31 January 2017

R.I.P. Air Miles

A little background

I'm not sure when it all started but the Air Miles program has finally reached a point where it's almost dead to me. And, from what I can tell, it's already dead to many others from a quick scan of social media and the webisphere.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not just a disgruntled customer of Air Miles, I was a big fan of the program for many years. In fact, I worked closely with LoyaltyOne, the corporation that runs the Air Miles program, on many projects: Launching the program in Canada with Safeway in 1992, bringing customers into the Incentives program in the late 90's early 2000's, worked on branding projects through my creative agency, and launching gift cards on their platform with my last startup.

In addition to working closely, I have also been collecting reward miles since 1992 and have been an Onyx member since inception, I'm still unclear on the Onyx program and what it means exactly... I could never fully understand the benefits.

Although I have never used my reward miles for travel, I have redeemed for numerous gift cards and tons of household items. In fact, I've lost track of all the things that I've redeemed for. In all those transactions, I have only had issue on one or two of things I've ordered and the customer service was always top notch in finding a quick remedy.

I have watched their program grow over the years and I was always impressed with the program as well as the many talented staff they employed. LoyaltyOne have had some very smart and dedicated people working for them over the years. From the outside, it always appeared to be a well oiled machine and well run. Which is why I am so baffled at what the program is today. And, baffled is the best way to describe how I feel about the program now because I just can't make sense of why things are the way they are.

You will see I use the word baffle a lot, it's justified and intentional. And, the perfect word to describe how I feel about the Air Miles program today. 

Many of the retail partners have been involved for a long time and I've been a loyal customer of these retailers over the years; Shell, Safeway, Bank of Montreal, American Express, Fountain Tire, Rona, Lowes, Rexall, Staples and more. I used to base (somewhat) my purchasing decision on the fact that I could collect Air Miles.

User experience in decline

When it came to redeeming my points, I enjoyed going to the web site and selecting merchandise. This changed over time however, and I've enjoyed it less and less with every visit.

Typically, online stores get better with age, they iterate and learn from use of their customers. Not Air Miles, they seemed to make changes based on their needs, not those of the customer - it's the only way I can describe the downward spiral of the experience in dealing with their site as a customer trying to redeem reward miles. Frustrating.

Here are some of my observations on the evolution or de-evolution of their redemption store and if they really wanted to improve customer satisfaction, they would maybe consider improving on these points:

  • Adding merchandise that cannot be redeemed with reward miles, but only with cash, with no way to filter those results out. Why would I even want to see this when I'm attempting to redeem points and have expressly clicked on links to this effect. The first 3 items in my search to redeem my points, cannot even be redeemed with points! This has been on for some time so I can only imagine that some people are buying these items. If you had a separate category, where I could earn Air Miles on purchases, I would likely shop there, but not when I'm looking to redeem. 
  • Creating a split program, dream rewards and cash rewards. This is just baffling and confusing - I can only imagine there is some benefit to LoyaltyOne, because it is not customer centric at all. It's just plain confusing for the customer. Software can easily manage the disparity in the values of the programs, why they put the onus on the customer to help them manage their bottom line is beyond comprehension and a lazy patch to the issue at hand. 
  • The browsable space on the redemption site is still confined to single pages, so each search only shows you 9 (!) results unless you select view all (which you have to do each time). It's 2017, each search result should be display the entire category on a single page. This is not rocket science and will greatly improve the customer experience.
  • Redemption searches are confined and not reflowable to fit the size of the screen. They are still building their site to a specified width, again, it's 2017, not 2003 - customers use a variety of devices including second screens, mobile devices and laptops. This is called responsive design, not a new concept nor method and not using this is both frustrating to use and dates your site. 
  • The Air Miles app allows for viewing but not redemption (or at least did before it stopped working). What is the point of the app exactly then? Why bother? Maybe this has been corrected, I can't tell because my iOS app doesn't work.
  • The web store has removed the "wish list" function so you can no longer put something onto a wish list that you'd like to save points for. This decision baffles me, and can only be justified if you consider the needs of the company rather than the customer. 
  • The viewable area of the redemptions (the part I'm interested in) vs. the rest of the site (what you're trying to promote) is abhorrent and riles against any sort of customer focus. Have a look here what you've actively searched for is hidden 'beneath the fold', requiring scrolling and the information you are not looking for fills the page. Most good commerce sites, put search results ahead of their own navigation.
  • Finding the small text links to actually redeem your rewards is now a chore - the language obfuscates the process - not hiding it, but also not making it intuitive. It's three or four clicks before I see the first available merchandise. Why frustrate users in such a manner? You need to consider the reason customers are coming to your site in the first place.
  • The Air Miles redemption site is probably the slowest online store I have ever visited, with nearly a minute to refresh categories within the store. This has been the case since day one, I have complained a number of times to no avail, no follow up at all. I actually get the sense that this is intentional to curb redemption. 

