Monday, July 2, 2012

A Trip the to Supermarket, an iPad, a KM Strategy and a Carton of free eggs!

I have recently been puzzling about how to use iPads to improve service delivery. Who knew I would get some insights on a trip to the grocery store?

Safway's New Customization Initiative

My local Safeway was introducing the "Just for u" program. They positioned an employee holding an iPad near the store entrance. They were, in other words initiating a strategic intervention, to encourage shoppers to personalize their shopping profiles. Of course they could badger me with emails, which I likely ignore, but by placing a human being holding an iPad (i.e. ready willing and able to help) in my path, they got my attention. The Safeway employee was able to build my custom "Just for u " profile. and able to download the app right onto my phone in about 2 minutes.  I will get alerts when my favorite products are on sale, ,they will load coupons and special deals  on my loyalty account and I walked away with a free carton of eggs as a bonus for signing up.

If we had researchers and KM professionals conduct outreach using  iPads, what initiatives should we promote? Some of the possibilities include:

  • Demonstrate ebook features with the goal of migrating lawyers off of print
  • Convert lawyers from print to digital newsletter delivery
  • Demonstrate new KM drafting products 
  • Roving research. Answer research questions 
  • Provide "just in time" training
  • Interview lawyers to create custom information profiles
 But the Safeway "Just For U" initiative focused my attention on the endless challenge of  improving and updating personalized news and legal monitoring for lawyers.

The Myth of the End User Dashboard Customized monitoring is an endless challenge. Lawyers' needs are not static, clients change, issues change, products change. Customized monitoring is hot. Over the past year I have fielded innumerable pitches from a variety of vendors hawking the latest and greatest custom monitoring platform. One feature that most share is based on the notion that lawyers want to l learn to manage their alerts in a customized platform. They presume that lawyers want and are willing to learn "to drive" a custom alerts platform.

The Power of Human Intervention. I fear that we are all facing a bit of "customization fatigue." It would be daunting to even estimate how many more personalized passwords  and account setups we will all be forced create over the coming decade. The central lesson of the "Safeway experience" for me was how a simple human intervention overcame all resistance. It reinforced my gut feeling that we should recognize "dashboard fatigue" and  simply offer lawyers the option of a "chauffeur ride" to a more efficient process. Roving KM professionals armed with iPads can build more lawyer efficiency  in two minutes than a year of email reminders to "log in" to a new product unassisted.


  1. You are certainly right, Jean, about the power of human intervention. The grocery store in my Brooklyn neighborhood had an electronic kiosk at the front of the store collecting the same sort of profile information: swipe your store points card, build a profile, get a premium. Then, each time you came into the store, you were to swipe your card and the service, using information stored in your profile and information accumulated from your prior shopping trips (assuming you used your store points card) would point you to specials, sales, new merchandise, etc. The kiosk was there for about six weeks and without notice or announcement disappeared. I was chatting about it with one of the store managers, a friend of mine: "There was just not enough response to justify keeping it there and maintaining all the information links." "Did you ever think of having a live person at the front of the store to engage shoppers personally?" "Sure, we all suggested it, but real people require breaks and days off and health insurance and bathrooms, none of which are required by the kiosk, so corporate said no." What firms have to decide, not just in this regard but across the board, is how much they are willing to invest, in both hard and soft costs, to make information gathering and use more effective and efficient, and what effect those processes have on the quality of the law they practice. It is the librarians' challenge to show firm management that these are investments that yield a real return, both financially and qualitatively. If it is important to a grocery store to use information proactively to maximize results, surely it is also important to law firms, who can only sell transformed information and the insights that come from it, not ice cream, chicken breasts and nuts-and-twigs cereal.

    Chuck Lowry, speaking only for himself and not for his long-suffering employer

  2. Good insight Jean. There are definitely lessons to be learned from the way leading retailers are delivering their goods (and services) on new platforms. The biggest problem, as you identify, is the initial engagement. The human intervention certainly addresses this challenge directly.