Virtual Call Centers

Instead of having huge centralized call centers, why not have virtual call centers?

The employee clicks a button on an internal webpage that he’s available to answer calls. This is his “clocking in”. His hours get logged and all service calls go straight to his cell phone (or VOIP). The employee can click the same button to become unavailable and go to a doctor’s appointment or pick their kids up from school.

Some type of hours coordination and management might be needed, but if you have employees in enough time zones with different working time preferences, this may work itself out. You can even try paying different hourly rates for different times of the day to control supply and demand without a rigid command and control scheduling system.

Get the person a set of headphones and an unlimited calling plan, and you can save millions in overhead costs. No rent, no electricity, no time lost commuting, less internal tech support, less admin work.

Value added ways to invest these savings:

– Listening to more recordings of customer service interactions to ensure quality, reward your best and eliminate your worst employees

– Hiring more operators so every call can be answered by the second ring, thereby getting rid of those awfully annoying automated answering systems

– Hire Americans that speak and understand English fluently instead of the current off shore call centers, which would also improve customer satisfaction (this assumes your customers are calling from America, change this as applicable)

This type of flexible scheduling also increases your potential work force. Stay at home mom’s and elderly people, who tend to be more responsible but unable to commit to 8 straight hours a day can now help your business.

Even better, you’ll get less turnover in your work force due to the new flexibility you’re providing. It would also be good for the environment (less carbon emissions, no driving to work, etc).

A Bar for the 21st Century

Nobody wants to be up at the bar for 20 minutes ordering a drink. Good thing we can fix this with existing technology:

Install a bunch of touch screen kiosks throughout the bar where you can order drinks. Order your drinks, swipe your card, add a tip and a receipt prints out with your order # and a bar code.

Put a huge screen (or ticker) above the bar that lists all the order numbers that are ready to be picked up. Present your receipt, the bartender scans it, it disappears from the screen and you get your drinks.

These touch screens would take care of the transactional side of bartending currently done by humans, allowing bartenders to make drinks faster. You could also allow tip size to influence drink order queues. Let the guy willing to tip a $20 get his drinks first, just like it would happen in an old fashioned bar.

Of course, the kiosks should have user friendly menus that make finding any drink simple. The first menu could list beers on draft, wine available, specials and have a recommendation wizard. Want a drink with vodka that’s sweet but not girly looking? Use the wizard!

Bonus 1: Have on screen advertising by alcohol manufacturers to offset costs / increase profits. You could also create the actual kiosk in the shape of an advertiser’s product with their label (i.e. it looks like a giant beer bottle with the advertiser’s logo all over it).

Bonus 2: Bars could also charge for strategic positioning of drink items, just like supermarkets do. As research has shown, the upper left quadrant of a screen is where digital users look most often. A choice placed in this position would result in its being purchased more often, so you could charge alcohol companies to put their products in that corner.

Bonus 3: Combine this with a congestion priced bar to be the talk of the town (until everyone else copies you at least)

Congestion Priced Bar

Want to make your bar be the first to fill up after work and to stay packed until close?

Solution:

To keep a bar always hopping, try making drink prices based on how many people are in the bar.

Explanation:

People want to go to a bar where there are lots of other people. It’s a network effects situation: The more people that participate, the more that other people find it useful to participate. (Think of the usefulness of Facebook with 25 registered users vs 25 million, lots of people using it is a network effect.) People also want to drink for cheap. Once lots of people know how cheap drinks can get, more than the minimum amount will almost always be there.

In a way this is a never ending, glorified happy hour that’s more sensitive to supply and demand.

Example:

When there’s less than 20, beer is $1, well drinks are $2. When there’s less than 50, beer is $3, well is $4. Less than 100, beer is $4, well is $5. Once you’re near capacity, make beer $6 and well $8. Full capacity with a huge line outside? Up those prices again to $8 for beer and $10 for well.

Warning:
If implemented, economists may be a disproportionate share of your patrons!

Gym of Incentives

How about a gym that charges a huge annual fee up front and then pays you in cash every time you do a workout? (You can have electronic swipe in and swipe out to ensure you stay for at least 20 minutes or however long.)

At the end of the year, if you’ve averaged going the amount of times per week you set as your goal, you end up paying the same amount as you would’ve paid at a regular gym. If you don’t keep going to the gym, you lose the difference.

The gym can even place the money in an interest bearing account and split the interest with you. If you go more than the amount of times per week you set as your goal, you won’t receive additional cash back as working out too much isn’t healthy either.

How’s that for some incentive?

Example:

Program Type

Upfront Cost

Sessions / Year Targer

Daily Cash Back

Regular Gym

$500

N/A

N/A

2x a week

$5500

100

$50.00

3x a week

$5500

150

$33.33

4x a week

$5500

200

$25.00

Eliminating Ticket Scalpers

Tickets for hard to get events resell at many times their face value so the pricing mechanism for tickets isn’t working. Demand exceeds supply, but the price is still the same. Ticket brokers snatch up tons of the best seats and resell them to the people who were unable to buy the tickets in the 20 minute window that any were available.

The fans end up paying an obscene amount of money, but the event organizer / performer / team doesn’t see any of that additional revenue. Perhaps (but don’t bet on it) concessions and merchandise might be cheaper if the organizer received all the ticket revenues. If nothing else, you could put an entire arbitrage industry out of business and help your favorite team / artists receive more money to reinvest in themselves.

So what’s my solution?