Using their web site is like using the MVP of a brand new startup company - so much needs to be done to satisfy the customer and it's all designed from their own view, not the customers. But with a startup you know it will get better, they listen to their customer and iterate. It's almost as if Air Miles is going in reverse from a web development perspective as their user interface and user experience has gotten worse with time instead of better.

Decline in customer service

Yesterday, I noticed I hadn't received an order so I called their toll-free line. I was on for just a few minutes before a service rep was able to help me - the call took 17 minutes with the result of them crediting back my Air Miles so I could make the purchase again. However, the service rep could not complete the transaction without an override from the supervisor - I was put on hold to speak with the supervisor... for over 4 hours. I waited for 4 hours and 6 minutes before hanging up.

While I was on hold, about 1 hour in, I called the toll free number on another line and explained that I was on hold for over an hour. The service rep explained that there were 6 calls ahead of me and to keep waiting as it would be quicker. Well. I don't know what it was quicker than exactly, but, I resorted to social media and tweeted the following:

 "I finally gave up on my #airmiles service call after 4 hours. What's going on @Pearson4loyalty?"

The response from Air Miles was to DM them with details, which I did. Their DM response was to phone back to the same line I waited on hold for the previous day.

Let me clarify this: after waiting 4 hours on hold and complaining, they said to call back, using the exact same number and process I did the first time. All I could do was laugh.

What happened to this once great, service-oriented company? I always remember being really impressed by the quick resolve and eagerness to help from their customer service staff. Mistakes happen, you can tell how good a company is by how they react to mistakes far more than you can from any marketing they do. LoyaltyOne used to excel in this area, which is why I was such a big fan for so many years.

The people at Air Miles do care though, my issue was finally resolved and an apology was made. I'm sure that these customer service escalations are not the norm. But combined with the horrid online experience there's not much left to hold onto.

Final breath

Over the last year we've seen a number of frustrated customers vent publicly on social media and in court. I've started using alternate loyalty programs and begun changing my shopping habits. Once I exhaust the few Air Miles I have left, I am going to minimize the program and not worry about collecting, I will basically ignore it. Was fun while it lasted.

It's no secret that most customer loyalty is based on service, customer experience and satisfaction, the fact that a mature (read pioneering) loyalty company is making these basic errors, is completely baffling to me.

R.I.P. Air Miles

17 September 2016

Ride On

As the summer cycling season comes to a close I can't help but look back at some of the awesome rides I completed.

Thanks in part to the Strava app, looking back at each and every ride is very easy... and full of stats. I can tell you with precision the improvements I've made on each segment of each path, trail or road I've ridden on. I am so impressed with this app, it's absolutely fantastic - if you don't use Strava, you're missing out.

Some bikers just put their head down and go, while I have done the same at times, I also stop to take photos along the way; you can't imagine what a gorgeous city we live in until you've travelled it by bike. I post a lot of these photos on Strava and quite a few on Instagram. If you're not taking in some of the scenery as your riding, I think you're missing out.

In April, I set a goal of doing 2500km this summer. So far, I've done 2665kms and expect to put on a few hundred more before the snow flies. I separated my shoulder on August 22 playing hockey which put a dent in my cycling, missing out on about 3 weeks of great conditions. I'm back on the saddle again and slowly conditioning myself to longer rides once more.

