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Guest Interview – Time to get Frank

Posted on: Monday 2nd of November 2015

Geraldine McBride, former president of SAP North America and founder/CEO of MyWave, will be keynoting at Ctrl-Shift’s Growth Through Trust conference on December 8.

Ctrl-Shift interviewed Geraldine hard on the heels of the US launch of MyWave at the Opus Intelligent Assistant Conference in New York during October.

 Her presentation at Opus received widespread media coverage, particularly around MyWave’s position as the only Intelligent Assistant which safeguards user information in a dedicated personal cloud. A national US survey commissioned by MyWave found consumers overwhelmingly rejecting the idea of sharing their personal information with Intelligent Assistants without their knowledge or control.

 

Before you founded MyWave, you were President of SAP in North America. What was your journey from SAP to MyWave?

SAP was all about integrated value chains: connecting finance, distribution, manufacturing, customer-service, sales and mobile across an enterprise – revolutionary in its time. But what struck me, post the 2009 global financial crisis, was that a seismic change was underway with a shift in power into the hands of customers. I could see the beginnings of a customer led digital revolution which would affect and disrupt almost every industry. And I could see that the rate of change would be extremely fast, accelerated by the Consumerisation of devices and the impact of Millennials – the social digital natives who have with those devices and who want more from enterprises than just buying stuff. They want deeper experiences and a different kind of relationship with companies built on frictionless commerce where they can be in control.

Added to that I could see that in the wake of the global financial crisis the new normal would be slower growth for most old world brands until they find new ways to surf the wave of the digital customer revolution.

When talking to the CEOs of the largest multinational companies I asked them what was keeping them awake at night. Consistently, they were concerned about how to connect to new customers, how to make business relevant to a new generation, how to disrupt rather than being themselves disrupted.

That sowed the seeds for MyWave: a new piece of Intelligent Assistant software in a powerful open platform that would address the last mile of highway or railroad track that was never laid by companies such as Salesforce, SAP or Oracle. This new piece of software empowers customers with their personal data to work directly with the enterprise.

 

Why haven’t the SAP’s, Salesforce’s and Oracle’s of the world led on this?

Because they’ve become locked into a paradigm that goes back to the industrial revolution: a one-way push model with the consumer as a passive participant at the end of a value chain to be sold to, advertised to, tracked and aggregated.

Over the past few years’ enterprises have put the push value chain on digital steroids. But instead of making it work more efficiently to create ever more value through push and consumer pull acting in generating fresh mutual value, it’s becoming very unproductive and wasteful.

A good case in point is the current advertising model. The system has become corrupted and broken, generating a poor customer experience and less than 0.1% return on marketing spend. We can see the symptoms all around us: consumers deliberately ‘dirtying’ the data they provide enterprises, the rise of ad blocking, and the rising demand to ‘own or control my own data’.

Addressing that last mile of track is actually not a huge operational shift. It’s more of a mind-set shift. It’s about looking at the world through the customers’ eyes and the end-to-end jobs they are trying to get done. It’s like suddenly seeing in technicolour instead of black and white.

Many enterprises say they are customer centric but in reality they are centred on themselves and what they are trying to sell – products to push. The clients we work with have a genuine willingness to build new relationship models which generate more value and a 36% return on marketing spend.

 

You talk about CMR (Customer Managed Relationships). At Ctrl-Shift we also talk about Me2B. Then there is VRM (Vendor Relationship Management). How do you fit into all this?

We are part of the VRM movement. We flipped the term CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to CMR (Customer Managed Relationships) because everybody understands what CRM is – and our vision with CMR is to be exactly what CRM is not. CRM is about gathering personal customer data and attempting to own it and monetise it. CRM combined with Big Data turns individuals into a pipeline, stalking them, tracking them and trying to sell them stuff without their consent. CRM is just part of a one hundred year old industrial age paradigm on Big Data digital steroids, and it never really delivered on the promise of generating great experiences for customers. CMR turns CRM on its head. CMR is about creating a platform which enables individuals to control their own data and choose which brands and which services they want. CMR can work with CRM and update it if needed, but customers have to be in control of their data and the experience.

 

One of the things you offer is a virtual personal assistant. But just about every big online brand – Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft – is now also offering a virtual personal assistant. What’s different about MyWave’s approach?

Great question.

As a new wave of Intelligent Assistants line up to hit the beach, MyWave and Frank have two fundamental and important points of difference.

First, MyWave puts the user in control and safeguards their personal information. Each user has their own personal cloud, completely visible and under their direct control. Frank won’t share your information without your permission. That’s a critical point of difference. According to an Ipsos national survey commissioned by MyWave in the U.S. 83 percent of respondents said they would only use an IA that protected their personal information and where they were in control of what information was shared.

Second, there’s the MyWave philosophy and business model. MyWave is not in the market of just selling a legacy enterprise personal assistant technology. We do much more. We help enterprises weave together multiple brands and services to build an ecosystem focused on people and their needs.

