Business Intelligence

Blaming the Waitress

Most people have probably done this at least once in their lives.. You go to a restaurant and order a meal. The waitress is nice, comes over, gets your drinks, takes your order, checks up on you, refills, what not, brings out the meal, and woah, something is wrong, it is cold, bad, just something. But what do you end up doing? Getting mad and blaming the waitress. You might not give her any tip at the end of the meal, because you are mad about the mishap with the food.

But then you start to think about it, and you look back and realize that hey, it wasn’t the waitress who caused the issue, it was probably the cooks! But you are already driving home and don’t really do anything about it.

People like to cast blame, even that might not be the right phrase, but people like to *call out* the group on the front lines (note: in most cases. For instance in the military campaigns, when one side loses, people blame the generals and commanders, etc, not the privates on the front lines, and rightfully so).

In Business Intelligence, you are usually the “front line” to the business when it comes to reporting information and data. One of the roles of BI is to “deliver information to the business”. But then what happens when something is wrong with that information? People immediately blame the Business Intelligence group. It just seems to be human nature, just like blaming the waitress.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes the problem might reside with the waitress, and then you would call her out on things, but you need to realize, your tip just doesn’t go to her. It gets split between her, the cook, the bus boys, the greeters, etc.

I hate playing any part of the “blame game”, but sometimes people should think through what they are actually “blaming” and make sure it just isn’t calling out the front lines because that is what is easiest.

I’m not sure that Business Intelligence will ever fully get around taking most of the up front hits when something goes wrong with data, or with a reporting server, or with anything that might be outside of its control, but what Business Intelligence groups should strive for is to be accountable for things within its control, such as finding problems before the business does, handling data integrity issues with ease, making ETL’s more fault tolerant, getting and handling server alerts for jobs and processes that it is in charge of, etc, etc.

Just try to remember the next time your food is cold at the restaurant, try not to blame the waitress 🙂


Foursquare in Your Business

I don’t own a business. So let’s just get that out of the way. But as a Foursquare user, and someone who frequents many businesses.. how could you use Foursquare as a business owner?

First, above all, you can know what the heck foursquare is… check it out.. .. ok, did you find your business on there?

Anyways, some places give discounts for mayors.. awesome. 15% at the local coffee shop for me, yet an employee is the mayor. Against the rules for places that give deals.

What else can you do? Well, you can know who is coming to your place. You can say “shout blahhhhhh” for a cool new badge

You can do other cool deals, like, the 100th checkin gets this, or the 10th checkin today gets this. Sky is the limit.

Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, etc. If you own your local business, you should be on there and know WTF is going on. Facebook – you should already be there. If not, for shame. It is 2010.

Engage your customers. Give them something, even if it is recognition, if they are utilizing these location based social apps with your business.

Your patrons will thank you and spread the word for you. Through twitter/facebook, or just word of mouth, for you.


13 Things To Make Your Corporate Website Suck Less

Ok, lately I have been looking online at places all over Madison, either to eat out, or do something, or whatever, and I have noticed some trends and some “no-brainers” about corporate/commercial/business websites.

There are reasons people are using the web to find you. The first easy reason is, to get your phone number. Think old ways, where you would look in the phonebook for a place, and find the phone number, and call them. So..

#1 – always have your phone number on your website.

#1.1 – get technical, and have links to open skype with a link

Now, thinking back to our old phonebooks. Most places didn’t get a huge ad in the Yellow Pages, just their number, no other info, but that is different when you have a site. What else does the phone book let you have in there by default?

#2 – always have your address on your website.

And, lets get a little fancy here, a little technical. Not only can you just have the “text” of your address, you can make it easy for people to find you.

#2.1 – put a static map on your site

#2.2 – put a link to popular online map services with your address already in the link as the “to” destination

#2.3 – format your address so that people can just “copy” it and paste in online map services. Note, most map input boxes are NOT multiline. Ex:

this is good: 123 East Johnson St Madison WI, 53718

this is bad:

123 East Johnson St.
Madison WI, 53718

Ok, so we have the two major information items from the old phonebook taken care of. For a minute, lets look at some usability issues.

#3 – your main site page, if you decide you want to just have a crazy flash intro that 99% of people skip, should check if flash is enabled, and have a lo-fi version of your site. This is a big one for mobile browsers. The iPhone is 30% of searches or something, but no flash. I hit your site and can’t do anything, so I move on.

#4 – don’t play music in the background (check out the majority of “spa’s, salons, etc”, and martini lounges sites) – and if you really think you need to, have a big OFF button. NO, this music is not going to make me think I am at your spa, or martini lounge. I just want the information I need.

Now, what else do we need to make a good decision your business?

#5 – POST THE HOURS YOU ARE OPEN!! – nothing is worse than trying to find information on a place, and they don’t post the hours. What time are you open? When do you close? And note – “We close at bar time” or, “Our hours are 5 PM to Close” doesn’t really help. So we have to go figure out when bar time is? Till close? So you expect people to drive to your business, only to find it closed?

#6 – Allow me to email you an order, order a gift certificate online, basically avoid any human phone contact and allow me to do my business. – Local pizza place? Let me email you my order and have it ready when I get there. Online spa/salon, let me buy my girlfriend a gift certificate without having to call you, or even worse, drive there and figure it out. I don’t have time for that, I know what I want, I just don’t have an easy way to get it, give me the ability!

#7 – Post some pictures of you place, inside and out

#8 – Link to review sites (like Yelp, etc) so I can see reviews on your business – good or bad. Hey, even get technical and have a blog to explain or make up for negative reviews.

#9 – Don’t have “Under Construction” or “We want to have this site updated by Feb 2007” on your site, anywhere, when its a year later and it is still not updated Shows us you don’t really care. If it is under construction, just remove it.

#10 – We would rather have a 1 page site, very toned down, basic, with all the info we need than a 15 page flash monster with sound playing, QuickTime movies, and no real info, rather just having each page with 2 sentences of info that doesn’t really give us information to decide if we should give you our money.

#11 – If you are a restaurant, have a PDF link to your menu

#12 – search yourself on Google. Let’s say I ran “Steve’s Pizza” in Madison, WI (another note, you should get a non-generic name for your business – How many Steve’s have pizza places all over the world?) Search for

a) “My Business Name Hours”  – “Steve’s Pizza Hours”

b) “My Business Name Address” – “Steve’s Pizza Address”

c) “My Business Name Phone” – “Steve’s Pizza Phone”

d) “My town/ zip code and your business name” – “Madison WI Steve’s Pizza”

e) “My town/ zip code and my industry” “53718 Pizza”

If you don’t show up first or in the first 10 results in Google, you are doing something wrong. If you don’t show at all you have real problems. Go buy some Google Adwords so that you actually start showing up. People are really searching for this info, and can’t find it, and give up.

#13 – if you don’t have a site at all or too cheap to make a basic site (hey, you can do this for like 100 dollars a year, and you don’t need to be a geek, or hire someone, see #10) – then you better go check out all the review sites – Yahoo Travel, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc, etc and make sure that your address, phone, and hours are all updated there, but you shouldn’t depend on these sites to have your basic info.

So there we have it, a list of BASIC, EASY things you can do to make your corporate website suck less. Remember, people under 30 don’t care to use phonebooks anymore. Most don’t have home phones, or phonebooks. They have cell phones, and use the web as their phonebook. When you move your business online, remember to make the essential information available, we WANT to give you our business, we just want to be the most informed consumer first before we open our wallets!