I took my Bianchi in to get fitted and made several adjustments including the purchase of a new saddle, new stem and new handlebars. My bike was now ready for some serious distance. Since buying my road bike in the summer of '14, I've ridden 4083kms.

Here's a few of my highlights from this summer:

The Badlands Fondo on June 25th in Drumheller was my first century ride (100 miles). This 167.3km ride was the first time I have ever rode my bike in the rain, a little unnerving on the descents, especially with the crosswind. The last 35km were into a 50kph headwind but I finished it in 7hrs 45mins including rest stops.

While in New York, I rented a BSO (bike shaped object) in Central Park on July 2 and did 25kms looping the park a few times. Was a beautiful day and even managed to get the 20psi tires to propel me 50kph for a bit. There were a lot of road bikers, but I'm not sure how challenging that would be on a regular basis, there's virtually no climbs and there are too many people to really open it up.

The Highwood Pass Fondo on July 9th in Kananaaskis Country was one of the most competitive rides I've been in. There were many serious riders. Although it wasn't as long as the Badlands Fondo, it was twice as much elevation. The 135.3km ride saw a total climb of 1656m with the last ascent taking over 1 hour to complete. What goes up, must come down... unfortunately, it was raining so I topped out at 76kph on the descent, I think on dry conditions I would have been a touch faster. I finished this ride in 5hrs 43mins, including stops, a fair bit faster than the Badlands ride.

The inaugural Spoke 'n Hot Fondo was held in Fort Que'Appelle, Saskatchewan on August 7. I was one of 40 people who entered the 165km century ride. The first 70kms was beautiful and we were sheltered in the valley riding around 3 of the 4 lakes, when we ascended onto the plains, the wind picked up and made for a little tougher ride but was still gorgeous country. My back started to act up on the first climb and the pressure on my sciatic nerve was getting to be a little more than uncomfortable, the second climb was painful and I began to worry about the 9hr drive home and how my back would hold up. Descending into the valley, we approached the finish line (read beer garden) before the final lap, it was at this point, I packed it in. With only 34kms left I stopped, I had lots of leg and lung left, but I didn't want to push it with my back. I did 131km in 5hrs 7 mins, including stops. I will kill it next year.

Two weeks later, after resting and stretching my back, I was ready to take on the Tour de Victoria. I entered the epic 140km race. This was by far the hardest, most painful ride I have done. The vertical was close to the Highwood Pass but the steep grades were off the charts and much more intense than any of the hills I trained on. Most of the ride was like a roller coaster, up and down and up and down. But, I did complete the ride in 6hrs and 17 mins, including stops and facing a fierce headwind for the last 25kms to the finish line. This was the most well organized event I've attended, there were over 1500 riders in the various heats and all along the 140km ride were people cheering, clapping and giving it a little more cow bell. I will do this one again, but will train a little more on the hills.

A big tip of the helmut to all the volunteers and sponsors who make these events happen.

Some stats so far this year:
Longest distance: 167.3km
Largest climb: 512m
Elevation gain: 13,892m
Fastest speed: 79.9kph
Rides: 64

I'm looking forward to biking this fall and racking up more kms. I'm not winning any races, not even close to winning the middle of the pack, but I've never felt more healthy and fit. I'm so glad I got back into cycling. My goal next year is to go on a bike tour with Two Wheel View or TDA Global Cycling... I want to be a member of the EFI Club on some epic journey.

16 September 2016

Go The Distance

Tonight I heard the news that WP Kinsella ended his life, taking full advantage of Canada's new law on assisted dying. He was one of my favourite authors.

I have read all of his books, some several times over but, there is one book in particular that I have never read; his most famous book, Shoeless Joe. I'll explain this odd exception later.

As a writer, Mr. Kinsella was mostly silent since the late 90's releasing only one book after an accident derailed his career. Like classic architecture, his stories are timeless and a marvel to take in. At some point after ebay surfaced, I made a point of collecting first editions of all the books I loved. I'm happy to report I've got most of the first editions WP Kinsella released.

There's one book that I can't seem to keep on my bookshelf though, "The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt and Other Baseball Stories" I enjoy this collection of short stories so much that I give it away to people I think would enjoy it. I've purchased several copies over the years and just realized I'm out of stock, again.

