I attended two sessions on Mobility on Sunday at CES. They were both geared more towards content providers and the future of that medium on phones – not really oriented on shopping. But one of the speakers – Shane Lennon of Gypsii, a mobile-based social networking service – gave an example of how someone might use their service, and it has a lot of serious implications for retail. He spoke of how someone could upload a video of a drunk friend, potentially straight to something like MySpace or YouTube and alert other friends to the revelry, complete with directions. Andrew Perlman of Vringo picked up on the story and noted that with his service you could then set that video as your video ring tone – on other people’s phones. So if you call your buddy, he or she is greeted with the video evidence of their drunken revelry. I must lack the social networking gene, because I fail to see how that’s cool, but that’s another story.
What I started thinking about was what that means in the store. The sleeping Comcast guy is already beyond infamous, but what happens when a customer records a video of employees behaving badly in a store on their cell phone, and zaps it straight to YouTube? How long before we see the nightmare Home Depot help, or the Best Buy employee blithely getting the technology explanation completely wrong? According to Douglas Craig from Discovery Communications, we’re only 1-2 phone iterations away from turning every consumer into a broadcaster (at least in the US).
How do you combat this? With our most recent research on workforce management and loss prevention, Paula and I have been circling this issue, trying to find a way to break what really becomes a vicious cycle – employees are not engaged, so customers get mad, so corporate cracks down, and employees, caught between corporate and customers, disengage further. And everybody loses.
We're still working on that, but a place to start would be Jack Mitchell, of Hug Your Customers fame - he's got a new book coming out, called Hug Your People. If the retail industry could pull that off, what a wonderful world it would be.