BIGOmaha was great. Definitely one of the best produced, one-day conferences I’ve been to in a while. Great venue, wonderful people, perfect lineup of speakers, and generous, accommodating hosts. Well done all around.
There were a lot of takeaways from the conference, but here are two that hit me in the gut. Both of these came from Jeffrey Kalmikoff’s presentation.
1. The goal is to apologize sincerely and be taken seriously
This was such a strong point. For all the talk about transparency and authenticity, what it really means is this: Can your company mess up bad, apologize sincerely, and be taken seriously?
Can your customers trust your apology like you’d trust a friend’s apology if they just smashed your car? Your friend would be pissed, but they’d understand and get over it. Can you say the same for your customers if you really messed up bad? Would they understand and have your back through the tough times? Would they empathize?
I thought that was a great analogy. And I think it’s such an interesting way to look at what the fancy terms like transparency and authenticity and all that really mean. Bottom line: Can someone trust your apology?
2. Accessibility means pinging back
When Jeffrey talks about accessibility he’s not talking about Section 508, he’s talking about being available to your customers, co-workers, etc.
It’s not enough to spread your email address, twitter name, IM handle, or phone number far and wide if you’re not going to respond to emails, tweets, IMs, or phone calls. Being accessible doesn’t just mean taking it all in, it means giving it all back.
There’s a lot of social broadcast going on. But it doesn’t mean as much if you’re a black hole. If you give someone a way to contact you, you need to close the loop by contacting them back. You aren’t accessible if you only receive.
Michael Rileyon 11 May 09
I totally agree about being accessible, I know I’m guilty of this. It’s way too easy to find out how to contact me on the internet, and way too difficult for people to really get in touch. I think actually the solution is to consolidate your methods of contact, and plain old email usually works the best.
Scott Wintheiseron 11 May 09
I completely agree. Big Omaha was a great show! All the speakers were right on.
If anyone else from Milwaukee was there, send me a tweet. I’d love to pick your brain. @swintheiser
Jakeon 11 May 09
I totally agree with point #1. Which is why I was surprised by a certain person’s apology after the GoGaRuCo fiasco.
That “apology” sounded like one of those, “I’m sorry that you weren’t cool enough to understand the joke” apologies.
Paul Leaderon 11 May 09
On point #1 – a nice counter example is occurring right now in the UK.
There is a huge uproar in the press about MPs expenses, and the way many of them appear to have manipulated the system for personal gain. Lots of them have apologised. But you know what? No one believes they are being sincere. The more they apologise (in that “it was the system’s fault” kind of way), the more people are getting annoyed at them. The public image of politicians in the UK is currently being flushed down the toilet, and few of them seem to really understand why all their apologies are making no difference.
They don’t seem to understand that in many ways, an insincere and mealy mouthed apology that’s not an apology is actually worse than saying nothing at all.
Paul Leaderon 11 May 09
Just to clarify, for those that don’t know, an MP is a Member of Paliament.
Ironically, MPs are known as “Honourable Members”, not much honourable going on at the moment.
Brad Coughlinon 11 May 09
I also liked Jeffrey’s point about transparency. One audience member asked what to do about a nosy employee. Jeffrey said “ask me how much threadless (Jeffrey’s company) made last year.” The man replied “how much did threadless make last year?” Jeffrey replies “that’s none of your business.” He went on to explain that transparency doesn’t mean revealing everything, it means being honest about your motives and being candid.
Shane Eloeon 11 May 09
In relation to point two, I really like the threadless model where they have built the kind of relationship with their community through communication that they are able to make a big mistake and work through it. Not only did the community forgive them for being honest and sincere, but also helped to fix significant portions of the mistake made.
However, the honesty may not have been taken so well if the relationship had not been properly formed in the first place (like the MP’s in the UK). I think there you have a system where the people don’t have the same kind of trust for their representatives that the threadless community has for Jeffrey & Co. Representatives can often be more like the broadcasting black hole of communication and are not doing a great job leveraging technology in communication to overcome that.
Kim Mickelsenon 12 May 09
Big Omaha was a great and inspiring event. Instead of hype and posturing, the discussions were very real and to me that’s was what made it a standout event. It was thought provoking and inspired me to focus less on communication and more on individual conversations.
BTW I also really enjoyed your session at Big Omaha and your take on planning vs action. I’ve followed your blog and have been a basecamp subscriber since the beginning and have often referenced your comments/suggestions when it feels like we get stuck in “too much activity, too little motion” mode. Thanks again for being a speaker at Big Omaha.
Denison 12 May 09
Jason, I agree as I am still impressed that you were cordial enough to respond to an email of mine from way back when. I note that you do often respond to nearly all of your emails if not all. But when does it become too much and what would be your cutoff point for managing emails personally? It’s great to be transparent but one can also be overrun by the flood of users asking “how do I start new project in basecamp?”
Mark Maderon 12 May 09
Agree on both points. The fact that people get so fired up (in a positive way) when they get a ping back or they hear a helpful voice when they dial the main phone line leads me to believe that the pinging back is becoming more and more scarce.
Kudos to those firms who don’t overextend/overpromise their accessibility and over deliver via the channels they do promote.
Jeffreyon 12 May 09
Denis, I wanted to respond to what you said towards the end of your post.
“It’s great to be transparent but one can also be overrun by the flood of users asking “how do I start new project in basecamp?””
Jason is correct, accessibility is about pinging back – but everything is within reason. For the same reason that I made the point to have that dude in the audience ask me how much money Threadless made last year only to tell him it was none of his business, you don’t need to answer every email. Not every request for information must be met with fulfilling that request. It has to make sense for that interaction to happen between you and the person asking.
A huge part of being accessible in a WORTHWHILE way is being able to disseminate which interactions are worth your time (as it relates to your brand). If I was Jason, I’d likely ignore the “how do I start a new project in Basecamp” email, simply because that answer is out there.
Accessibility is not about spoon feeding your community whatever information they feel inclined to ask for. It’s about being that link between your brand and your customer – to provide an interaction that doesn’t happen anywhere else. A supplement to the available interaction that exists online between the brand and the community. Not as a tool for someone who decided to email/aim/call/tweet/etc you simply because it’s easier than using an FAQ.
Jane Quigleyon 12 May 09
@jeffrey and @denis – I think it’s also about entitlement and adding value. No one is entitled to a reply or a connection because they made an effort. If the communication has value – a thought, a great question or idea – then it’s a natural progression. The most important point is that the person initiating the dialogue is not the person who determines its value – and I think that’s difficult for a lot of people.
Benjamin Bertrandon 14 May 09
re: 2. Even record companies with 100’s of emails daily always find a way to reply, or at least the ones I still buy from do.
Surely you can touch your customers/clients. It’s never been as cheap to do so, and it usually means more to them than you think.
Devan Koshalon 16 May 09
I really wanted to go to Big Omaha, my exams timetable wouldn’t allow it.
Is their any recorded material available from this conference?
This discussion is closed.