When WP was promoting Magic Time, I was fortunate enough to catch him in person at the Word on the Street festival in Calgary where we spoke for some time after his reading. Afterwards, he signed my copy of Magic Time along with "Go the distance."

Earlier this year I was in discussions with his agent, Carolyn, to see if I could sell his books through my companies online ebook store as well as the Walmart ebook store, which we operated. I could tell by the way that Carolyn spoke that WP was not just a client, but a very close friend.

In 1992, I heard Kinsella being interviewed on CBC radio one day and was intrigued, sounded like an interesting story. I stopped at the local bookstore in Edmonton, where I was living at the time, and purchased a copy of The Winter Helen Dropped By. I enjoyed this book so much, I immediately went back to the store to purchase another book by the same author. It was after reading Box Socials that I became a WP Kinsella fan.

"Every story is about sex or death, or sometimes both"

Kinsella's stories have a way of pulling you into the story, with scenes so vivid and characters so real as you read the book, you could swear you were there, that your name was just omitted by the editor to save some ink. But, you were there, man. Frankie Fencepost, Silas Ermineskin, Mike Houle, Ray Kinsella, Charlie O'Day, Gideon Clark, Joe McCoy, Mike Street and many others kept me company over the years as Kinsella wove story into story and created a very real story world. One filled with laughter and wonder.

Funny thing is, I'm not a baseball fan, I wouldn't go out of my way to see a baseball game, but his stories about baseball are so well crafted that you can't help but fall in love with the game, and every aspect of it. I am a big hockey fan, played the game for over 40 years and I've never once felt the same about hockey as I do about baseball after reading one of his baseball stories.

WP Kinsella is best known for Shoeless Joe, the only novel of his I have not read. Here's why: The movie Field of Dreams was based on Shoeless Joe and while I'm a huge Kinsella fan, I am also a huge fan of the movie. I would go so far as to say it's one of my favourite movies of all time. Do you see where I'm going with this? As you know, in most cases, the book is always better than the movie and I just don't want to tarnish my love for the flick. So, I've steered clear of the novel for fear of it wrecking the movie for me. So, I have an uncracked first edition copy of Shoeless Joe that is collecting dust... paid almost $200 for a book that I've not even opened.

Maybe it's time to take WP's advice and go the distance... pick it up and finally read it. I think I will.

Thank you Mr. Kinsella for blessing us with your marvelous stories.









18 April 2016

Road Biking: My 30yr Remission

A few years ago I started cycling again. As a teenager, I had a nice Apollo 10 speed road bike that I put thousands of kms on - it was my dream to ride across the country, or something like that.

Then I got a car and I forgot all about my bike and biking.

After 30 years or so I acquired a nice Trek commuter bike and I was hooked, I soon began making the 40km round trip to work once a week and began riding most evenings through Fish Creek Provincial Park, near my home. I was starting to get my endurance and speed up and wanted to get back into road biking.

As a teenager, I spent hours at South Cycle, the local bike shop and drooled over the beautiful Bianchi road bikes, with the Campagnolo group sets and flat spokes and aerodynamic frames. It was my dream to have such a beautiful bike.

Well, thanks to Kijiji and someones need to upgrade, I found such a bike and at a reasonable price. I lucked into a 2002 Bianchi Reparto Corse with a Campagnolo Centaur 10 speed group set. It's an aluminum frame with carbon forks and wheels, pretty light and in terrific shape. It's not a fancy carbon frame model like most road bikes today, but it's still a performance bike.

I got the bike late in the summer, I put some new rubber on and rode the bike as is. Getting accustomed to the feel of the frame and making small adjustments to the bike as I went, putting in a few hundred kilometers. In the winter I purchased a stationary stand so that I could still spin.

The second summer, I began to see what I could do on the road bike and began to take longer rides, typically 60km at a time and was quite comfortable in doing these rides, I even ventured out onto highway 23 and rode from Mossleigh to Vulcan a few times (78kms) - 14kms of uphill to start off on, but a blast coming back, I reached a speed of 76kmph on one ride... a bit disconcerting when your only protection in a crash is the lycra your wearing.

