Understanding and Leveraging Google Action Links – an omni-channel approach

Interested in conversing about this? start this article as a conversation with Voicify on Google Assistant

What it is

Google Action Links is an exciting concept.  These links are URL’s that when clicked, direct the user to choose one of their Google Assistant connected devices to start a conversation. But more than start a conversation; it’s starting a contextually relevant conversation.

Continue reading “Understanding and Leveraging Google Action Links – an omni-channel approach”

Modality is the Secret Weapon for Voice and Conversation Channels, Here’s Why

A component of conversation that is a silent influencer (unless ignored entirely, ironically bringing it to the surface) is the context of where the conversation is being had. Most people speak more softly on planes or in trains.  In movie theaters most people will lean to the ear of their movie-mate to ask a question.  In settings with children people will show, rather than tell, information that could be inappropriate.

Continue reading “Modality is the Secret Weapon for Voice and Conversation Channels, Here’s Why”

Why the new Alexa (really all) devices should challenge brand strategy

If you’ve been anywhere on social media or logged into an Amazon channel in the last week, you should be aware that Amazon had their fall unveiling of new devices. We at Voicify are perhaps a bit more interested in the new hardware than the average bear.

I won’t spend inches walking through each new device, specs or questions of ‘is it worth it’ or ‘what are they thinking.’ Instead I’ll focus on what it means to the market, to the consumer and the brand alike.

And to get the obligatory compliance question out of the away; does Voicify support all these new devices? Yes. Yes we do.

We supported them before they were released to the market. And so yes, all our customers just got a bunch of new devices added to their distribution ecosystem. Want to see it in a grid? OK.

Device Voicify Supported 
Echo Frames Yes 
Echo Loop Yes 
Echo Show 8 Yes 
Echo Studio Yes 
Echo Dot 4th Gen Yes 
Echo Glow Yes 
Echo Earbuds Yes 

What these new devices bring to light is the increasing importance of the Venn diagram of context (what does the situation demand), device (how will they consume it), content (what is appropriate and in which modality) & endpoint (which channel is being used).

Fortunately, with Voicify you can remove the endpoint from the diagram, which makes this considerably simpler both strategically and practically.

(The fact is Voicify takes most of these variables away practically, but this is a strategic oriented piece.)

What these new devices from Amazon should call to attention is the increased mobility of modality in how and where end users are engaging with you; or rather will expect to engage with your brand.

Side note: Alexa doesn’t own market share in smart phones (read: omnipresent object on nearly every human in the world), they depend on a native app on ‘competitors’ hardware to engage with end users on the go, so the arrival of new devices are allowing them to either more easily activate that native mobile app, or in some cases bypass it all together.

The delivery of these assistants is going far beyond the kitchen and living room experiences that so many people have talked about in the past. Instead, we are now, as a society, being trained to expect access to conversational support 24 hours a day. We’ve heard the pontifications of Alexa being embedded in lightbulbs throughout houses so one can talk to it at all times, even showerheads. We’ve seen that Amazon is investing in prefabricated houses; so they can embed Alexa in walls, built in appliances and whatnot. But the out of home experience, the out of office experience is one that is still being defined and largely up for grabs. What we’re seeing with Amazon’s announcement is an expansion of context and extended modalities.

What you really want to start thinking about as a brand is how does the availability of new context, and the modalities availability with in them, change the experience of what & where I need to be available to my audiences.

  • Where are these devices going to go where your brand could or should be paying attention and be able to converse?
  • What happens when the user doesn’t have to invoke their mobile when they are out and about? When they can tap a ring, ask their glasses? How does your brand experience change when you can communicate through clothing?
  • Or what I find most interesting, is what situations do these devices put your customers in where you can be of use to them?

This is the new extended, complex and hyper-connected conversation that brands have to begin thinking through. With any luck it is an extension of existing customer journeys; I suspect in many cases it will be the catalyst to even start them in a meaningful way.

For me, the main takeaway is that modalities need to be considered in context of where the modality is being used, because it’s going to start informing the possibility of what customers are expecting from the brand. What might the experience be with United Airlines, as I’m standing here in an airport, what might it feel like that’s different if I’m accessing Alexa from my glasses than if I am accessing it from a smart display.

This is a strategy approach we take with a lot of our customers and partners, which is, you really need to identify the primary modalities and context with the devices that are going to be most used for your customer base. The Venn of context, device and content is going to be very influential in the sort of experience and elements you’re going to need to curate and organize from other media and digital sources you already have in existence.