“Ticktion” – A Ticket Auction for Matching Supply with Demand

Auction characteristics:

Sealed bid – everyone has 24 hours (or 72, or a week) to submit the maximum they are willing to pay for 1 to 8 tickets

– Each venue will be split up into seating sections, you can bid for nose bleeds and front row at different prices, and set the order of preferences for what you’d prefer

– At the end of the auction period, the system would calculate how many bids were put on a given section, and how many seats are available

– If there are less bids than seats available, everyone pays the standard face price (based on section)

– If there are more bids than seats available, the people who make the cut off pay what they bid, the highest bid gets best seats in the section

Benefits for the public / fans:

No longer have to log on the computer at a certain time to have a shot at tickets, have a much longer time frame

Cuts out 98% of middlemen – no more stubhub, no more ticket brokers — the people who are willing to pay the most for their tickets get them, so nobody to resell tickets to

Users can bid for multiple sections of seats at different prices

For each section, just enter # of seats and price you’ll pay for seat

Enter credit card info once

Ability to increase or decrease bid until auction time expires

Benefits for Artists / Venues:

Ability to divide seating areas by assigning what the “best” seats are

Ability to set standard prices for tickets and if supply does not exceed demand, then everyone pays face value

Set amount of time the auction goes for (i.e. 1 to 7 days)

Automated calculation

Full integration with existing site (ticketmaster, fan club, etc)

Option to only auction off the best seats and have face value on the rest

Ticktion can be used with:

Concerts at large venues

Concerts at small venues

Sporting events

Season tickets

Opera / Broadway

Any other event that has more demand than supply that wants to maximize its revenue and minimize the profit made by scalpers

How someone can make money on this:

Per auction fee

Per ticket sale fee

Consulting service advising on how best to price tickets to maximize sales / profits

Most glaring problems / issues:

Ticketmaster.com can make a similar site 100 times better and quicker if it so chooses

Stubhub.com and ticket brokers would have every incentive to crush this (possible lobbying, etc)

Ease of use for end users – if the public doesn’t understand how these auctions work, the idea will fail quickly

Trust – must avoid people thinking / accusing that the system goes to an auction (thereby going down the price curve) even if demand has not exceeded supply

Convincing artists / venues to bypass the current system

o Broadway shows (individual theatres) give the most opportunity to start (but may be difficult because very few shows are consistent hits

o Smaller artists / smaller venues might be more likely to try something new first

o Getting one major sports team or musician on board would make this go mainstream very quickly

There are laws about you can only sell tickets x% higher than face value, may need to make sure tickets do not have a face value price / use some other term

There is no guarantee you’ll get a ticket, this can anger the users:

Jay: but here is my one issue, what if I want to make SURE I get a seat. I want to pay as little as possible but I want to know I can have the seat 100%. Then F your service. I’m set on taking my girl to this concert, you guys are F’ing me, because I can’t gamble this, but I don’t want to bid $1000 to be sure.

Ben: You’d hate this service then

Jay: In that case I would yes

Ben: Because you’d literally bid the maximum you’re willing to pay, but the artists would love this service

Jay: I suppose but if the people don’t like it (like me in the last example it could be trouble

Questions to address:

Should we display the price cutoff before the auction ends to give people a chance to re-bid? Should we ever display the price cutoff?

Ticket distribution / ticket printing / should prices appear on tickets?

Should there be a maximum number of seating sections?

Should there be a maximum number of seating sections a user can bid on?

Ridiculous amounts of server bandwidth may be required

If demand exceeds supply in a section, should that section go to auction (even if the entire auction did not sell out)

How to determine the last seat if 2 people are willing to pay the same amount?

Examples:

There are 100 seats

o 20 seats are considered the best (section A) – face value = $50

o 40 seats are considered good (section B) – face value = $30

o 40 seats are nosebleeds (section F) – face value = $10

Total face value revenue = $2600

The online auction opens at 10am Friday morning and runs until 10 pm Sunday night. It does not matter when a bid is placed.

Users can bid on 1 section, 2 sections, 3 sections or “best available for price”

Example 1:

90 bids received at end of auction

-> Everyone is charged face value for their seat selection

If section A did not have 20 bids, everyone in section B and C is emailed asking if they want to go to section A for $50 (face value)

If section B did not have 40 bids, everyone in section C is emailed asking if they want to upgrade their seats

Unsold seats are available at face value until day of event

Example 2:

120 bids received at end of auction

30 bids for section A -> 10 bids at $100, 10 bids at $80, 10 bids at $60

o 10 at $100 and 10 at $80 get the seats ($1800 in revenue)

50 bids for section B -> 10 bids at $60, 30 bids at $50, 10 bids at $45

o 10 at $60 and 30 at $50 get the seats ($2100 in revenue)

50 bids for section C -> 10 bids at $20, 30 bids at $15, 10 bids at $12

o 10 at $20 and 30 at $15 get the seats ($650 in revenue)

Total revenue is $4550 (compare with $2600 for face value)

In other words:

If there are 5 seats and 10 people who want them, they should all say what they’re really willing to pay, and then the top 5 people pay what they said, and the other 5 don’t get the tickets. There’s no incentive for a broker to participate, because if he got one of the 5 tickets, he has nobody to sell it to (everyone else without a ticket is willing to pay less than he did)

Swappable Glasses Frames

Why doesn’t some company create a glasses frame where you can change the color of the frame by attaching a magnetic strip over the top of the usual frame? Some days you’re in the mood for blue framed glasses, some days red and yet others black. Loyalty check would be appreciated, but this seems like it could easily happen. Think how does different ipod color cases did, same concept.