Then, I discovered the Canmore Gran Fondo (CGF). A gran fondo is a type of long-distance ride in which riders are individually chip timed. Many folks race against their own time to better their own performance and some people just go out for a fun ride. They are not serious races by any stretch. The CGF had a choice of 60km, 88km and 136km. Since it was my first go, I went with the 60km race. I finished with a time of 2:04 and still got home with plenty of time to go play hockey that night.

This gran fondo experience was such that when I got home, I immediately looked up other fondos and found one in Kalispel the following weekend. I entered it. The choice there was a 50 mile (82km) or 100 mile race (164km), I chose the 50 mile and pretty sure that I had a time of 3:05... 27kmph on average for 3 hours - not bad for an old fat guy.

That was the last fondo of the year. While the fondos I competed in were relatively short, they did present some challenges to overcome. The 60km ride from Canmore included about 20kms of 40+kmph headwinds and the 82km ride in Kalispel started out with 2ºC weather but warmed up to 18ºC.

In March, I initially set a goal to do 10 fondos in the summer of 2016. I figured I should be able to reach 2500kms over the summer and planned accordingly. As I started to plan these fondos, I found there were many great events to choose from - Hell Ride, RollFast and the Chafe 150. These intrigued me, especially the Chafe 150, which is 242kms in one day - it borders on the ultra marathon level of biking.

After reviewing all of the rides, I learned that most of the fondos fall on the same days or weekends, so booking 10 isn't really possible. I settled on 4: Badlands Fondo (167km), Highwood Pass Fondo (135km), Spoke 'n Hot Fondo (165km) and Tour de Victoria (140km).

I want to do this for a couple of reasons. The first is I want to push the limits of what I can do. I'm still relatively young and may not be able to do this in another 10-15 years. I haven't really pushed the limits of what I can do physically since I was in the army, I guess I wanna see if I can be all that I can be, again. The second reason is, I want to prove that I can do the larger distances on all of the fondos this year. At least complete my first century ride.


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10 November 2015

How basic military training prepared Me to be a tech start-up CEO

Most people I work with don't know I served in the army - that's me with a Carl Gustav 84mm rifle at the CFB Suffield Range in 1988. Unfortunately, this is one of the only photos I have of me in uniform, it was an era or two before selfies and digital cameras.

I don't hide the fact I was in the military, but I don't go out of my way to promote it either. It's not that I'm not proud of my service, because I am, I just know a lot of folks that served more than I have, and have given more than I have. My service pales by comparison.

Everyone who has ever served in the military all start out the same way: Basic Military Training (BMT). My basic training began in the spring of 86 and what started as a hair cut, looking snappy in a uniform and learning how to march up and down the square, quickly became a very intensive test of mind and body.

There are plenty of movies that depict the typical screaming Drill Seargent, demeaning the troops and calling them useless worms or maggots. While some of these fictional accounts of this character and his expletive-laced encouragements are slightly exaggerated, most are not. I was called both a worm and a maggot, sometimes on the same march. We were beaten down by Master Corporals, who took turns in making every waking moment an exercise in endurance and resilience.

Basic Military Training is a grueling experience, it is nothing like the twice-a-week boot camps you can pay for to showcase your yoga pants, those give actual boot camp a bad name. BMT is physically hard and mentally challenging. There is a mix of class room time, parade square time and field time and it escalates, in every sense. Just when you think you are getting the hang of something, they up the ante and whatever you're learning becomes more difficult. I cannot stress the fact that it is an ass-whooping both mentally and physically. But, there were other factors that contributed to life during BMT in the 80's as well, the world outside of CFB Currie was a very different place.

Keep in mind, this was almost 30 years ago and some of my memories may be a bit faded, no more faded than the old gear we received as new recruits. I swear some of the gear we got was from the 50's. In fact, I know that our weapons were. We were issued FNC1 battle rifles and I remember what I said the first time I held it, "how old is this thing?". It had a wooden butt, stock and forestock and it had a bayonet stub. ...for a bayonet. A bayonet?? Are we getting geared up for the Crimean War? Don't get me wrong, everything was in fine working order and well maintained but it felt like we were going back in time.

