Tuesday, November 30, 2021



There's a Difference Between Fast and Timely

Delivering information is critical in many businesses, but don't waste energy and resources getting data to places where it won't be useful. 



Time is the scarcest resource in our lives. Data may be the oil of the digital economy, but the timeliness and contextual delivery of that data is what creates real value.  One of the things we learned early in our first business -- we provided market-based vehicle valuations to the auto insurance industry -- is that it didn't matter how fresh and accurate our data was, or how quickly we responded to inbound inquiries. What mattered is whether the folks asking for the answers were accessible and available when we got back to them with the info. The when and where of the data delivery (context) is just as important as the what (content) in the final analysis.

In addition, many of the traditional management tools we initially employed turned out to be poorly aligned with the real needs of the business. Driving our people crazy to meet certain performance standards, arbitrary operating metrics, turn-around times, or other contractually mandated service levels was simply stupid if the end results didn't matter to the customers. Not everything needed to be instantly available or be made into a crisis or a fire drill if no one was going to appreciate, recognize or compensate us for the extra effort. Youthful and aggressive enthusiasm eventually yielded to painful experience.  

It took a while to get the flow and timing correct in that business, but the core offering - real-time and precise valuation information as opposed to the stale, generalized historical data that was the industry standard - radically changed the way in which claims for lost or stolen vehicles were settled in the auto insurance game.  Today, 40 years later, that business is still operating as the unquestioned industry leader, works with every major insurer, and is worth billions. The most important lesson we learned is that a one-dimensional emphasis on speed alone often creates more undue stress rather than building value.

The best and most valuable data-centric startups understand how to add substantial value to their offerings by managing and compressing time as they constantly move forward on the continuum from old news and after-the-fact analysis to the real time delivery of current information. Shrinking the space between the creation, measurement and evaluation of relevant activity -- capturing it in the moment, at the edge, and from both employees and their customers (bi-directional) -- and then converting and communicating it back to the team members as immediate, actionable instruction is now the name of the game. The more immediate that any strategic inputs can be, the more accurate and valuable the decisions relying upon them will become. The only right time is real time and right now.

Many old-line data-based businesses, including mine, sought to increase the availability and immediacy of decision-making information. But now we're seeing the emergence of companies that are developing on-site systems to provide real-time feedback that can be used effectively to inform and improve employees' qualitative behaviors rather than simply their quantitative decisions.  

This is the new wave of augmented human intelligence tools, which focus on creating and supporting better informed, more aware, and readily reactive workers as opposed to those long-promised and largely unsuccessful systems that propose to use artificial intelligence to actually replace humans. The goal today is to make all your people smart fast. And nothing improves learning more effectively than instant, on-the-job feedback.

I believe that we're going to see an explosion of real-time guidance in almost every customer-facing service business. And there's probably no more challenging an environment in which to try to implement consistent and ongoing behavioral change than the world of call centers, whatever industry they support. Call centers overall suffer 100% annual agent attrition, difficulty in properly deploying and scaling their coaching resources, recurring and repeated agent errors, and an inability to quickly share changes and improvements across their workforce.

While there are plenty of players in this space, one of the most interesting young companies is St. Louis-based Balto, which is focused on using conversational intelligence to provide real-time guidance for call center agents and managers. You can check out their products and services but noting their pitch and the problems they identify will be far more valuable for you because these are universal concerns. Investing a little time will help you create a significant knowledge advantage. The key to the most effective innovation is very often "borrowing" new ideas and approaches from other people in adjacent industries and applying them to your own business.

Solution migration, cross-industry pollination, and inexpensive adaption are all great ways to boost your business without spending big bucks. Originality and invention are often overrated, time-consuming and costly.  Find the best ideas, figure out how they apply and make sense for your company, and get busy making them work for you.  

Here are  four key concepts that I borrowed from Balto's materials and I'll bet that thinking about how to deal with each of them in the context of your own company can help you build a better business - whether it's claims, sales, logistics, health care, insurance or any other direct-to-customer product or service - especially at present when so many of your team members are still likely to be working remotely.

(1)   A Small Number of Recurring Problems and Errors Cause the Bulk of the Issues with Customers.

As many times as you tell your team how, when and what to say, they still forget, quit, freelance, get bored, and get upset or distracted. Automated and interactive scripts, dynamic checklists, sidebar chats and prompts can constantly provide and reinforce the right messages, paths and online responses to issues and objections. Training and practice are helpful, but not as valuable or effective as real-world experiences and immediate feedback.

