Friday, December 11, 2009

Apple: Crying freedom from behind a locked gate

Let's face it: we all love Apple products. Whether we're clinging to our iPods, watching something through our Apple TV's, editing our papers on our Macbook, or connecting with our friends on our iPhone, it's nearly impossible to escape Apple's universal appeal and reach. For years, while in the minority, Apple products have represented style, fashion, and the cutting edge. Why get stuck in the bland world of the PC, stuck in the death grip of Microsoft, when you can truly live life through Apples products.

All lies. Every. Single. Word.

While promoting a culture of freedom, Apple, led by Steve Jobs, has systematically tightened its control over its users in a fashioned that would make Microsoft look like 60's free-love hippies. Everything Apple does is about deepening their market share and locking their users into the Apple platform.

The music you buy from iTunes? Controlled by Apple through DRM.

The computer you buy from Apple? Controlled by Apple through proprietary hardware.

The iPod you bought from Apple? Controlled by Apple through software.

The iPhone you bought from Apple? Controlled by Apple AND AT&T

The four technologies I mentioned above are the companies four core products. Every single one of them is locked in an increasingly tight death grip in which Apple can control what you do and when and where you do it.

Take for example, the iPhone. Apple has been locked in a struggle with independent developers since the launch of the device over what software will be allowed on it. Most smartphones allow you to develop your own software for them or get software from just about anywhere else and put it on your phone. Not the iPhone! To use software not purchased (or given away) through the App Store, you have to go through a risky process called 'Jailbreaking'. This process effectively removes Apple and AT&T's software restrictions from your device allowing you to run software you get from anywhere you choose.

Every update that Apple's released for the iPhone has relocked jailbroken devices. Why would they care what software you use or where you get it from, you ask? It must be because Apple cares about the security of your device or the quality of the software you get. Wrong. It's about numbers and App Store sales. Control. By forcing everyone to go through their App Store, Apple can carefully monitor and create metrics around app sales. They know what software is running where, what software is struggling, and can disable software (if they wanted to) with the flip of a switch.

More importantly, Apple can control what software goes onto the device. Competition? Apple LOVES competition, except when you're competing with them. Do you think you're ever going to see Opera or Google Chrome or even Internet Explorer on the iPhone? Don't hold your breath. Opera has been in talks with Apple for over a year to get their excellent browser on the iPhone. But Apple has Safari and they will not allow any browser that competes with Safari on their device. The same story can be told for countless other 'would be competitor' software vendors who fight an ultimately losing battle every day with Apple to have their software included in the App Store.

The bottom line is that Apple is a hypocritical duality. The very people at the top of the towers screaming 'be free' are the ones with the keys to the gates of the prison. Yet, it can't be denied that Apple and its products have brought computing a new elegance and a new style. For that, we can be thankful.

Lastly, don't think I don't understand market economics. When you're in business, you're in business to make money. You do what you can to raise revenue, increase sales, and make your shareholders happy. You, by necessity, have to be greedy. That greed isn't my problem with Apple. Greed can be a good thing.

What is my problem with Apple is their efforts to show the buying public one thing (freedom) while fully practicing another (lockdown). If you're going to hold your users prisoners, tell them you will and explain why. Don't treat them like idiots or sell them snake oil. This is the same problem I have with companies like Google who have the whole 'Don't be Evil' mantra. It's not realistic to what they do.

Treat your users well, give them compelling products and a good experience, and they will gladly stay loyal. When you're as good as Apple is at what they do, you don't need to hold your users hostage. We want to be in your prison. We're willing to pay the price for all that sexiness.

Just don't lie to us. That is the where we draw the line.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Phone Sales = Phone Interview Skills


Here’s another great article for you from Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter. They’re great sales tips for you to use when contacting customers over the phone, but I want you to also look at these as great tips you can use in phone interviews for medical sales, laboratory sales, pharmaceutical sales, imaging sales, biotech sales, medical device sales, or any health care sales job. Think of your job interview the same as you would a sales call–only here, the product you’re selling is you. You want the customer (the hiring manager) to buy your product (hire you). Keeping this kind of perspective is extremely effective.

