Was it the sandwich or the service that sparked the bad dream? And does it matter? After the sandwich episode I cannot recall indigestion, though it is certainly true that anger was one of the emotions in play. You see, having ordered in the coffee shop of a top of the range global hotel group (pastrami and salad on rye, if you must know), and having waited 20 minutes to get it, I was saddened and incensed when the wait staff (glorious American gender obfuscation), moved my untouched plate to one side, placed my bill where it had been, and asked me, politely but with a not-to-be-refused firmness, to pay immediately since the wait staff in question was going off shift and needed to close my open account through the till. When I weakly moaned that I was going to ask for a cup of black coffee, then it was pointed out that this could be most easily ordered from a wait staff coming on-shift. This made me cross, and in no mood to eat a sandwich with due care and deliberation. Nothing could have been more in contrast with the attitudes that the hotel was trying to encourage, yet it was the gap between that aspiration, and the routines imposed on staff for performing process, that led to the problem. A problem that was not diminished at all when I quietly said that I was a foreigner, and wait staff must understand and humour my own national customs, which included paying for my meal after I had consumed it.

After I left this shoot-out at the sandwich corral, I reflected on the passage of arms that we are currently engaged with online in terms of of our marketing manners. In a recommendation-based world we would expect as friction-free buying process. We could craft our name and reputation online without the wait staff getting in the way, as long as we can be in reasonable control of our reputation. This probably involves supplying high quality goods at fair prices with great speed and admirable customer service. In other words, there will still be problems, and we are as prone to being let down by third parties as anywhere. But, actually, if we can create an immaculate reputation and maintain it, then many users will view the odd lapse with sympathy. Amazon above all others has succeeded in doing this. Goods do come quickly, you do know what is going on all the time, and while I sympathize with real booksellers going out of business, when you ordered a book from many of them you could wait 3 weeks or 3 months and had not a clue what was happening at any point.

All of which drove me to Badgeville (www.badgeville.com), because it promises me that it will “boost loyalty and conversion across the customer journey”. As so often happens a good word (“gamification”) has fallen amongst thieves here, and instead of meaning the turning of processes (like learning) into game-based routines which can speed information and knowledge acquisition, it now seems to mean reward systems for ensuring that recommendations are positive and posted. So after the initial distrust of recommendations on travel sites – are hoteliers writing their own? – we now have well-regulated sites, but recommendations and feedback supported and encouraged by rewards, points, grades, stars dished out by the product or service vendor. So, after almost 50 years, we come back to Green Shield Stamps! And Badgeville is an excellent site of its type. It appears to be strong on anti-gaming logic – no one can fiddle with the rewards structure – and it is a PaaS (platform as a service) play which runs across all of the vendor’s web exposure points – resellers, Twitter, FaceBook, etc. But it worries me all the same – is human psychology so basic that just by moving a reviewer from one level to another or giving them more points for posting on Pinterest, you can, as Badgeville so delicately says “re-inforce valuable behaviours”. No room here then for quirky old folk who won’t pay for their sandwich until they have eaten it.

But if you believe in the power of recommendation, pop in and see GlassDoor  www.glassdoor.com). This new take on the jobs board allows existing and former employees to post their anonymous views of the pros and cons of a company as a place of work. I checked Forrester. Very enlightening. You would need a raft of points and levels – a Platinum Ego Stroke – to even create some valuable behaviours for some companies here. When people are fed up with the job, they are quite explicit. If they feel blocked or taken advantage of they also say so. In current global jobs markets this will not make much difference, but one day this interesting idea will have a market. Or maybe by that time we shall have fragmented work altogether in such a way that we will all be self-employed problem solvers. Last week I met a sensible man running a tech unit in a major company who told me that he used Mechanical Turk all the time to source expertise and solve problems outside of the reach of his current team. So I was not surprized to find myself looking at GigWalk (http://gigwalk.com), a way of using the smartphone to divide jobs into small pieces and spread them across different geographies, all the while avoiding full time employment or the tax and insurance implications of staff. How will we handle the marketing messages when we do not even know who did the research or developed the answers?

We have a lot of learning to do about the future of work, which probably means more three letter acronyms. Meanwhile I award points and prizes to the man last week who described his product development mantra as 3D (Discover, Design, and Delight), and his friend who described a V3 product plan (Velocity, Volume and Variety). Getting down to two letters is a behaviour that I would like to encourage!


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