(2)   The Best Time to Keep a Customer is Before They Leave.

Once a conversation is over, it's almost always too late to retrieve or recover the customer. Automated bi-lateral conversation monitoring with key word triggers and timely alerts permits next-level personnel to join, interrupt or intercede and work instantly to salvage and restore the precarious relationship before it ends. A supervisor can only listen in on one discussion at a time while the right system can be listening into all of the ongoing discussions at the same time and alert the supervisor or manager when prompt action is necessary.

(3)   Problems are Rarely Unique to Individual, Unhappy  Customers. Solutions Need to Address Root Causes and then Be Quickly Circulated to the Entire Team.

Solving one-off problems with unhappy customers is necessary, but it's not sufficient over the long run as a strategy for overall improvements in deficient processes and unsatisfactory agent behaviors. Even more importantly, once a broader fix is determined and in place and applicable to all customers, it's critical that the solution (either what's working or what's not working) be immediately transmitted to the entire team and incorporated in all of the supportive tools and materials and all future interactions.

(4)   All of Us are Smarter than Any One of Us.

It's hard to overstate the value of aggregated, collated, and carefully analyzed data collected from literally millions of conversations, transactions, interactions and dispositions when you're trying to continually enrich the customer experience. While your particular situation may have specific variations, there's no question that the best practices, hints, directions and standard responses derived from the daily activities of hundreds of businesses and then gathered into a common database of instructions and directions will be largely applicable and extremely useful in your particular use cases as well. Customers may come in all sizes and shapes, but their basic needs and desires are remarkably similar in almost every respect. You can try to learn these things over a lifetime or have them at your fingertips overnight.   

The best entrepreneurs aren't too proud or too busy to look, listen and learn-- or to beg, borrow and steal the best ideas from wherever they might be found. In the final analysis, a successful enterprise is never about who did it first, but about who does it best.

NOV 30, 2021

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.




Trump called aides hours before Capitol riot to discuss how to stop Biden victory

Hugo Lowell in Washington

Tue, November 30, 2021, 1:00 AM·8 min read

Hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington and talked about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.

Related: Trump challenges media and Democrats to debate his electoral fraud lie

The former president first told the lieutenants his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term.

But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, he pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January, and delay the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

The former president’s remarks came as part of strategy discussions he had from the White House with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification.

Multiple sources, speaking to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, described Trump’s involvement in the effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.

The former president’s call to the Willard hotel about stopping Biden’s certification is increasingly a central focus of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, as it raises the specter of a possible connection between Trump and the insurrection.

Several Trump lawyers at the Willard that night deny Trump sought to stop the certification of Biden’s election win. They say they only considered delaying Biden’s certification at the request of state legislators because of voter fraud.

The former president made several calls to the lieutenants at the Willard the night before 6 January. He phoned the lawyers and the non-lawyers separately, as Giuliani did not want non-lawyers to participate on legal calls and jeopardise attorney-client privilege.

Trump’s call to the lieutenants came a day after Eastman, a late addition to the Trump legal team, outlined at a 4 January meeting at the White House how he thought Pence could usurp his role in order to stop Biden’s certification from happening at the joint session.

At the meeting, which was held in the Oval Office and attended by Trump, Pence, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short and his legal counsel Greg Jacob, Eastman presented a memo that detailed how Pence could insert himself into the certification and delay the process.

The memo outlined several ways for Pence to commandeer his role at the joint session, including throwing the election to the House, or adjourning the session to give states time to send slates of electors for Trump on the basis of election fraud – Eastman’s preference.

Then– acting attorney general Jeff Rosen and his predecessor, Bill Barr, who had both been appointed by Trump, had already determined there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Eastman told the Guardian last month that the memo only presented scenarios and was not intended as advice. “The advice I gave the vice-president very explicitly was that I did not think he had the authority simply to declare which electors to count,” Eastman said.

Trump seized on the memo – first reported by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book Peril – and pushed Pence to adopt the schemes, which some of the other lieutenants at the Willard later told Trump were legitimate ways to flip the election.

But Pence resisted Trump’s entreaties, and told him in the Oval Office the next day that Trump should count him out of whatever plans he had to subvert the results of the 2020 election at the joint session, because he did not intend to take part.

Trump was furious at Pence for refusing to do him a final favor when, in the critical moment underpinning the effort to reinstall Trump as president, he phoned lieutenants at the Willard sometime between the late evening on 5 January and the early hours of 6 January.