As always, reach out if you want to chat on this or anything else on voice!

5,6,7 – Five reasons why I moved up from the 6 to the 6s and not the 7 – a road warrior fanboy disobeys

Above is the first time I have ever acknowledged I am an Apple fanboy.  People assign me the label, often to my face, often not. I’m fine with it. I try to explain I am a fanboy of quality and things working. I rarely get my point across. I run windows on my MacBook Pro, jailbroke Continue reading “5,6,7 – Five reasons why I moved up from the 6 to the 6s and not the 7 – a road warrior fanboy disobeys”

22 tips & tricks after 222k miles in the air

I wrote a post a while back about some travel tips I had collected as a ‘moderate’ traveler. Now, I feel I have been promoted to ‘experienced’ verging on expert.  Thought I would share a full cycle of learnings.  Some may seem remedial, but regardless they come together as a full package. And for context, yes, the reason this all feels a little controlling is because it is.  I don’t like flying, and gaining control of the process reduces any anxiousness.  I am fine with with flying by the seat of my pants in many parts of my life, just not with, well, flying.

Let’s take this from the start of the process to the end.

Have a point and purchase strategy

1. Negotiate terms with your employer where you can use your own Airline Credit Card to buy airline tickets.

The winning argument has to do with doing math and showing them in that in situations you experience often and how the perks of the card can benefit their pocket book. For instance, my card gets me Club Access.  This means no airport wifi costs, reduced food and beverage costs and the ability to take calls/meetings in the airport while traveling, ultimately maximizing my impact on business. Increased billable time, means more profit.  Decreased overall costs means less overhead.  This argument only works if you are traveling with some excess – usually 50k or more a year.  Again, it’s just math.  The ability for this tactic to work may have to do with position within the organization as well.

2. Pick you’re brands and stick with them
(oh and pick the corresponding airline/hotel CC in #1…)

Jumping from airline to airline doesn’t benefit anyone except the airlines over all.  Figure out where you travel and do the research.  I am out of LA and fly internationally, so Virgin America nor Jet Blue were options, though I like them both.  I chose United.  In addition to their wide net of airports served, they are revamping their planes, lounges, customer service and overall experience. You also benefit from miles and status – we will get to that in a bit.

The benefits from miles are simple, collect them, use them.  The secondary benefit of sticking with an airline is status.  It ranges from airline to airline, but in general the following are pretty consistent:

  • economy plus seating access (more leg room) ranging from 24 hours in advance to ‘at booking’ depending on status
  • boarding order (first come first serve storage options)
  • Upgrades
  • no bag checking charges
  • bags at baggage claim come out first
  • Private reservation and customer service hotline
  • no change fees for tickets booked with miles

 

Hotel status on top of airline status is icing on the cake.  Some airlines and  hotels have partnerships, meaning if you achieve status on one, you get status on the other.  In any case, the benefits of hotel status can include comped upgrades, private lounges, free breakfast, happy hours, late night snacks and unlimited bottled water. Not to mention free or upgraded wi-fi.

3. Don’t book travel too far in advance.

In addition to saving your company boat loads on change fees and fare differences, you may benefit from a slightly higher ticket price, which will positively hit your PQD (Premier Qualifying Dollars – every airline calls it something different). The amount of money you spend with an airline directly correlates to your status along with PDM’s or PQS (Premier Qualifying Miles & Premier Qualifying Segments).  Which means you could fly 200k miles in a year, but if you didn’t spend the requisite money with them, you won’t get your status.  Again, you shouldn’t make booking decisions based on finding the most expensive flight, at least for me, that feels unethical.  But after a crazy LAX >> ORD >> BOS>> EWR>> LAX where I had more change fees than the cost of the flights I was reminded to pay attention to the ‘sweet spot’ for booking – not that in my example it would have mattered, but change fees don’t benefit anyone but the airline.  You don’t get PQD credit for change fees.

4. Avoid last minute booking when possible

Of course, there are times when this is unavoidable, but don’t wait last minute.  If only because you will get stuck in a middle seat.

5. If you are a regional and not a national or international traveler, play the segment game, not the miles game.

You can reach status on most airlines by flying a minimum segment number versus miles.  This means that you can receive the same benefits as a person who flies LAX to NYC twice a month (aka me) just by flying a certain number of segments say, between LAX and SMF (Sacramento).

