November 2009

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Bob MacKieEMAIL INTERVIEW - Bob MacKie & Ken Sinclair

Customer Communication Consulting

Bob has a BComm, MBA and MA. He has worked in companies, large and small, his own and for others, in Quebec, Ontario, BC and the US and held positions from Planner to eLearning Specialist to Sales Manager to President. In 2001; he started to do doctoral research in the area of Customer eLearning.  But Customer eLearning is only one small piece of customer communication and Bob started C3 to evaluate a company’s overall web based customer communications.
C3 is a consulting company based on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia where Bob lives. Bob consults with companies on communication and collaboration with their customers in the internet age. C3’s slogan is “Pragmatic Possibilities”. C3 pragmatically evaluates the vast number of web based communication possibilities to see how they fit a company, its customers and its corporate culture. Many managers are digital pioneers; but the new folks coming along are digital natives. Bob is able to use his years of business experience and his research to help companies win in the changing digital communications age.

Web Based Customer Communications

The web is requiring a major rethink of the old customer communication paradigms.

Bob has been involved with the HVAC automation industry for many years and is past president of the British Columbia Chapter of ASHRAE. He has recently started a consulting company called C3 based on Salt Spring Island where he lives. I have known Bob for years and I asked him to explain what he is up to.

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Sinclair:  What’s C3?

MacKie:  C3 is my consulting firm. C3 stands for Customer Communication Consulting or Customer Communication and Collaboration. You can take your pick. I was going to call the company Customer Communication and Collaboration Consulting but that would be C4 which brings to mind an explosive so I stayed away from that. I like the collaboration interpretation better. The new web or Web2.0 as they call it, allows two way communications with customers and at its best, collaboration with customers. Companies can, should and are using the internet to forge strong bonds with their customers.

Sinclair:  What will C3 do?

MacKie:  C3’s slogan is “Pragmatic Possibilities”. The internet and its associated technologies provide a vast number of communication possibilities. My intention is to pragmatically evaluate those possibilities to see how they fit a company, its customers and its corporate culture.   

The technology is easy. People are the complex part of the puzzle. Communication connects people with people and people with information. Good communication builds trust which is the essential building block of relationships. C3 intends to assist companies to establish good communications and collaboration between their employees and their customers so that they can maintain and build good relationships using the web tools now available.  

The rate of change in web based communication is incredible. I sympathize with any manager trying to do his day to day job while watching the changes and wondering what, or if, he should be doing more to take advantage of, or at least not be blindsided by technological change. Most companies have their hands full trying to keep their web site and web based ordering up to date and staying on top of email spam. There is often not enough hours in the day to stay on top of the communication possibilities and evaluate what direction to move in. 

An old friend once told me if you want to learn about a bus, ask the bus driver. Most companies already have people that are using some web based communication technologies. They may be using them at home or perhaps inconspicuously at work. Part of the evaluation job is to uncover what is already being used, determine what works and what doesn’t and then see what might be needed to make existing systems work or perhaps try something new. These new technologies are just part of a natural evolution of communication. Many older managers are digital pioneers; but the new folks coming along are digital natives. 

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair:  Why did you decide to do customer communication consulting?

MacKie:  I started my business life in Montreal with a BComm degree; followed shortly thereafter with an MBA from what was, at the time, the top MBA program in Canada at the University of Western Ontario. Throughout that period I had a fascination with computers. I used them in school and later at my jobs for HVAC and other manufacturing firms ranging from Planning to Sales to President in companies large and small in Quebec, Ontario, BC and the US. (Resume here.) With advances in technology and with the internet; it became possible to use computers to communicate and teach. I was fascinated by the possibilities. In 2001 I started to do research in the area for my PhD. However, at the same time I took on additional responsibilities at work and as if that wasn’t enough; I also started on the path to become President of the BC Chapter of ASHRAE. All of that at the same time was a little too much; so that my SFU PhD turned into a SFU Masters degree with a thesis on Customer eLearning.

That allowed me to move from Western Canada Sales Manager for Belimo into the training department where I was involved with eLearning. But eLearning is only one small piece of customer communication. With the internet, customer communication is undergoing significant changes. Uni-directional communication, from business to customer, is no longer enough. People with computers are now fully capable of publishing their thoughts and reviews and opinions along with their vacation videos on the web. Companies have to choose whether to participate a in a two way conversation with their customers and how to go about doing so. There are literally hundreds of different methods, web sites and software packages to do project management, collaborative writing, collaborative reviewing, collaborative mind-mapping, file sharing, document sharing, work grouping, event scheduling, web presenting, whiteboarding, web conferencing and webinars, eLearning, co-browsing, screen sharing, audio conferencing, instant messaging, chat and even Virtual 3-D immersive collaboration. There is a huge range of offerings; some are expensive and some are free. And . . . there are more being announced all the time. Google is about to launch a new product called Google Wave. It is a real-time communication platform that incorporates a mashup of email, instant messaging and chat rooms with some project management features thrown in. Some predict it will become the next email. 

Shotgun advertising in general media such as newspapers and even advertising that is targeted by being placed in specialized media is being rapidly cannibalized by search based advertising. Google ad revenues increased 73%, 56% and 31% year over year, over the past three years and in 2008 were $21 billion. People use search engines to find information and in doing so search companies collect a database of consumer interests and intentions. Web based advertising by AdSense and AdWords is not just targeted advertising, it is real-time identification of a consumer’s intention and the advertiser only pays when someone clicks on their web based ad to go to their web site. 

I could go on and on. The web is requiring a major rethink of the old customer communication paradigms. Even those that do not work with a computer because they are outside of an office are often carrying a cell phone with the power of a small computer. If you want quite a graphic display of what is possible with the new smart cell phones; have a look at the new Google Android operating system as implemented in a HTC cell phone here. Click on "Skip Intro" or "Experience the Revolution" to see the demo is of a couple of digital natives using search, video, GPS, bar code scanning and GPS from a cell phone. The interesting part is because Android is an open source operating system; the software code is openly available to be customized. 

If you adopt the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of new technology, you win. C3’s job is to assist people communicating with customers so that both the company and the customer win. People are welcome to give me a call (the old technologies are often more personal) or an email or visit my web site or we could have a web meeting or chat . . . see what I mean . . . 

Phone: 250-537-0742    Mobile: 250-537-6312    Web:    Email:


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