geraldine-mcbride-ceo-mywave
Customer Experience Management (CEM)

Meet Frank: A non-spam approach to customer relationships

We’re in the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue in New York City. It is a vast, imposing building which has played regular host to every US president, until Obama broke tradition, because a Chinese company purchased the hotel earlier this year. As befits such hallowed guests, the corridors are as wide as many NYC hotel rooms and Geraldine McBride, CEO of MyWave, is keen we take tea.

“It comes in proper tea pots,” she says with some animation.

Her reaction goes to underpin the importance of the customer experience. The chasm between a china pot and milk jug and a plastic cup is enormous. And so, as we live more of our lives online – even more fundamental distinctions occur in the virtual space.

“We’ve lost our manners online,” says McBride.

This is why MyWave has launched Frank – who some might argue is just another virtual assistant – yet McBride stresses the engine underneath his friendly face makes him truly unique.

McBride – who launched CRM for SAP in North America – has even coined a neat new term: CMR. As MyWave’s marketing literature explains this is the first company to “commercialise Customer Managed Relationships” (CMR).

The pneumonic might be a little twee but it is a very nice idea. Take energy in your home, for example. Most people spend too much on it. If it was easier, plenty of people would change supplier. The trouble is, it isn’t – and many don’t know where to start. This is where New Zealand firm, Saveawatt – soon to launch across other global locations in partnership with Frank – can provide easy switching.

The demonstrations make it look ludicrously easy. You let Frank know your preferences and he does the work in the background to source you the best deal. What is more, this same service can be used across numerous consumer facing industries. 

In practice it means that customers retain control of their data in their own cloud explains McBride, but corporations pay to access information about their individual preferences. This means that vendors can offer a really personalised service and customers get the information they are actually looking for. This should mean that if you’re only interested in blue cars with big engines this is what you get.

This is “advertising 3.0,” says McBride “if brands know what I really like I opt in”.

McBride believes we’re currently existing in a deeply inefficient model of commerce. Businesses produce random volumes of products on the cheap, and then throw out adverts, to make consumers buy them. “We need push and pull to drive growth in economy,” she says.

As McBride points out, customers are fed up with being spammed. This is backed up by recent data from BuzzCity of over 3,000 consumers across 17 countries which shows 26% of those surveyed use ad blocking software online. “People are voting with their keyboards and their mice,” says McBride.

The argument over data is extremely familiar but McBride believes in the US especially, people tend to get a bit confused between NSA surveillance – which is ostensibly for the greater good – and commercial spam. While in Europe many people have long memories of the negative side of data tracking from the IBM punch cards used in Nazi Germany to the legacy of the Stasi.

“This is the dark side – you’re being controlled by an entity that is not you.”

McBride believes we’ve reached a crossroads over control. “It is a time for mutual control,” she says.

The idea came about in 2012 when McBride was living in America, working for SAP and “talking to CEOs” about how to make “dinosaur brands become cool”.

To answer this question she spent some time in the mountains of Queenstown in her native New Zealand before deciding to gather together a group of global experts – like Doc Searls, author of the Intention Economy. There, she presented the skeleton idea for the business before the group spent some time together fleshing out the details.

McBride initially seed funded the company herself, before raising Series A funding of $1.7 million followed by $3.4 million in New Zealand.

The smaller market proved an ideal test bed as it allowed the company to bring a variety of vertical players into the mix to prove the viability of the concept. This means she is now all ready to roll out the concept internationally.

This began in the US on 13th October with affiliate partnerships with Amazon and eBay. The company also has “dozens of prospects” in the UK and is likely to launch in this market in early 2016. There should be a similar timeframe for roll outs in other parts of Europe.

“We are an exponential growth business,” McBride concludes. Frank is all ready for customers to download. And once the right local partners are in place he should be all set to revolutionise customer experiences. Of course, only time will tell how all this will work in practice.

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