Phone Sales Tips:
Phone Sales Tips When Contacting Customers

■ Never ask if it’s a good time to talk. This gives the other person a perfect excuse to end the call. If you are unsure if the person has time to talk, then state up front that the phone call will only take 3 minutes. When you give the person an exact time be sure you time the call. After the allotted time, tell the customer you’re at the end and ask them if they would like to continue or reschedule. Using this practice allows you to demonstrate how much you respect their time.

■ Ask questions. People will never hang up on themselves.

■ Use the person’s name at least 3 times in every phone call. Who doesn’t like to hear their name said?

■ When greeting people on the telephone, avoid using their last name. It makes the call seem too formal. Your objective should be to have a casual conversation, in the same way you would talk to a good friend.

■ Use visually descriptive words to help paint a picture of what you’re saying. A phone conversation doesn’t have to be boring and stale.

■ When starting a new telephone conversation, always give your first and last name. Never assume the person you’re talking to is going to recognize your voice or think you’re the only one with your first name.

■ Watch your facial expressions by placing a mirror in front of you when you talk. It’s amazing how they come through over the phone.

■ Add energy to your phone calls by standing up. Nobody likes talking to a “blah” person. People who have good posture tend to come across more enthusiastic than those who don’t.

■W hen you end a conversation, always summarize it in the same way you would end a live meeting. By doing so, you can prevent misinterpretation of your discussion.

■ Always allow the other person to have the final comment or question. Just because you’ve asked all your questions doesn’t mean the other person has asked all of his.

■ Avoid negotiating over the phone, use it as a means to introduce information and to follow up or confirm information. It’s impossible to truly read body language over the phone and thus you lose a major negotiating tool. A phone call however can be an excellent way to introduce a new idea you would like to receive some feedback on. Many times it will allow feedback to be gained in a less threatening manner than if it were to occur in a traditional sales call.

■ Never use a speaker phone with a customer even if they say it is fine with them. Speaker phones add to the perception the conversation is not important enough to capture 100% of the person’s attention. (Only exception of course is if there is a group involved.)

Written By:
Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter”,, © 2007

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not 'flipping out' over Flip Video support

Anyone who knows me knows I love the Flip Video. This inexpensive little video camera allows anyone to shoot quality video with minimal effort and no complicated menus or buttons to navigate. They bring the same point and shoot ease to video that digital cameras brought to still photography over a decade ago.

Pure Digital (owned by Cisco) is also a pretty social company that engages with its users at various places and aggressively uses user generated content in everything from their online promotions to their television ads. With their focus on users and 'the experience', I thought I'd have no problem getting help when my own Flip - the Flip Ultra - experienced a problem that, after research, I found to be a pretty common one.

I called up support and described my problem. The agent promptly and confidently said 'take your batteries out for 72 hours and it'll fix it'. It didn't. So I called the company back and asked for more help. Within less than a minute I was told there was nothing I could do but send it in to them for repair and that the problem I was experiencing was a common one that they've dealt a lot with in the Flip Ultra.

Alas, that is where it all went downhill. Upon looking up my serial number, the agent found out I was out of warranty and then promptly told me there was nothing they would do to help. I was just out of luck and would have to 'just deal with it' until I purchased a new camera. I disconnected from the call very disappointed and somewhat angry.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the manufacturers can't offer support forever. But this camera is a little over a year old and is experiencing a problem that is COMMON - which means it's NOT the users doing. It's a manufacturers defect. Warranty shouldn't be a 'get out of jail free' card here. It is THEIR FAULT. They should fix it. The answer SHOULD NOT BE 'just deal with it until you buy a new camera'.

Until this incident, I was seriously considering purchasing a number of Flip MinoHD's for family and friends this Christmas. Now, not so much. I'm very worried about handing those I love to a company that will offer little or no support for their own problems. I might give out small video recorders this Christmas, but based on this support experience, they will not be Flip Mino's.

Flip could VERY easily and cheaply have solved this situation by simply fixing my camera or replacing it with another. It wouldn't have cost them much and they wouldbe guaranteed another 5 - 10 new camera sales to me in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Goodwill goes a long way and Flip isn't showing any at all.

Don't get me wrong, I still love them and may - and I say MAY - buy a product from them in the future. But they are going to have to go a long way to earn my trust back and it's not going to be by telling me to 'just deal with it'.