Communicating go-live deployments

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The work of eCommerce deployments doesn’t end with go-live sign-off.
If you work with eCommerce platforms then you know the happiness of after go-live deployments. The actual events of go-live deployments can be an adventure when unplanned events ‘happen’. But the work doesn’t end with the final sign-off and completion of the deployment plan.

There are a series of tasks after deployment.
One important step is to gather information from listening posts such as voice of customer collection areas. The success of the deployment is really based on how the customers use the system. Unwritten and unspoken voice of customer responses are visible by monitoring the key metrics of the site such as conversion rates, average order value, number of items in the cart, etc.

Don’t underestimate the value of communicating the success to other stakeholders.
I’m not referring so much to the confirmation email that usually goes out to the project team and direct project stakeholders. Certainly, that is an important communication to send. It let’s everyone know that the project team has successfully deployed the new release and that customers are now able to take advantage of the new features.

But there’s a way to get further benefits out of the release by notifying other company stakeholders and customers. This communication summarizes what changed and the value it provides to the customer. In other words, what problem did it solve.

Company stakeholders love this type of communication. It’s a group win that shows a team successfully navigated processes, approvals, and company friction to create something that adds value. People like sharing good news with others, especially clients. So a success communication is often shared again through forwarding. It’s the original viral communication within an organization.

Keep the communication simple and on point.
A good release communication  is simple and shows the changes visually. Often times this is done through a blog post or an email. The communication should be written in common language to engage the audience best. I like avoiding charts, tables, and highly structured templates.  (It’s not a specification!)

The communication should be upbeat. Let the customer know how excited the team is to deliver value to them. It’s why the team works and this work is a reflection of the team and the commitment to customer value.

Top drivers of small business satisfaction

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A couple of business colleagues recently attended the Enterprise Council on Small Business Annual Summit. They shared their conference notes and summary with me and others when they returned. Information and knowledge share of meeting events is a great way to create conversation within your team and possibly create positive change in your organization.

One of the lists they shared with me was full of good principals that I thought was worthy to share and document on MerchantStand.com. It lists the top drivers for satisfaction when selling products and services to small business owners.

Top drivers of small business satisfaction in order of importance:

1. Make the message simple

Owners want a hassle free experience from suppliers. The same applies for individual consumers also. People like simple. People get simple. People use simple. So keep your message simple and on point.

2. Talk Straight

Talk about the problem you are solving for your customer, not your products. When you do discuss a price, show the price up front and give a dollar amount rather than a percentage off amount. Doing this will show that you are honest and credible.

3. Serve on their terms

Give small business owners control in service interaction. Owners are “take control” individuals, allow them to select the method in which they interact with your organization. This means traditional channels will blur. Some customers may choose to transact business with you on the phone, some on your internet site, others in person, and some via social media.

4. Commit Early
The first supplier of a product or service is most likely the one the small business will stick with for the foreseeable future. If part of your business plan is to become the first provider to new small businesses, then get in and commit your solutions early. This means becoming a recognized leader in your industry by participating in the conversations that are out there. It could be social groups, networking events, social media, blogs, etc.

Putting perspective on P2P payments

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P2P payments are coming. But who is using them?
Just how ready are we for instant P2P payments? It’s all the buzz in the financial world and players are scrambling to get in the space. P2P, or person-to-person, payments have been around for awhile. I started using them with PayPal for some eBay transactions years ago.  PayPal has advanced the P2P features over the years. If you haven’t tried their mobile interfaces then it’s worth your time

http://www.gocomics.com/pluggers/2011/07/13
The original P2P payment

I tried to get some family members using PayPal for P2P payments, but….
When I suggested some family members try PayPal with me for some money exchange you would have thought I was speaking a foreign language. Maybe so, but I didn’t talk about the technology as much as I did the benefits: Instant payment, no cash,uses email address, no fees. Habits are hard to change, and that includes how we make payments to other individuals. At least with those in my circle of relationships it appears they are  making P2P payments with cash and check.