From the White House, Trump made several calls to lieutenants, including Giuliani, Eastman, Epshteyn and Bannon, who were huddled in suites complete with espresso machines and Cokes in a mini-fridge in the north-west corner of the hotel.

On the calls, the former president first recounted what had transpired in the Oval Office meeting with Pence, informing Bannon and the lawyers at the Willard that his vice-president appeared ready to abandon him at the joint session in several hours’ time.

The former president is said to have enjoyed watching the insurrection unfold from the dining room

“He’s arrogant,” Trump, for instance, told Bannon of Pence – his own way of communicating that Pence was unlikely to play ball – in an exchange reported in Peril and confirmed by the Guardian.

But on at least one of those calls, Trump also sought from the lawyers at the Willard ways to stop the joint session to ensure Biden would not be certified as president on 6 January, as part of a wider discussion about buying time to get states to send Trump electors.

The fallback that Trump and his lieutenants appeared to settle on was to cajole Republican members of Congress to raise enough objections so that even without Pence adjourning the joint session, the certification process would be delayed for states to send Trump slates.

It was not clear whether Trump discussed on the call about the prospect of stopping Biden’s certification by any means if Pence refused to insert himself into the process, but the former president is said to have enjoyed watching the insurrection unfold from the dining room.

But the fact that Trump considered ways to stop the joint session may help to explain why he was so reluctant to call off the rioters and why Republican senator Ben Sasse told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he heard Trump seemed “delighted” about the attack.

The lead Trump lawyer at the Willard, Giuliani, appearing to follow that fallback plan, called at least one Republican senator later that same evening, asking him to help keep Congress adjourned and stall the joint session beyond 6 January.

In a voicemail recorded at about 7pm on 6 January, and reported by the Dispatch, Giuliani implored Republican senator Tommy Tuberville to object to 10 states Biden won once Congress reconvened at 8pm, a process that would have concluded 15 hours later, close to 7 January.

“The only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow – ideally until the end of tomorrow,” Giuliani said.

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to requests for comment on this account of Trump’s call. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment. Eastman, Epshteyn and Bannon declined to comment.

Trump made several calls the day before the Capitol attack from both the White House residence, his preferred place to work, as well as the West Wing, but it was not certain from which location he phoned his top lieutenants at the Willard.

The White House residence and its Yellow Oval Room – a Trump favorite – is significant since communications there, including from a desk phone, are not automatically memorialized in records sent to the National Archives after the end of an administration.

But even if Trump called his lieutenants from the West Wing, the select committee may not be able to fully uncover the extent of his involvement in the events of 6 January, unless House investigators secure testimony from individuals with knowledge of the calls.

That difficulty arises since calls from the White House are not necessarily recorded, and call detail records that the select committee is suing to pry free from the National Archives over Trump’s objections about executive privilege, only show the destination of the calls.

House select committee investigators last week opened a new line of inquiry into activities at the Willard hotel, just across the street from the White House, issuing subpoenas to Eastman and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, an assistant to Giuliani.

The chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, said in a statement that the panel was pursuing the Trump officials at the Willard to uncover “every detail about their efforts to overturn the election, including who they were talking to in the White House and in Congress”.


Sunday, November 28, 2021


 Nashville is trying to woo Chicago tech workers, touting milder weather and shorter commutes. But will the pitch work?



NOV 25, 2021 AT 6:00 AM

Music City is making a big overture to Chicago’s tech workers.

Amid a population boom and Big Tech creating outposts there, Nashville has launched a marketing campaign to woo tech workers from Chicago and other big cities by touting the fact it has no state income tax, shorter commute times, milder weather and a famous music scene.

If this type of poaching stunt sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because Chicago’s given as good as it gets. In September, World Business Chicago, the public-private operation that serves as the city’s economic development arm, took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Dallas Morning News, inviting corporations to head north for more liberal abortion and voting laws — a swipe at restrictive legislation the Lone Star State passed in recent months.

While there are plenty of Chicago cheerleaders prepared to offer counterpoints to all Nashville says it has on offer, there’s some data out there suggesting the Chicago-to-Nashville pipeline is humming. Between 2014 and 2018, the net migration of residents moving from the Chicago region to Nashville was 1,629 annually, a spokeswoman for the Nashville campaign says, citing U.S. census data. That would make the Chicago region, defined by the Census Bureau as the city, suburbs, parts of southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana, the largest source of new residents in the Nashville region.