In the mid-80's there was a number of war movies in popular culture - think First Blood, Red Dawn and the like. The cold war was still on and most civilians didn't care too much for army folk. I would go so far to say that we were shunned both by civilians and by the ruling government. This made it easy for the government to cut funding to the forces, because there was no real public support for the military and over the previous 20 years, Canada had established itself in the role of 'peacekeeper' internationally. This was a role I was happy to fill by the way, but one that didn't necessarily require the latest in equipment as far as the politicians were concerned. As a result, the Canadian Forces were the punchline in many jokes back then. Not a great time to join the forces.

What we faced off the base, would best be described as awkward interactions with the public. We would go for lunch occasionally to a local McDonald's in our combat uniforms - people would almost look down at us, as if we had no place to be there. This feeling was common in public, we felt at home on the base but like outsiders amongst the people we enlisted to protect and serve. It is so different nowadays, there is a huge sentimental attachment to military, the public is very supportive and with that, the dollars to adequately fund the troops with newish rifles, Mercedes trucks and actual camouflage uniforms. Military personnel today would have a real tough time understanding exactly how it was in the 80's.

In the army, in BMT, there is no forgiveness, no leeway, no alternatives to what you have been told to do. If you are told to stand at attention for 10 minutes, then that's what you do, it's what the entire unit did. If you didn't last, you would drop and do 20 push ups and the clock restarted. If someone in the unit breaks the hold, it happens again, until everyone completes the 10 minutes at attention. Now 10 minutes does not sound like a long time, but stand still, heels together, arms at your side, chin up... now hold that for 10 minutes and tell me 10 minutes isn't an eternity. This may seem like a trivial assignment, and it is, and it's not even that hard when you do it yourself, but get a group to do this and see where things begin to fall apart. While concentrating on this menial task, each minute contains so many thoughts, mostly about who is going to move and cause everyone to do push ups again but also about how much longer is this going to take and why are we even doing this. The thing is, it didn't matter if you were at attention and didn't flinch, if one of the other recruits flinched, you all paid. The meant your actions were paid for by everyone. This could go on for an entire day. There's a lot of things go through your mind when you're standing rigid as a post for 5 minutes, like 'I'm gonna kill the next person who makes us start over again.'

The most push ups I did in one of these exercises was 120 in a row - it was a small cocky group of us that were unassigned for work one summer at CFB Dundurn, we were mostly trying to show the master corporal that we could go all day playing his game. Was a stupid way to protest, but we were 18 and didn't really think things all the way through. I am told that they are not allowed to make recruits do pushups anymore, or call them maggots. Or worms.

While standing at attention appears to be a pointless task, the repeated punishment and do overs until it has been completed in unison forms a bond that all soldiers eventually share; teamwork. Everyone in your unit was your team. Never, ever let your buddy down. This was instilled in many other ways and all methods of instilling this were as draining and with impact and result. This has worked for eons in training troops for battle and is something you never forget.

I remember being excited for our first field exercise, we got to carry our rifles and rucksacks and headed out into the woods for a few nights. Hell, who doesn't like camping? This is where we learned how to make a bivouac. Not much use when you're on a continuous march for 2 days and 2 nights so although we stopped to make a bivouac, it was just to learn how to make one, not to actually use it. The march was designed to teach us map reading in the dark with no sleep, while under the threat of assault from enemies. We walked up and down hills, through plains and woods in silence for over 24 hours with no sleep. We would stop sporadically for moments at a time and I would fall asleep while taking a knee, the muzzle of a rifle in my back was my wake up call and we were marching again. Got my 15 seconds of sleep in, I was good for a few more kilometers. It was in these marches that you really noticed the difference in temperatures between the valleys and the hilltops, you notice the subtleties of things when your senses are heightened through sleep deprivation. Being mentally alert was key to keep going, you needed not only to be able to push your body, but push your mind - you couldn't let your unit down.

When your mind and body are tired, it becomes hard to function. Like anything though, conditional training over time and repeated exposure to the same conditions results in being able to operate under duress, stress and fatigue. With enough practice, you can actually become pretty good at it.