6. Apply and obtain TSA Pre-Check or similar background check

The benefits of this service are mind blowing.  That said, more people are joining it and for some reason they seem to be ‘randomly’ moving gen pop people into it on a ‘single time’ basis.  Not sure why.  Marketing maybe? Like a test drive?  And there are people who don’t want to be background checked, so fine, don’t do it.  This isn’t the place for a political debate – but seriously? You are getting on a plane – you’re not exactly ‘off the grid.’

At Home

7. Buy two of every toiletry you have, one for home, one for the toiletry bag

Toiletries are the things you need no matter how short or long your trip is.  Save yourself some time, reduce anxiety as well as actually forgetting something, by keeping one of everything in your bathroom and one of everything in your toiletry bag.  I go so far as to leave my toiletry bag in my suitcase when I am at home.  When I get home from a trip and know something was low, add it to the shopping list.  Worst case scenario I use the home version if I need it in a pinch.

8. Make sure your bags make travel easier, not harder.

I am not adding in ‘carry on luggage’ or ‘don’t check your bag’ in this list as it should be pretty self evident. You want to bring everything with you on the plane, thats a given.  But your bags on the plane are the smallest part of your trip.  Your primary bag needs to moderately sized.  Even if the paperwork from the manufacturer says it will pass domestic guidelines, don’t believe it.  I have seen ‘regulation’ bags get turned around at the TSA check – seems they are empowered to reject you.  (I think they are getting rips from the airlines, but that’s speculation) I find the four wheeler makes the entirety of the experience better.  Moves from carpet to hardwood to asphalt to concrete effortlessly.

Now for your personal carry on.  Make sure it has slots/velcro/straps to connect it to the handle extension of your primary bag.  This is key.  Through security, boarding, aisle, deplaning and checking in at the hotel, the ease of having your personal bag elevated on the top of your roller is ideal.  One hand, all in a single place, no shoulder fatigue – after a couple flights in a week – you’re gonna be a believer.

9. Layout all of your items at once and together, before you begin packing.

This may seem remedial, but let me be the first to admit that packing is one of those things that can sneak up on you and then become frenzied.  Packing has a few variables of influence:

  • Duration of trip
  • Number of cities in the trip and their climate
  • Overlapping people who will see you from day to day
  • Plans you may have when you land at home

In theory, if you had a three day trip with similar climates and never saw the same people everyday you could get away with a skeleton crew of outfits. Not that any of us would do that….

10. Your personal carry on essentials.

I get teased for being a germaphobe.  Maybe.  I don’t not touch things in my normal life, it’s not extreme.  But travel exposes you to germs that are outside your normal day to day.  Hand rails, door handles, shared air, previous room tenants – these things are limited in your home life.  On the road, they multiply exponentially. Grab hand sanitize and wet wipes.

Also, noise canceling headphones are a must.  A hefty investment – yes, for the good ones, but an undeniable benefit for the road warrior.  You may not think that sitting in a metal tube with whirring Royles Royce engines is taxing to your ears and ultimately brain, but it is, in the form of sound fatigue.  Use the noise cancelling headphones and begin to notice that you have more energy, patience and stamina the rest of the day.

PreBoarding

11. FlightAware (the app)

Airlines are incented by controlling information.  Standard crowd control 101, control in the info, control the crowd.  But airlines are required by federal regulation to report the status of their planes and status.  The nice thing is that this info is on a feed – which is where FlightAware comes in.  FlightAware will give you up to date info on your flight (or any other) with a couple clicks.  So when you sense something is going awry, pop open the app and see whats going on.  You will see delays, cancellations,  etc… This means that when the flight is cancelled and no one knows, you can get in queue online in person or on the phone to reschedule.  Another advantage and this is borderline embarrassing; it overlays your registered flight path with weather.  So if you are worried about turbulence but need to eat on the plane, you can schedule it out.  I know – it may seems overly considered.

Additionally, for tracking others flights this is super interesting for data nerds.  it shows minute by minute flight path and altitude & speed info….

12. The Terminal

If you got the credit card with the club pass, use it.  Domestic clubs aren’t as luxurious as internationals, but they remain better than ‘gen pop.’ And with the increase of attention to Customer Experience that most airlines are having to compete on, the top airlines are refurbishing their hubs.  Delta has made a marketing campaign out of their LAX redo.  United just did Boston and is in progress on LAX now.  I digress.  The point of a club, beyond layover comfort, is to have a place to go in advance of sitting at the gate.  So, use it for that.  If traveling for business, remove the hustle and get there early, get some quiet time or take a call.  If for personal, do the same, or enjoy a drink at the bar.

