Future Trends, Digging Wells, & Online Providers...1/98

How ...happy are your workers? ...satisfied are your customers? ...good is your phone service and online provider? Who are "BunnyPeople" and what's iREZ got? Can you name the three holidays that begin this week? Part of what I bring to my clients and customers is a knowledge of the future trends that will impact upon their business in the near future -- trends they need to be aware of and take action on today. An Ancient Chinese Proverb gives us the following good advice: "Dig a well before you are thirsty." Let's see what the digging revealed this week.

A recent ABCNEWS.com poll found 56 percent of Americans report enjoying work "a great deal", 92 percent say they like their jobs at least somewhat, but 44 percent of Americans feel they spend too much time at work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that in 1976 men worked 1,800 hours annually while women worked 1,200. In 1993, men's annual work hours had reached nearly 2,000 while women's was nearly 1,600. Companies have found that one of the best ways to hold onto employees is to help them gain marketable skills, as turnover is expensive.

Some companies that once cared mainly about production and profits have discovered that happy workers are good for the bottom line. But employees say job satisfaction is about more than good salaries and other benefits. It's about trust, and a job that provides them with a sense of meaning, satisfaction, and inspiration. In order to come up with better products, good workplaces encourage innovation. That helps to attract and keep top employees. And think about it, folks -- how can your people give outstanding service to others if they're not happy workers? Of course, we don't need workers if we don't have customers.

How satisfied are your customers with the service you provide them? An ASQ/Gallup survey, while showing that 53% of consumers gave high ratings to the quality of U.S. products, only 36% give similar high ratings to service. 31% said service has declined, with employee attitude topping the list of reasons why, followed by the belief that companies are sacrificing service to increase profits. Just this week, I wrote a letter to my long-distance carrier. I'll spare you the details, except to share with you that they had given another West Coast company the same 800 number I had, causing us untold expense.

We spent two years trying to resolve it, only to have the carrier disconnect our 800 number! How much business do you think we lost with customers all over the world unable to reach the 800 number listed on our business cards, brochures, etc.? How good is your phone service deal? How many calls have you had from long distance providers wanting you to switch? Colleagues have shared that they have been offered an 800 number with calls to cost $0.10 per minute, monthly charges either waived or only $5, and no installation fee. Then, within a few days of connection, the provider tried to charge $15 per month and said the minute rate would rise to $0.18 after 90 days. Suggestion: if you get a telephone solicitation to switch, tell them to put it in writing. If they won't, don't accept it. And in case you didn't know it, you can contact your state attorney general for any suspected fraudulent services.

And how good is your online provider? Several recent surveys -- from respected publications including PC Week, HomePC and PCWorld -- find IBM, Concentric, and Earthlink -- in this order, at the top of the list of national companies that offer customers access to the Internet. And all of these surveys put America Online -- the world's biggest online service -- at the very bottom. The reason -- AOL's service consistently rates dead last on the features users rate most important. Although AOL is rich in content and easy to use, the 6,000 users surveyed said their connections were slow and the system was loaded with advertisements. Users reported IBM as offering fast access, solid support services, and modems that allowed connections at 56-kilobits per second. Local providers still dominate the ISP game.

What better way to determine an ISP's total performance than to ask customers to judge? According to a PC Week survey, users say the most important features are: 1) 96% rate service reliability as the most important factor in picking a service provider. Customers want their service up and running when they need it. 2) 93% rate solid performance a close second. An important consideration to customers is minimal delay, packet loss and congestion. 3) 88% listed speed and proficiency of diagnosing and solving problems as critical factors when choosing an ISP. If there are problems with the network backbone or a customer's connection, customers want the problems fixed immediately. Price of service ranked fourth, only slightly edging out another service-related factor: the competence and knowledge of the customer support and technical support staff. I'm proud to say that my local ISP, Borg Internet Services, at http://www.borg.com and their team score high in every one of these categories.

A new market research study by IDC/LINK reports that almost 18 million U.S. households will be online by year's end. That figure is up from 13 percent last year. Analysts are saying this holiday season will see as much as $1 billion in online sales. An informal poll on the floor of Internet World found that two traditional favorites of online shoppers -- books and computer hardware -- are still the most popular items to buy online. Many regard Amazon.com as the electronic commerce leader. A NetRatings survey released this week found 28 percent of Internet users have purchased goods and services on the Net.

Are you positioning your company for this revolution? We've got our books available at amazon.com, bookzone.com, and both are on our web page. And guess what? This little kid off the farm also has her books on display at Park Row Booksellers in Clinton, NY, the village where I was born and raised. Who'd have thunk it?

Speaking of good things, Intel Chairman Andrew Grove, whose innovative use of microchip technology helped change the computer industry, was just named as Time magazine's ''Man of the Year.'' Grove, 61, is a holocaust survivor who arrived in America in 1956 a penniless refugee. Intel produces nearly 90 percent of the planet's personal computer microprocessors. ''I am deeply honored to be chosen as Time's 'Man of the Year' - doubly honored because the context is information technology,'' Grove said. I heard Grove present one of the keynotes at Comdex a year ago, and was impressed by his sincerity, knowledge, and future direction.

Here's a couple more neat new business and gift products: Intel is offering really unique 8-inch high "BunnyPeople" dolls for only $6.99 each. They're modeled after the technicians who work in Intel's ultra-clean rooms, wearing "bunny suits" as protective clothing in order to prevent even the smallest dust particles from contaminating the complex computer chips. I've got an aqua-blue one sitting on top of my monitor, and a pink one is on its way to Rachel Marie, thanks to Intel's Joan! Check 'em out at http://www.intel.com And iREZ Research Corporation has a great fully digital video camera, called The Kritter, that supports full-motion, 30 frames-per-second preview, a perfect companion for iREZ's CapSure, a real-time video capture and display for the laptop. Check them out at http://www.irez.com

Well, the holiday season is here. This year, Chanuka begins December 23rd, Christmas is December 25, and Ramadan is December 31. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the spirit of the holiday season stayed with us all year? These past two weeks, I've attended a number of business party gatherings. None moved me quite as much as listening to the St. Paul's Baptist Church men's choir at our Rotary meeting this week. Uplifting, inspiring, joyful, meaningful.

Now I'm off to CT to spend Christmas with the youngest two grandchildren. When I return, we celebrate with the other grown children, and my mom, here. Thank you, God -- life is good and the future is unlimited -- I'll work at continuing to give back a small portion of that which you've given me.

Copyright 1997, Marlene B. Brown: Futurist-Speaker-Writer-Consultant Future Trends, Leadership, Internet & Web Technology, Sales & Marketing CEO - MarmeL Consulting Firm, TechnoTouch Marketing, Sunrise Publishing PO Box 840, Clark Mills,NY 13321-0840 US Tel:315-853-1318 * Fax:-4636 Author: book "TechnoTouch©:Managing Change for 21st Century Leadership" & the new book "TechnoTouch II©: High Tech + High Touch = High Return" E-mail: marlene@technotouch.com * Web site: http://www.technotouch.com/

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