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Archive for August, 2011

Why it is easier to lose business than to get it

August 31, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Ecommerce, Online Marketing, Social Networking, Uncategorized

All businesses make mistakes – but how those mistakes are handled may often decide whether the business retains or loses its customers.Why it is easier to lose business than to get itBusinesses are not philanthropic institutions: they exist to make money in the form of profit. To make money businesses have to anticipate and satisfy customer’s demands, so that customers provide the necessary income to the business in return for the goods or services that they require.

Identifying enough potential customers who have the requirement for the goods and services on offer, is the primary problem for every business. Having identified the potential customers, the next difficulty is to convert them into customers that pay for their goods and services.

It often costs businesses more than they realise in order to gain a new customer – and considerably more than it does to retain them, so it is surprising how businesses can often take a casual attitude to their customer relations and to retaining customers for their repeat business.

Gaining and retaining customers is a privilege not a right. Customers don’t have to give their business and they are not obliged to remain customers, especially if the marketplace is filled with competing offers for products and services.

Maintaining customers depends largely on how the product or service is delivered.

As a minimum standard customers should always receive their goods and services at the price agreed and delivered in the manner and time expected. This is certainly the case in business to business transactions, where delivery to price and specification have particular importance to companies involved in manufacturing, or where their supplies inventories work on “just in time” deliveries.

From time to time, mistakes will be made – products may fail to meet their specification, deliveries are incorrect or are late, or perhaps there are mistakes in the invoicing.

When a customer complains, the customer is not always right.

But customer complaints need initially to be treated in the first place, as if the customer were right. It is easy for some employees not directly involved with the customer to treat such complaints as a nuisance, but complaints are a valuable source of information about how customers perceive the product and service  for which they are paying.

It is all too easy for  employees not directly in contact with the customer to be unaware of how their actions can alienate both potential and existing customers; for example a delivery not being made on time, a credit level exceeded that prevents delivery, incomplete orders.

When such events occur, provided that customers are informed of the problem at the earliest opportunity and kept informed about progress to its resolution, the harm to customer relations will be minimised.

The worst situation is to not inform the customer of any problem, but allow the customer to find out the hard way, which may create problems for the customer, and breaks the trust of reliability between the customer and supplier.

For managers responsible for getting and retaining business, it is important to ensure that all employees understand that however remote their jobs appear to be from a direct relationship with the customers, their actions can have a significant role in the acquisition, retention or loss of a customer’s business.

Getting customers and retaining their custom is hard work which can easily be undone and negated by others who don’t appreciate the consequences foreseen or unforeseen of their activity or lack of it.

If a customer complains, and there is shown to be a problem, the first action is to admit it to the customer and apologise. It is the job of the manager responsible for getting and retaining business to investigate the complaint, its possible causes, and to provide a swift remedy for the problem. In doing so, managers should consider the following principals:

  • Don’t assume that approved business procedures are followed, always check.
  • Can procedures and policy it be verified?
  • How do you know?

Managers who are responsible for getting and retaining business, must take ultimate responsibility when customers are lost through failings of company staff.

Managers must check that the policies, procedures and results are maintained by their employees, and be ready to help when foreseen and unforeseen problems arise that effect the customers.

All businesses make mistakes, but how those mistakes are handled may often decide whether the business retains or loses its customers.


Police stopped riots by monitoring Twitter and BlackBerry Messaging

August 30, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: data security, mobile phones, smart phones, Technology Companies, Twitter, Uncategorized

Police say they stopped rioters after monitoring intelligence on social networks like Twitter and BlackBerry Messaging (BBM).Police stopped riots by monitoring Twitter and BlackBerry MessagingAssistant Met Police Commissioner Lynne Owens told a committee of MPs officers learned of possible trouble via Twitter and Blackberry messenger.

He said they provided intelligence but could also be misleading.

A number of politicians, media commentators and members of the police force have suggested that Twitter and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) had a role to play in the riots.

The BBM system is popular among many young people because it is both private and secure – users are invited to join each other’s contacts list using a unique PIN, although once they have done so, messages can be distributed to large groups.

Ms Owens said officers had been attempting to sift through an “overwhelming” amount of “chitter chatter” on social networks during last week’s riots in London, but some had proved vital.

