Inside-Out

A friend of mine received an order confirmation from Ticketmaster recently that contained the following…
Thanks for purchasing your tickets with Ticketmaster. Your confirmation number for this purchase is 5-20471/NY4. You might want to print or save this email for future reference. Don’t wait on the phones–buy your tickets online & speed through the ticket buying process!
The email went to say “Register & receive all the membership benefits” and then presented the following URL…
http://ntr.ticketmaster.com:80/ssp/?C=90003_1&R=12&U=FREDERICK%40SMITHWICKWEB.COM
&M=2&B=2.0&S=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ticketmaster.com
%2Fcgi%2Foutsider.plx%3FCAMEFROM
%3DFLO_PhoneConfirm%26GOTO%3Dhttps%3A%2F%2Fticketing.ticketmaster.com
%2Fcgi%2FMyAccount%2FMyAccount.asp

“Got any other questions about your Ticketmaster purchase? We’re here to help! Please contact us at”:
http://ntr.ticketmaster.com:80/ssp/?C=90003_1&R=12&U=JOANNE%40PATRICKWEB.COM&M=2&B=2.0&S=http%3A%2F%2F
www.ticketmaster.com%2Fh%2Fcustomer_serve.html

My friend did in fact print out the email and then later wanted to return to customer service with a question. My friend’s question to me was “Why would Ticketmaster give me such a difficult URL to type? Good question. I would like to ask the CEO of Ticketmaster the same thing. Why not ticketmaster.com/register and ticketmaster.com/help ? I think we all know by now that providing a simple redirect from a simple URL to the more complex (and needed) URL is not a hard thing to do. It is an Attitude thing. I call it “Outside-in” versus “Inside-Out”.

“Outside-in”

There are many examples of the “Inside-out” phenomenon. The concern over employees spending too much time on the Internet is a classic “Inside-out” attitude. It is a focus on what is going on inside the company or organization. There are still many executives and managers who don’t realize that the key to being effective in markets is understanding the competition, knowing what is going on at key universities in technology areas that are important to their business, and experiencing new trends and new business models first hand. Is it possible that if executives from the music industry, or financial services industry, or publishing industry had spent more time “outside” than “inside” that they may have developed new models for their businesses instead of later getting on the defense about the web and in some cases losing focus and spending large amounts of money trying to stop the new models?
Inside-out is a pharmaceutical company website that contains information about a new drug only from the perspective of what the company wants you to know. All the links on the site are to company publications and company perspective. An Outside-in approach would acknowledge that there are sources outside of the company that may be of value. An outside-in site would provide links to key universities where joint work is being done, independent healthcare sites, and even discussion groups that are focused on the company’s products. There is in fact a lot of information out there that may be useful to customers and if the product is truly a good product, its merits will emerge in discussion by others and add creditability to statements made by the company. Providing an external link should not imply that the company “suggested” that you go there and should not make the company liable if a person goes to a discussion group and takes an action that results in negative consequences for the person. Providing external links should be viewed as a service and an acknowledgement that there is a lot of information outside of the company.
There is a lot being said on web sites and Internet discussion groups about virtually every subject and organization. Do you know what people are saying about your organization and your products? A key decision is what approach do you take to dealing with the information that exists. One approach is to just monitor it, but a more proactive approach is often better. By participating directly an organization can gain great creditability – assuming you are always completely forthcoming. Any attempt to put one over on a discussion group will be detected almost immediately and recovery from it would take a very long time. Interacting, listening hard, empathizing, explaining, describing actions that will be taken to resolve problems discussed, etc. can lead to a level of trust that can endure.

Name that product

There are many dimensions to Outside-in versus Inside-out. Product naming is a good example. I have always wondered about the model names of various consumer electronic devices. Anybody ever ask you what model Discman or Boom Box you have? You take a look and find it is the Model QLP-5810 CSi. Now there is a memorable user-friendly model number! It was named inside-out instead of Outside-in. There are probably some good internal reasons, perhaps based on engineering or distribution channel factors, for the model being called the QLP-5810 CSi. It is what someone Inside wants to call it instead of what someone Outside can remember. It makes perfect sense to people Inside and no sense at all to people Outside the company. Apple is a great example of Outside-in thinking in their product naming. I suspect there were at least some product development engineers at Apple that thought naming their neat new computer after a fruit was a really stupid idea.
There are currently billions of web pages out there. Which is easier to remember? http://23.124.65.129 or netattitude.org? The Domain Name System (DNS) was invented so that people would not have to remember the Internet Protocol address (like 23.124.65.129) but rather could just use a name. The name is Outside. The IP address is Inside. Part of communications is giving names to people that they can remember. The shopping site at IBM is http://commerce.www.ibm.com/content/home/shop_ShopIBM/en_US/home_840.html Hardly something anyone can remember. The printed ads of the company refer people to ibm.com/shop. There are good Inside technical reasons why the URL may need to be long and ugly. Coming up with simple aliases allow visitors to think in their own terms, not the terms of the server administrator or systems people.

The call centers we love

The ultimate in inside out mentality is the automated call center. What is going on with call centers? They are Inside-out. The call center is in charge. The menus from inside are controlling you. Don’t dare to second-guess the menus or you will waste even more time. The company is saving time. You are getting frustrated. There is hope on the horizon and in fact many companies are moving fast to integrate their call centers with the web. The integration is a big step toward the outside-in model. At IBM there is an automated call center for annual enrollment in the employee medical and dental plans. It has countless choices, options, and menus. I used to dread that time of year when I would have to go through the enrollment. In the year 2000 an intranet application was installed that shows all the options on a web page. You look them over, check the options you want, click for help as needed, and click submit when you are satisfied with your choices. You know what you want and the web page lets you have control over the process. Outside-in.