December 10th, 2009 § § permalink
This post went longer than intended, so feel free to skip through straight to ‘The Idea’.
An old friend of mine is planning her wedding, and being a 1/4 way across the world, I’ve been forced to stand on the side lines and observe this strange and slightly unnerving process, offering support via twitter replies to her rants.
And then it suddenly hit me that I’d have to get the happy couple a gift. I have no idea what they need/want and they don’t have a registry. I could do the customary thing of giving $$, but I have no idea what the standard/recommended amounts are. (And thus we uncover one of the reasons dek avoids weddings.) A couple of days later, she messaged me asking what she should rent as a bridal car. She had a list of 4, but what she really wanted is the sexy-eyes Audi. Only problem being the Audi option shatters her budget. A one-day rental, which comes with a chauffeur, would set her back close to $1000. That’s just ridiculous, for any budget and any regular sedan.
So then my brain starts churning with alternatives. Why not rent a regular option and get a friend to drive it? Turns out there aren’t that many sexy-eyes for rent in Singapore. What about borrowing a friend’s car? It’s what we used to do back in the day – anyone with a car attending a wedding would get roped into the wedding procession. For now, I couldn’t think of anyone, but I could put the word out. In the end, I did find an A6 for abt $300 a day. Problem solved if it’s available!
But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the two issues. On the one hand, we have a couple trying to string together an event with (potentially) limited resources. Seems any item or service earmarked for weddings is more expensive than something similar for a ‘regular’ purpose. On the other hand, you have people like me, who want to contribute to the event and/or get the couple a meaningful gift. Many couples I know didn’t set up a gift registry because they already had everything. (Gifts made sense in the past, when the couple would be setting up house after the marriage. The process has mainly reversed these days)
Why not have a registry-type application for the wedding itself? Couple decides to get married, sets a date, sets up a wedding registry thingy. It’ll have listings for all the things they need for the event, and this could be in the form of a service or monetary contributions. So they could list ‘Make us a wedding cake!’ and a baker friend could sign up for that job. Need a dj, a band, a driver? List it! Or, from the example above, they could list the bridal car rental, how much it costs, how much they can/will cover, and open up slots for friends to pitch in with money. My gift for them – resolved without hassle! Wheeee!
I’m thinking a service like this certainly wouldn’t be for everyone. Some people will want to get the professionals involved. It would be for someone like my friend or me (not that I plan to get married. Ever.), who want something simple or low-key or are working with a tight budget. The biggest attraction for me though is the gotong-royong side of it – that was the way when I was a kid. This system I’m suggesting brings the social back into weddings. Helps the couple out, stops the bride from having a breakdown (;P), and lets family and friends get involved in the proceedings.
So, people with wedding experience, would you go for something like this? What are the potential drawbacks of a crowd-sourced wedding?
December 7th, 2009 § § permalink
At the inaugural Product Mavens’ Meetup (#pmm) the conversation turned to support and the challenges we face in that area.
What really warmed my heart was the general consensus within the discussion that everyone in a company, large or starting up, should have a go at fielding support queries. On a personal level, attending to support calls is the single biggest stresser for me. I deeply dislike it when something isn’t working for someone trying to use our products. Usually, unless it is a major issue affecting a big population of your base, it is hard to convey a sense of urgency to the rest of the team. It’s always been my thinking that the process from receiving a support ticket to resolving it would be much improved if only everyone involved had a sense of exactly what is involved in responding to someone facing issues. Not only would everyone have a handle on the bits that are broken, but it supports your support people. And trust me on this – support peeps need all the backup they can get on the front lines. Things can get hairy out there.
Having a grasp of the issues one’s customers are having isn’t only about fixing bugs in the system. It is imperative for a good understanding of who is using your product, why they’re using it, how it fits into their lives, and consequently the direction your product should go in. Let’s be frank here, if your business based on a product, what can be more important? Knowing these things forces you to look at your product with different perspectives. For some, it is the reason they look at their product at all.
Which brings me to another point I think everyone in an organisation should do. Use your product. Simple, no? Yet I have observed a definite lack of practise of this. [I once had a conversation with a CEO of a startup about one of their features, and he had this blank look on his face. He had NO idea what I was talking about. He lost a few competency points in my eyes ] If you don’t know what you have, how can you possibly build upon it?
Now, my position is definitely coloured by my community management background. Using the product and answering support calls are part of what I do. I’ll admit that the reshuffle required in large companies for every cog to have a go at customer service is a huge task. There are ways to get around this. I remember someone at #pmm mentioning that there’s a company which makes all new employees serve a support stint before taking up their permanent roles. (Anyone got a name?) For startups, it could be as simple as getting everyone to check in on Jira or ~insert issue management tool of choice~. The point isn’t that everyone needs to be doing my job. The point is that everyone should have a handle on what’s actually going on with your product and customers.
What do you think? Am I off my idealistic rocker?
Oh, and before I end, heads up to the product peeps out there – there’s another mavens’ meetup on the 16th of Dec at the Trinity Bar. Big thanks to @mishymash and @schmediachick for organising!
December 4th, 2009 § § permalink
^^That comic, it’s a scene right out of my life. ‘Cept I only have one screen.
It’s Friday, end of a long and difficult week for various reasons, and I’m done staring at the screen. As in, I don’t have it in me, physically, to even look at it. In an hour or so, I’ll take a deep breath, exhale slowly, close the lid of the lappie and think “No more…. can’t do it”. Will walk to my car, unwind on the drive home, step into the house, put my bag down…. and lift the lid of the lappie. This happens a lot.
Well, I’m done. No more.
See ya in half an hour