Sure, we learned a lot of things in basic training a lot of things I will never use again, like how to get out of a building filled with tear gas, how to dismantle, clean and assemble an SMG, how to march up and down the square, how to dress a sucking chest wound, how to build a bivouac and how to follow orders. I was a good soldier and for an anti-establishment, anti-authority type person, I managed to finish second out of about 40 original recruits, under 30 actually completed the course.

I look back at those days with great fondness, there isn't anything I wouldn't do for any one of the guys (and gals) in my unit, even after all these years. I am proud I got to stand still for 10 minutes many, many times beside each of them. But mostly, I am thankful for what I learned, because the skills I learned so many years ago have proven to be of high value over and over again as a start up CEO.

The army prepared my body and my mind for battle, to be mentally and physically tough. Each day in a tech start up is a battle, a fight to make your idea come to fruition. Being the CEO in a tech start up requires a mental toughness and resilience like no other job. There are mental challenges and physical stresses beyond that of any other thing I've done. And, there are times when it feels like every possible force is working against what you are working towards and it's times like those when you know it's easy to give up, a lot of folks do, ...but not when you're trained to fight.

"We shall never surrender." - Sir Winston Churchill

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19 August 2015

New Test

02 July 2015

Customer First

Enthrill began as a publisher, creating immersive experiences through transmedia storytelling.

In the process of developing our award winning transmedia experience, we created a technology to distribute ebooks to any device, regardless of platform.

We soon realized the value of this technology had enormous potential; we could liberate publishers and proliferate the distribution of ebooks. Add to this a desire amongst brick & mortar stores to participate in digital sales and we have a recipe for success.

Enthrill pivoted in 2010 - what we are today is a result of that pivotal moment when we realized our technology could make a real difference for publishers, retailers and consumers.

Knowing we had the key to unlocking consumers, publishers and retailers from the grips of a handful of online platforms meant we had to do it right. We had to build our system to be resilient, redundant and fully scalable. For Enthrill to realize full value, the system needed to be fully proprietary and built from the ground up. This is no easy task, especially considering we're venturing into uncharted waters. Enthrill, since day one has hired the best of the best and every single person that has worked for us, present and past has moved us forward in our continued evolution.

Technology is nothing if it can't be used easily.

I spent most of my career working on consumer experiences. From alternate reality games (ARGs), transmedia storytelling, packaging design, ERP software to simple marketing pieces (some not so simple). I have preached about the customer experience and how important it is, over and over and over again. And, I still have to explain it... customers come first. If you're not thinking that way, then you're thinking about your needs and not the customers - and, this will be reflected in your product.

If you are developing anything that people will need to use, they need to be able to actually use it. And, the easier you make it the more people will use it. Think about this for a second: How many people use a pencil? How many people use violins?  I like violins just fine, but pencils don't require years of practice to use.  Simplicity = access. The harder you make something the less likely you are to have it adopted by any critical mass of people - in consumer packaged goods, it needs to be dead simple; to understand, to purchase, to engage with, to enjoy.

So, that is why we developed everything at Enthrill from the customer up. We began with the customer experience and worked it backwards to the technology. Sure, this was difficult, but at the end of the day, any barrier between a customer and the product is a barrier between us and success as a company.

We could have done it easier, we could have just developed an app. There are many reasons we chose to not go into the app space, you can read them here, most have to do with thinking of the customer first, not the technology. The customer doesn't care about the technology, it should be invisible to them. We could have used an existing DRM in the market, but no customer wants additional steps, they want fewer. Water follows the path of least resistance... and so do people.

If a customer can engage easily they will do so with frequency. That is the goal.

While our team has devoted itself to developing a winning formula for the customers of mass retail chains such as Walmart, Sears and Safeway, we have learned a lot along the way. There is a magic formula between the technology and what the consumer wants to purchase. We have just completed a new round of market tests that put us closer to hitting the bullseye on this formula. In the fall, we'll be featuring this new product in over 6000 retail stores.

At the end of the day, we have created something that customers want... watch for us this fall in your favourite stores. We are Enthrill and we sell ebook gift cards.