Are electronic P2P payments impersonal?
I wonder if wider acceptance is hindered because this type of payment is viewed as impersonal? Giving cash or writing a check forces an interaction. It’s giving something you have. Almost like a personal mark. Sending a P2P payment could be invisible. The recipient just receives an email with notification of receipt.

Or is it a trust issue?
It could also be that people don’t trust the delivery of the electronic delivery of a P2P payment.  Cash and checks provide a physical artifact representing the payment. I’ve heard some of the older generation in my family use this argument when talking about electronic bill pay. They like the paper trail it generates. It gives them a feeling of security and trust.

Reality is, we don’t make many P2P payments.
How often do we pay someone versus paying an organization or a business? For me, not much. Even as I think back to college and high school days, I don’t remember large number of money exchanges with friends. Most times people paid their share.

So when I put this in perspective. I think P2P payments are a good option to have for financial transactions. But they are just a small part of a full range of payment options that we’ll all need to conduct our daily transactions.

Remembering Cooperstown Dreams Park and Youth Baseball

I had the privilege of spending a week in Cooperstown New York this past week watching 104 teams of twelve year old boys play baseball. It was a bittersweet time for me because I love the game of baseball so much, but it was the last time my son would play youth baseball before moving up to an older and bigger league. I wrote these thoughts after the last game as a tribute to baseball and the Cooperstown Dreams Park experience.
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There is a special magic to 12 year old baseball. It’s the pinnacle of a child-hood game that captures the transition from the innocence of youth to adolescence. It’s the basis of our national pastime wrapped in a set of emotions, experiences, and memories. This is a game that’s bigger than any player, any coach, and any fan. Youth baseball captures our hearts for a time and leaves permanent impressions that become part of the fabric of our being.
Cooperstown Dreams Park view from behind the plate
A view from behind the plate on one of the 22 fields.

The Cooperstown Dreams tournament is about more than wins and losses. To describe this experience, it’s best to see it through the eyes of a twelve year old. It’s a players moment that starts in a locker room that makes them part of a brotherhood. The colored stockings, the laced cleats, and the cap make more than a uniform, they capture a team.

The fields at Cooperstown Dreams Park create a big league feel. The grass is full and without bald spots or weeds. The bases are painted white before each game. The foul poles are clearly visible and distance markers painted on the outfield fences.  The infield dirt is softened with water before each game and there’s grass inside the base diamond that’s level and cut low.

The voices from the stands are encouraging, but more-so those of a teammate. Baseball team chatter may sound like jibberish to the untrained ear, but to the player it’s a pick-me-up, an encourager, and a reminder that you are not alone. Their memories are not about which player batted first, played a certain position, or the innings they played. No, their memories are from walking up to the plate and seeing the eyes of the opposing pitcher. Their memories are from hitting the ball, stealing a base, or making a catch. Their memories are about their teammates and the opposing teams.

This is a game for players and playing the game is about the total experience. The smells, the sounds, the uniforms, the chatter, and the other players all contribute to the magic; as if it could be captured with words. The things a fan sees such as the batting order, innings played, and the scores of the game are only remembered because a scorer records it on paper.

But the paper is just a small part of the reflection of the player’s memory. The details and stats from the paper are the subject for debates, records, and legends. It’s what players talk about when they don’t play any more.

The real memories of baseball are kept in the player’s soul. Cooperstown Dreams Park provides a venue for special memories because it’s set in the traditional home of the game itself. The tournament creates a stage and a setting for the total and complete experience.  Steve Busby of the Washington post (1974) captured our fascination to the game and link to our childhood this way, “Baseball, to me, is still the national pastime because it is a summer game.  I feel that almost all Americans are summer people, that summer is what they think of when they think of their childhood.  I think it stirs up an incredible emotion within people.”

Thanks for the memories boys. You’re part of a brotherhood now. Thanks for playing hard and giving your best this week. You’re taking away memories that one day you’ll share with your sons. That’s just part of the complete experience. Love the game. Live the game.