“Through Twitter and BBM there was intelligence that the Olympic site, that both Westfields [shopping centres] and Oxford Street were indeed going to be targeted,” she told the home affairs select committee. We were able to secure all those places and indeed there was no damage at any of them.”

Not only are RIM (Research in Motion, Blackberry’s owner) the most secure messaging operator, they’re also the most fastidious – they log everything. If you were a looter using a Blackberry, you’re going to get found out.

The police have the power to serve RIM with an order to reveal information. Under the same law, RIM are barred from disclosing whether they’ve done so or not.

But although RIM can’t say it themselves, I can say with confidence that they’ll be doing everything they can to help. It’s a reputation issue – these people are a tiny minority of their users and they want the remainder to see them doing all they can to track them down.

RIM don’t need to reveal the actual contents of messages in order do that. They can tell police who sent a message to whom and when. The police can then ask the network operators where that was done – and the sum total will probably be enough to be used as evidence.

If you know a Blackberry belonging to a suspect sent a message to 45 other Blackberries and then those 45 owners all turn up in Ealing or Tottenham an hour later, it’s clear what’s going on.

And while much of the information coming via social media “was obviously wrong and rather silly”, he said police did considered trying to shut the networks down in order to prevent them being used to organise further violence.

Blackberry has offered to co-operate with police investigating the riots – prompting attacks by hackers angry that the company could be prepared to hand over user data to authorities.

Rural broadband funding announced for England and Scotland

August 26, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, internet, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Rural areas in England and Scotland have been allocated nearly £363 million to improve their broadband connections.Rural broadband funding announced for England and ScotlandCumbria gets one of the largest shares of the £530 million pot, with over £17 million to cope with its 96.2% of homes eligible for subsidies.

By contrast, London gets nothing as it assumed that private investment will cover all parts of the capital.

It is a change of strategy for the government which originally asked counties to bid for money with local authorities and residents deciding how the money should be spent.

County councils and private enterprise partnerships will be put in charge of broadband rollouts in their areas, and will be required to draw up delivery plans and find additional funding from elsewhere.

The areas receiving most funds are:

  • Cumbria: £17m
  • Devon and Somerset: £31.3m
  • East Sussex: £10.6m
  • Kent: £9.87m
  • Lancashire: £10.8m
  • Lincolnshire: £14.3m
  • Norfolk: £15.4m
  • North Yorkshire: £17.8m
  • Suffolk: £11.68m

Wales and Northern Ireland have already been given their share of the £530 million broadband fund which was set aside from the TV licence fee.

The government hopes that by allocating money instead it will speed up the process and has pledged to make the UK the best place in Europe for broadband by 2015.

Up to one third of UK homes will not get fast broadband services from the big commercial players without government subsidy.

This is because the number of people living in rural areas versus the cost of creating a next-generation broadband do not represent a good return on their investment for players such as BT and Virgin Media.

So for example Northumberland has 71% of premises that will not be reached by commercial projects. It has been allocated over £7m.

Berkshire, with only 8% of homes unlikely to get next-generation services via commercial firms, gets £1.4m.

But some have questioned whether the £530 million will be enough to fill in the gaps.

The privacy consequences of the UK riots

August 25, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: data security, internet, mobile phones, smart phones, Social Media, Social Networking, Tablets, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

There are two inevitable privacy-related consequences of the current spate of riots and civil disorder across the UK. The privacy consequences of the UK riotsThe first is that technology such as social media and mobile networks will feel the heat of condemnation for facilitating the chaos. The second is that there will be a renewed attempt to implement new surveillance and law enforcement measures.

The blame game has already started. Inevitably, it begins with parents.

They should be keeping their children under control – or at least keeping them at home. Parents should certainly be turning their children over to the police if looted items are discovered under the bed.

This, for the moment, is the cross-party line being held by police, government and Opposition. However, as with previous city-wide disturbances elsewhere – including Paris – this fantasy is unlikely to hold viability for long, and so the blame will need to become more specific.

The MP for Ealing – one of the affected trouble spots – told the BBC that the riots are being organised on social media sites, while Twitter is a conduit for disinformation intended to confuse police operations planning. “Something”, she declared, must be done.

For example, the Home Office’s Interception Modernisation Programme – rebranded as the “Communications Capabilities Development Programme” – will almost certainly be presented as a crucial tool for crime prevention.

