of “all the tools necessary for online marketing and promotion of our brands”, Chris Bulmer’s (Group IT Director) full comments can be read here.
The full press release highlights how Regatta had little control over their previous website infrastructure which was increasingly disparate and outsourced across various suppliers. By using SAFE(TM), Regatta lowered development costs and obtained the ability to implement multiple production ready eCommerce solutions quickly and efficiently. As a result, each Regatta brand is ideally placed to develop additional websites to embrace new geographies, propositions, market segments or customer types quickly and easily.
The Hawkshead site was implemented and launched in just 35 days. Craghoppers and Dare2b will launch in August and September respectively.
An interesting piece by Avinoam Nowogrodski, the CEO of Clarizen, a provider of project execution solutions in CRM Buyer today.
As Avinoam correctly points out, much is being made of Web 2.0 and the implications for businesses and customers alike. I’ve long since lost count of the items I’ve read describing the benefits of new personalization technologies, user-generated content, social networking, RSS, and Ajax-based user interfaces etc. And rightly so. But it is really fascinating to see Web 2.0 focused on from a new angle for a change.
Avinoam points out that, “the convergence of SaaS (Software as a Service) and Enterprise 2.0-based collaboration technologies has produced the next generation of project management applications”…..<and that>…..”the next generation of project systems provides a significant advantage for companies in completing their complex e-commerce projects on time and increases their competitive edge.”
I find it fascinating that despite technological advances beyond our wildest dreams, journalists, end users and suppliers still talk about project failure – or how to deliver projects on time or to budget.
If there wasn’t too many books on the subject already, I’d be tempted to write one for Salmon. Maybe we should author a manifesto or some kind?