My point is, you have access to a club, use it.  Take the pressure off of yourself. Get there early and avoid tend to only spend a few minutes in the club.  I like to people watch, so I use the club as a private restroom and get some snacks for the plane and then walk the terminal to stretch my legs before I sit for some ungodly period of time.

13. Get your own water

This is a preparatory move for use on the plane, utilized later in this piece.  But even if I didn’t have a different plan for this bottle of water, get it.  Planes are dry and the drink cart only comes through a few times a flight.  To avoid feeling bad later (human sensitivity to being in a small flying aluminum tube varies) have your own supply.

14. Do not ‘pre-drate’ within 90 minutes of the flight

Plenty of people believe that you should drink lots of water before getting on a plane. You should.  But not within the 90 minutes before you take off.  Cause why? Because when you drink water you have to pee.  Having a strong urge to pee during take off, or during turbulence where you cannot get up is really uncomfortable and frustrating.  Stay hydrated up to getting to the airport then go dry.  (The bottle of water is starting to make sense now, eh?)

onBoard(ing)

15. Clean your space

The cleaning crews can only do so much when the plane is on an hour ground turn, so do it yourself.  Use a Wet Wipe for the arm rests, tray table, recline button and safety belt latches.  Touch screen entertainment system, yup get that too.  I thought I would get some strange looks when I started doing this, but more often than not people look at me with envy.  I’ve started giving them out.  This isn’t about being a germaphobe, this just makes good sense to me.  After you wipe down everything, clean your own hands with sanitizing gel.

16. Storing your bags

Learned this one from a colleague when we shared a trip.  At this point, if you have followed some basic consistency of approach, you are in group one or two and have your pick of overhead.  The initial urge is to put your bags directly over your row and seat.  The risk of course is it is out of sight and others can manhandle your goods.  Throw your roller on the opposite overhead of the aisle.  Even in the window seat, you get a view of the overhead across the aisle and can ensure people aren’t squishing, pushing, pulling or stealing your baggage space.  Not so critical with a roller, but a pivotal move for personal bags or soft bags.  If you are in a bulkhead row, this is incredibly important as you may not have under seat storage.

17. Air Freshener

A combo recommendation from my wife and Neil Patrick Harris – when you enter the bathroom, put soap on your hands and wave them around.  Freshens the air and makes it palatable.  Wash your hands, use the facilities wash your hands again.

18. “Decent-drate”

After the pilot turns on the fasten seat belt sign on for final approach, and assuming the decent isn’t bumpy, start taking large gulps of water every few minutes.  It clears the ears and hydrates you.  It usually takes 20 minutes for final approach and another 10 or so to get to the gate.  Perfectly timed for getting off the plane and hitting the bathroom.

Arrival and Hotel

Bonus idea: If the  airport you are arriving at has a Limo Area, order your UBER from the plane.  Just walk out to it like a boss.

19. Baggage Claim

You did something wrong.  It couldn’t be avoided.  Or you are on vacation. In any case, if you followed some earlier advice, your bags should be prioritized first.

20. The Hotel

By this point you should have picked a brand and created an account with them.  Most hotels allow you manage some preferences – these of course are all personal.  High floor, low floor, feather free etc… But do this.  make sure part of your profile asks for extra towels.  You can remove the need for maid service all together (most of us don’t have one at home do we?) and keep your room more secure and also remove any paranoia around a stranger touching your personal things.

21. Hotel Arrival

If you picked an airline/hotel combo where status is reciprocal you should be benefiting from shorter check in line and some sort of lounge access.  Take advantage of it.

22. The Room

Remember your Wet Wipes?  Here is where they come in again.  Maid service is good at most hotels.  And they do their jobs well – but their jobs aren’t about making things sanitary.  They are there to make it presentable and orderly.  But someone was there last night.  And I can never get past the idea of what they did, had, wiped, sneezed on before I got there.  Wipe the knobs, light switches, remote, curtain pulls and sink faucets.  perfect? No, but it always makes me feel better.

Conclusion

Agency Life has its own cadence and intensity. Pitching and performing business is always more impactful in person, there is just no way of getting around it. Until the world starts accepting video conferencing as a norm and allowing it to take the place of in person meetings, road warriors will always have a role.  For me, gamifying it, owning it and tracking it brings some calm to the process.  You may notice that your colleagues who travel a lot wear it like a badge of honor.  We sort of have to, just to deal with it.