That project aims to technologically infiltrate social networks on a mass scale but until recently it had been abandoned in the wake of the Coalition government’s commitment to place limits on the extent of State surveillance. The Home Office will at some point argue that the scheme should be escalated and expanded.

Private briefings to journalists by police and Home Office officials claim that ringleaders are using “clandestine” and more private communications methods such as BlackBerry Messaging – methods that officials argue are largely immune from open scrutiny by police. Law enforcement by this reasoning is being outflanked by systems that are intentionally designed for private communications.

Now technology commentators are being wheeled into television studios with a remarkably similar analysis: new technologies are gifts to criminals.

The consequent media reporting is confused. One BBC report today holds encryption responsible for the cloak of criminal secrecy offered by Blackberry.

This, despite a public statement by the company that it continues to cooperate fully with authorities.

Notably, no government MP has so far pinned blame for the riots on the decimation of police budgets and resources over the past eighteen months. Of equal note, few MP’s have so far pinned blame on failed fiscal policy, a generation of institutional racial abuse by police or the collapse of support for community and family support programmes.

Needless to say, no-one has dared question the quality of media reporting and its’ possible role in the chain of events. Remarkably, little has been said of the role of computer games, though that link will emerge (the acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police gave it away when he stated “this is not just a game”).

Where does all this leave us? Clearly new technologies are an easy target for blame, just as monarchs of centuries ago would blame coffee houses as the cause of social disorder and treason.

It remains a mystery why police continue to claim that they have been taken by surprise by the nature of these events. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of actions inspired through 4-Chan would understand that the ground rules changed years ago. To hold information networks liable would be a dangerously short sighted position.

If there was ever a need for an evidence based approach to a social problem, this is it. When Parliament meets to discuss the riots it should demand evidence to back up any claim of blame, and it should institute a rigorous process to ensure that any response is justified, lawful, viable and fair.
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Third of teachers have been bullied online

August 24, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, Facebook, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

More than a third of teachers have been subject to online abuse, according to a survey conducted by Plymouth University.Third of teachers have been bullied onlineThe majority of the abuse – 72% – came via pupils but over a quarter was initiated by parents.

The majority of teachers claiming online abuse were women.

Much of the abuse is via chat on social networks but the study also found that many were setting up Facebook groups specifically to abuse teachers.

In some cases, people posted videos of teachers in action on YouTube while others put abusive comments on

In total, 35% of teachers questioned said they had been the victim of some form of online abuse. Of these, 60% were women.

Perhaps surprisingly, 26% of the abuse came from parents.

“This parental abuse is something we haven’t come across before,” said Prof Andy Phippen, the author of the report. “Sometimes they are abusing other children at the school as well. Schools need to clamp down on it, or it will increase in prevalence,” he warned.

The cases of children suffering online bullying have been well-documented but the issue of teachers being abused is less well known.

But it is a growing problem. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that it receives calls every week from teachers who believe they have been cyberbullied.

The study took testimony from more than 300 professionals in an anonymous internet-based survey and followed up with a handful of in-depth interviews.

Many of these revealed the human cost such cyberbullying was having.

The guidance service referred to is the Professional Online Safety Helpline, a new initiative from the Safer Internet Centre.

For Prof Phippen the phenomenon illustrates a shift in how parents and children address issues at school.

“It seems to a subset of the population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom,” said Prof Phippen.

“Clearly some people are viewing social media as a bypass to the traditional routes (head teacher, board of governors) of discussing dissatisfaction with the school,” he added.

Cracking security codes- quantum key distribution (QKD)

August 23, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, internet, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Researchers of the Quantum Hacking group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore have devised a way to circumvent security key codes which are vital to secure data transmissions.Cracking security codes- quantum key distribution (QKD)They have created- ‘Eve’ which is code breaking parlance for ‘eavesdropper’.

The researchers have used Eve to crack a type of coded communication thought to have been impossible to break, called quantum key distribution (QKD).

QKD is not an encryption algorithm itself, but a means of securely sharing the cryptographic keys used by sender and recipient to encrypt and decrypt messages.

These pre-agreed ciphers are frequently handed out over fibre optic connections, but being digital files, they could theoretically be intercepted and copied on the way.

QKD exploits a key principle in quantum physics – namely that you can’t measure or examine individual photons of light without altering their state.