Where other IA’s tend to centre on a single vertical – finding and buying a single product or service – MyWave’s vertical is YOU. Our mission is to weave together an end-to-end experience, which evolves over time, adding new brands and services according to your needs.

With MyWave no single brand or service sits above the customer. Nothing is excluded. MyWave is an open platform and any product or service can be a part of that platform. Individuals can also choose what products and services they want. With MyWave it’s all about you, centred on you, and designed to weave together a whole world of brands and services that you need to make your life easier and better.

We are taking off with all kinds of brands as they love having a direct way to work with consumers, using living little data with big data and weaving new end to end outcomes for banking, health and wellness, insurance, retail, real estate, automotive etc – all with products and services centered on the individual customer.

No other Intelligent Assistant platform combines these attributes.

It all comes down to trust. Will you give data about your financial affairs, your health, your children, to Facebook and Google? People are already concerned about boundaries being crossed, but it’s only just started with the Internet of Things coming into my home. There are boundaries that companies like Facebook and Google won’t be able to cross. There will be a significant number of people who want to know their personal assistant really is working for them, and empowering them with their data rather than handing it over to someone else.

We are delivering a new paradigm, which adds a simple layer of technology that orchestrates the relationship between people and the brand. With CMR, enterprises share data back with their customers and use this data, to build a better relationship and better services. To build better hyper personalised experiences, you need more personal information, but it has to be based on trust. It has to be based on the norms of human relationships, which is all about permission and mutual trust. Doing this enables enterprises to move up the value chain, creating new value for people.

 

Can you give us an example?

In New Zealand we are launching a new power switching service with a client called Saveawatt, MyWave CMR and our digital assistant Frank power this service. It automatically checks energy prices with every energy retailer, so that customers know they are always on the best rate and best plan for their circumstances.

 

That may benefit the customer but how does it benefit the energy retailer?

If a customer is going to move, the energy retailer get to know very early on, so they have a chance to do something to keep the customer. Frank not only provides customers with real-time information to help them manage their energy consumption, he also provides the retailer with real time market data too. If the retailer wants to acquire new customers, say in a particular region, Frank can help them get say, 2,000 customers at the touch of button.

This is the beauty of PIMS (Personal Information Management Services) and CMR. It helps providers waste less money on sales people knocking on doors, phone calls at dinnertime, bill-board ads and marketing. It reduces cost to serve for the enterprise, delights customers and offers the retailer the opportunity to grow by attracting more customers at a lower cost.

 

How radical is this change for most big brands?

The consumer having more power is not something brands find initially comfortable. But they recognise consumers now have choice. People don’t have time to engage with brands on websites any more. We already have app fatigue. As an individual I am now pixelated across hundreds of different apps but there is nothing to pull these together. When we engage with a brand ready to change, they usually start a project with MyWave and Frank after an initial 90-minute meeting. Its very exciting to see how fast enterprises are catching on.

 

Tell us about MyWave’s plans. You started out in New Zealand and now you are coming over to the US and UK. Why?

We spent 2013 and 2014 building out our technology and now in 2015 we have gone live with our first clients in Australia and New Zealand demonstrating different use cases. Now we’re ready, and well funded by our investors, to move directly into the US and UK with a proven platform.

 

What, in your experience, is the difference between the US and the UK?

In terms of data sovereignty, the UK is more mature than the US. In the US the online advertising model has hijacked the agenda. For VC’s in the US it’s all about eyeballs, and that’s it. But this model is flawed, broken and in many ways corrupt as bots take over the clicks. Also, the US is getting very confused about the difference between homeland security/terrorism surveillance, which may be justified, and then surveillance for commercial purposes to drive ads. Maybe there are times when it is OK for Governments to look at our stuff. But on a daily basis, using technology to harvest our personal details in order to serve us up ads is not what the Internet was invented for. Even our personal genomes are being harvested as we speak by entities without our knowledge or control.

The good news is a growing number of companies do really want to get closer to their customers and build digital trust; MyWave is a very interesting proposition for them. We help enterprises; brands and consumers come together on a very different relationship, based around mutual value. We have a highly productive very flexible, open platform that can be tailored to virtually any industry.

 In banking for example, Frank can be a widget inside an enterprise website delivering bank statements and billing statements to the individual’s personal cloud. For the customer, Frank pays your bills for you.

It’s all about horizontal ecosystem plays, connecting the dots and building out the value chain. As a personal digital assistant Frank helps the end-to-end process of managing your car, helping you find the right car, get finance, do the registration, get the insurance. From the car retailer’s point of view, Frank delivers an end to end car buying experience. In this way, the car dealer can continue the relationship with you bringing you much more relevant contextual offers and informational and entertaining advertisements on your terms based on your interests.

This is true across every single industry – utilities, retail, health and wellness, real estate, banking, insurance – where enterprises have the opportunity to connect directly to customers.

The first company that can pull together end-to-end outcomes centred on the customer in their industry will create value for everyone.