Call Centers Come Home

I was always intrigued with the fact that I could be talking to someone in an Indian call center when I needed some type of customer service with practically anything I owned. I had lived and worked in northern Mysore State (now Karnataka), of which Bangalore is the capital city. Thanks to the technology of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, this was now all possible. When I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India in the mid-sixties, international telephone connections were not what they are today. But with the advent of the Internet and world-wide connectivity, we are now able to “reach out” to someone anytime anywhere.

India offered a highly educated English-speaking workforce who were proficient in communicating in English, but unfortunately still faced a barrier when in came to American English nuance and even pronunciation. There were economic advantages, of course, to contracting offshore for customer service for American companies in those early days. Now with the ubiquity of technology and connectivity at bargain rates across the States and in other English-speaking parts of the world, American companies can now begin to capitalize on the use of native American English speakers catering to the an almost exclusive American clientele. The reality is that most Americans are frankly much more comfortable speaking with “one of their own,” especially when you are talking about making a business transaction. But maybe I’m wrong?

Roughly three million Americans work as customer service representatives in call centers and home offices across the United States. I am sure that there is also a huge economic benefit to these American companies. Home sweet home!

Ray Myers


Where in the World is Amazon’s HQ2 Going to Be?

Everyone seems very interested in this question.  As in most questions about real estate it all seems to come down to “location, location, location,” even when your business is basically online.  But in this case it is not the buyer (Amazon) who has to come up with the cold, hard cash.  It seems like other locations across the country are all in a bidding war to come up with the most attractive offer that will entice Amazon to choose their locale.  Even suburban Washington, D.C. wants Amazon to call northern Virginia their second home

The State of Virginia is weighing in to support their northern counties. The Washington Business Journal reported that the State was considering offering up to $30 million in property value to Amazon at no cost.  This property is currently occupied by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) near Washington’s Dulles Airport.  The CIT property is currently tax-exempt and assessed at a combined $29.45 million.  It includes the 173,000 square-foot CIT building, 13.5 acres of undeveloped land and is right on the edge of Amazon’s requirement of “30 miles from a population center.”  All of these transactions have apparently been done confidentially and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

So hurry up everybody if you have an interest in being Amazon’s HQ2.  I only read about northern Virginia’s interest this past weekend.  You have just ONE MORE DAY to submit your proposal for Amazon’s HQ2!

Ray Myers

Amazing Massive Amazon

What’s not to like about one-stop online shopping?  The only thing you might have to worry about is that in the future you will not have any shopping centers, strip malls or corner stores where “everybody knows your name.”  Gone will be the “social network” of shopping that involves interacting with real people in real time and space (bricks and mortar).  From some economists and business experts, there is a growing concern that Amazon’s tremendous growth and market dominance could increasingly stifle competition and erode jobs.  This is the real threat that Amazon poses as viewed by business researchers and analysts.

“To consumers whose seeming every wish can be fulfilled by the more than 400 million products available for sale on the site, its scope can seem enormous.  Amazon sells 52% of all books (print, electronic and audio) in the United States.  Forty-three percent of all online commerce goes through Amazon.  It’s got 45% of the cloud computing market, meaning it’s the single largest provider of infrastructure that runs thousands of popular websites.  It’s not in banking and insurance, though analysts say that wouldn’t be a stretch.”  Consumers enjoy low prices, while suppliers get squeezed.

And you always thought that people with their heads in the clouds were out of touch.  Seems like that might be a good place to be these days if you are in business.

Ray Myers

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Shop/Search Online

Remember the Yellow Pages?  I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly.  I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  What would we do now without Amazon or Google?  As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.

Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear.  Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping:  My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required.  Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked:  It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?”  And now there is even more.  Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.

But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants:  Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft.  It’s too late to escape.

Ray Myers

Technology Alters Shopping Habits

Tell me about it!  Unfortunately, my wife is a small business owner who has suffered through this business reality.  Consumers now have the edge in dominating the traditional retail market in their ability to make the best purchasing decisions.  They easily can compare product quality and prices with the devices they hold in the palms of their hands. Technology has made it so.  At the same time, general merchandise stores are “shedding” retail jobs since today’s consumers obviously need less customer service in making their purchasing decisions.  You can find all of the needed information online.  Just consider that general merchandise stores shed  34,700 jobs in March alone.

“E-commerce and technology have absolutely changed the rules of the game and given massive amounts of power to the consumer.  There is a self-help mentality now.  People walk around with their phones in their hand to tell them the best model and the best price.  You don’t need as many people walking around trying to convince you to by a sweater.”  Or almost anything else you might need.”  So in a sense, consumers are now skipping the “middle man or woman.”  It’s just you and your technology that can help in making your purchasing decisions.  Something’s lost, but something’s gained?  You have become your own best “personal shopper,” with a little help from your own technological devices and prowess.

Or maybe it’s all about consuming different things differently.  One E-commerce expert recently noted that “there has been a shift in consumer spending from things to experiences, that’s why restaurants are doing so well.”

Ray Myers

Everything’s Up-to-Date in Kansas City?

Here’s the news: AT&T has offered discounts to its Gigapower high-speed home Internet customers who allowed the company to monitor their behavior.  Now it will offer the lower price without tracking.  So if I understand this pricing change correctly, you will now pay less to maintain your privacy.  What a concept!  But maybe I am not being fair.  I will let you be the judge.  

As reported in the Kansas City Star last week, AT&T has explained the their new pricing policy in the following way: “The company will dump that tracking and charge anybody who buys its Gigapower level connection $70 per month for a connection to the Kansas City market.  So customers who took the privacy-light discounted service will no longer see AT&T watch what they watch.  Those who paid a premium to keep their behavior secret will see their rates drop $30 a month.”  If I understand this all correctly, if you paid more to protect your privacy initially, you will recive a bigger rebate because wants you to feel better about having paid them so much more in the past?  What price privacy?

I just don’t know.  Good intentions gone bad.  Or perhaps consumers are getting more skeptical about how much personal information they want shared on the Internet.

Ray Myers

Hershey Sweetens Its Candy With Technology

Retailers clearly recognize that they must begin to harness new technologies to stay relevant  – and boost sales.   Even candy companies recognize that the market place has changed and that they need to retrofit the shopping experience for today’s customers.  Candy giant Hershey is already integrating new technology in its store displays in an effort to enhance its sales approach.   They have even incorporated facial-recognition technology in their machines dispensing free pieces of chocolate.

When shoppers smile they are dispensed a free piece of chocolate. Sorry chocolate lovers, the technology is able to recognize when you try to come back for seconds!  Hershey is also testing ways it might use technology to personalize its treats, as shoppers increasingly seem interested in one-of-a-kind products.  For example, they have rolled out machines that allow shoppers to personalize the packing of an over-sized Hershey Kiss.  The customer/consumer becomes the designer of the candy packaging itself.  Companies are using technology to make the shopping experience a more memorable experience than simply a mundane errand.

I can remember the old sales campaign slogan “This Bud’s for you!”  Arguably, beer and alcoholic beverages in general may not be the best rewards for many reasons, but who can resist a candy Kiss just made and wrapped for them!  FYI, Hershey has also been able to double the sales of associated Kiss products in stores.  And Valentine’s Day 2016 is just around the corner.

Ray Myers