When a user wants to exchange a secret key using QKD, they first send a message in specially coded photons to the other user. If an eavesdropper tries to intercept this, they destroy some information – and the communicators know someone is monitoring their communication.

The technique is so effective that it has attracted substantial investment from e-business, banking and defence.

Rather than reinventing science, Eve simply tricks the system by sitting between sender and receiver and intercepts the key, something that would normally be detected.

However, Eve dazzles the receiver’s detector with a laser so it can’t see individual photons. This allows her to send a faked copy of the photon message.

“We just use bright light. And the detectors do the same thing our eyes do – they’re blinded,” said Dr Makarov.

However, the sensors remain responsive to strong light. “If we now send a bright flash at them, they think they’re seeing a single photon,” said Dr Makarov. Eve uses these flashes to duplicate the photon message to the unsuspecting receiver.

Toshiba has since demonstrated how to repel the blinding attack, and QKD manufacturers have incorporated the improved design into their machines.

Yet Dr Makarov thinks that Toshiba’s update ignores wider vulnerabilities. “They made a fix which makes our crack ineffective. But there are other methods that can control detectors, even when patched,” he said.

Despite this, commercial QKD manufacturers – like Swiss firm ID Quantique – claim to ‘redefine security’ with their expensive products.

How do they react when researchers like Dr Makarov tip them off about new problems, and force hasty improvements to their designs?

News Corp profits fall on sale of MySpace social media website

August 22, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

News Corporation has seen its quarterly profits fall 22% on the back of losses caused by the sale of the MySpace social media website.News Corp profits fall on sale of MySpace social media websiteThe company, whose UK subsidiary News International has been rocked by the phone hacking scandal, made £ 423 million ($683 million) net profit in the three months to 30 June – down from $875m last year.

News Corp sold MySpace in June for only £21.8 million having paid £362 million for it in 2005.

Chairman Rupert Murdoch said he had the backing of his board. “The board and I believe I should continue in my current role as chairman and CEO,” he said.

Mr Murdoch admitted the recent phone-hacking scandal that resulted in the company closing its News of the World newspaper had caused News Corporation difficulty, although its revenues rose 11% to £5.6 billion.

“Make no mistake, Chase Carey and I run this company as a team, and the strength of that partnership is reflected in our improved results,” he said.

“While it has been a good quarter from a financial point of view, our company has faced challenges in recent weeks relating to our London tabloid, News of the World.  We are acting decisively in the matter and will do whatever is necessary to prevent something like this from ever occurring again.”

The scandal also resulted in the departure of senior News Corp executive Les Hinton, who was chief executive of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones, and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

And last month Mr Murdoch and his son James, News International chairman and News Corporation deputy chief operating officer, were forced to appear before MPs in London to answer questions about the scandal.

Investors will have to wait until News Corporation’s next quarterly results for more information on how the closure of News of the World has affected its profits, as the title’s final edition was on 10 July, 10 days after the three months covered in the company’s latest financial results.

However, News International only provides a very small proportion of News Corporation’s revenues and profits.

Its other main businesses include Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox, US television network Fox Broadcasting and publisher Harper Collins. It also owns the Wall Street Journal.

And News Corporation’s 39% share of UK-based satellite broadcaster BSkyB proves highly lucrative, however, last month it was forced to abandon its bid to buy the remainder of BSkyB following the hacking scandal.

Germany accuses Facebook of data privacy breaches

August 19, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Facebook, internet, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

A leading German privacy official has accused Facebook of using face recognition software in a manner that violates German and European law.Germany accuses Facebook of data privacy breachesFacebook was also scolded for collecting and storing biometric data without users’ consent

Johannes Caspar, a data protection expert with the city of Hamburg, called on the US-based social networking company to delete from its site the individual biometric data it has collected.

“If the users’ data falls into the wrong hands, it would be possible to compare and identify anybody captured in a photo taken with a mobile phone,” Mr Caspar told the Hamburger Abenblatt newspaper.

The programme allows Facebook users to locate new “Friends” after discovering their identity through a biometric data scan.

The programme tries to match data captured in a picture with the trove of data it has already collected from its hundreds of millions of users.

“This is what’s most problematic. The programme feeds off a stock of data designed to physically identify millions of users,” he said.

He further scolded Facebook for collecting and storing biometric data without users’ consent, insisting the practice violates privacy laws.

Germany, which is considered a leader on Internet privacy issues, has criticised Google for its “Street View” programme, which makes street-level images freely available online.

German officials also previously urged Facebook to beef up its privacy protections, notably over its Friend Finder feature, which allowed the site to register or even import users’ entire email address books without notifying them.

Smartphone usage is leading to bad manners- in adults as well as children

August 18, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, internet, Mobile Marketing, mobile phones, smart phones, Social Networking, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The increased usage of smartphones has led to an increase in what has long been considered a social faux pas of the highest order, using a phone during a film or a play. – with adults are now almost as guilty of it as teenagers.Smartphone usage is leading to bad manners- in adults as well as childrenA new report showed that one in four teenagers and almost one in five adults admitted using their smartphone during a performance.

Ofcom, the communications watchdog, conducted research into how mobile technology was changing habits. People with ordinary mobile phones were far less likely to keep them turned on during a play or film, Ofcom found.

It said the propensity for Britons to use their phones to surf the internet or post messages on Twitter raised issues of “etiquette and modern manners”.

The watchdog found that 27 per cent of teenagers used their smartphones — multifunctional devices allowing access to the internet — in venues where they have been asked to turn them off. Almost 20 per cent of adults also said that they were likely to use their smartphones secretly in supposedly quiet venues.

James Thickett, the director of research for Ofcom, said the high level of smartphone use in venues such as theatres “raises an issue about social etiquette and modern manners and the degree to which we as a society are tolerant of this behaviour”.

Phones going off in the theatre have in recent years become an annoyance for actors. Last month Simon Callow, the actor, said it takes an hour to recover after a phone goes off in a theatre.

Mr Thickett said: “I think what we have found before is that teenagers have always been more likely to use mobile phones in cinemas and theatres. What we are finding now is that for smartphone users, it is much, much higher, but adult smartphone users as well.

So it is not just about adults and teenagers having different values, it is about technology driving the values towards the way you behave in social situations,” he said. The report found that one in four adults and almost half of all teenagers — defined as 12 to 15 year-olds — own a smartphone.

Mr Thickett said smartphones have also altered the work-life balance, with one in four users saying that they would take work-related phone calls while on holiday, compared with just 16 per cent of regular mobile phone users.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report found that nearly two-thirds of teenagers were “highly addicted” to smartphones, with half admitting using them even in the lavatory. One third of teenagers said that they were likely to use a smartphone during meals, while four in 10 said they answered their phone if it woke them at night.

The phones have also significantly affected how people use leisure time. Almost a quarter of teenagers said they watched less television due to having a smartphone, while 15 per cent say that they read fewer books because of it.

“The rapid growth in the use of smartphones – which offer internet access, emails and a variety of internet-based applications – is changing the way that many of us, particularly teenagers, act in social situations,” said Mr Thickett.

Smartphone use is skewed towards young males in higher social economic groups. However, one in 10 Britons over the age of 55 owns one. BlackBerries are the most popular smartphones among teenagers and students, with their free messaging service, while iPhones are the most popular among adults.

IBM- PCs going the way of the typewriter and dodo

August 17, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Blogs, Customer Service, Ecommerce, internet, Tablets, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Last week was the 30th anniversary of IBM’s development of the PC- and according to one of the IBM designers who worked on the first model it’s end is neigh.IBM- PCs going the way of the typewriter and dodoThe days of the personal computer are numbered, a leading IBM designer has claimed. Dr Mark Dean, who worked on the original IBM PC, the 5150, wrote in a blog post commemorating its 30th anniversary:

I, personally, have moved beyond the PC as well. My primary computer now is a tablet. When I helped design the PC, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to witness its decline. But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing. They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.

It’s amazing to me to think that August 12 marks the 30th anniversary of the IBM Personal Computer.

Dr Dean argued that PCs had created the environment for a new generation of devices, ranging across different form factors and uses.

This led, he claimed, to an environement in which technology allowed new ideas to flourish, without individual items being a barrier to creativity.

He wrote that “PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device—though there’s plenty of excitement about smart phones and tablets—but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress. These days, it’s becoming clear that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact.

It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people’s lives.”

“While PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing,” he said.

IBM launched the 5150 on 12 August 1981, and it quickly established the look and feel of PCs in general. Dr Dean owns a third of the patents for it, and claimed he did not expect to outlive the idea. Now, however, he says that even his own main device is a tablet computer.