Thursday, August 11, 2011

More Fun and Games with Charts and Graphs

New blog post today shows several good examples of how-not-to chart manipulation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Inherent Deception: the Net Promoter Score (NPS)

It seems that these days every time you check your email or visit a vendor website or call customer service, you will be asked to take a customer satisfaction survey. Veteran marketers understand what's happening here, but most consumers apparently don't.

Customer surveys are concerned primarily with the value of the brand, not the actual quality of service.

Aren't those the same thing? Or so strongly related you can't separate them? Not at all.

Here's a diagram that shows how most people think the survey process works:

The survey process, people seem to think, is the "Ask customers if they like the new product" step. In reality, there are just two steps: "Ask customers what they think of us" (i.e., our brand) and then "Keep asking until you see the score change because they think asking a lot means we care."

In this latter process, the survey itself is the customer service improvement. It's public relations. It's hype.

Lest you think I'm just a curmudgeon on a rant, consider the metrics behind these surveys. The primary methodology in use these days is called the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This approach was developed specifically to assess the value of a brand over time. It measures what people think of your name - the polish on your image - in a series of measurements. It does not incorporate, nor was it intended to, any particular improvement process. It's all about assessment. In my experience, the functional department in the company that is charged with conducting the surveys - typically, marketing - has little or no connection  or communication with the functional area responsible for delivering goods and services.

Outrageously, in my view, big companies take the money they save by employing robots to answer phones and deliver automated reminders (usually at dinnertime) and spend it on surveys. Companies are worried about the value of their brands because that's all Wall Street cares about. The perception of value is value, or so the wise market says. Now, you might say, true value eventually will out, and to that I say, no one is looking that far ahead. Today's market price and next quarter's earnings report are about as far ahead as anyone looks.

If a company really wanted to improve customer service, it would:
  • Take the budget spent on too-frequent surveys and apply it to quality metrics that actually measure how well the product or service performs (e.g., mean time between failures, time to resolve) and process improvement.
  • Hire fewer robots and third-party call centers and replace them with live people who have personal "customer intimacy" - that is, they live in the same region as the customer, they use the same products, they are at approximately the same economic level, and so on.
  • Train those people  thoroughly before you let them deal with real people.
  • Retrain, retrain, retrain to keep them current on the changing marketplace and your continuously upgraded offerings.
  • Incentivize, rather than simply browbeat, them to care about their customers.
  • Retain and reward them when your quality assessment (and, yes, your survey) numbers improve.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meet the Author on Saturday

Where: Booth #76 Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC)
When: Saturday, April 30, 12 - 1pm
Topic: IWOSC membership, the writer's life, my straw hat
When: Later that day, 2 - 3pm
Topic: Book signing, My Inflatable Friend and Rubber Babes (first two comic novels in the Rollo Hemphill series) - and wide-ranging insightful discussion on "Boychik Lit is Hipper Fratire." 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chart Seminar Now on Amazon Instant Video

(Santa Monica, CA – March 10, 2011)  LaPuerta Books and Media today announced that How to Lie with Charts, a live interactive seminar based on the popular book by Gerald Everett Jones, is now available as Video on Demand (VOD) from Amazon Instant Video. VOD titles are sold for rental or for purchase and are viewable online or can be downloaded to a set-top video player or compatible portable device. The 46-minute seminar continues to be available in DVD format, also from Amazon. The book can be purchased from booksellers in trade paperback and Adobe PDF e-book formats.

Amazon Instant Video offerings, which include feature films as well as documentary and instructional videos include these viewing options: Mac or PC viewing online, Windows PC download, TiVO DVR, Sony Bravia Internet Video, Roku player, as well as a variety of portable devices, including MP3 players from Coby, Ematic, Philips, and SanDisk.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Got (Adobe) PDF?

PDF eBook Release

(Santa Monica, CA - February 21, 2011)  LaPuerta Books and Media today announced publication of a new ebook version (Adobe PDF format) of its popular business book How to Lie with Charts by Gerald Everett Jones. Jones’s classic book about clarity and honesty in visual reporting was first published by Sybex in 1995, and it has become a kind of chartmaking bible for financial analysts, business presenters, and math students. It has been adopted as courseware by college-level academic institutions as a supplementary text for studies in statistics, visualization of mathematics, and business management.

Booksellers can buy from Ingram Digital at standard trade discount. Retail downloads will be available starting March 1 from  Diesel eBook Store and other online distributors. The suggested retail price of the revised and updated Second Edition PDF ebook is US $19.99 (£14.99 in the UK). The ebook ISBN is 978-0-9794866-8-5.

According to LaPuerta marketing director David Drum, “We’ve wanted to publish an ebook version of this popular title for some time, but reproducing the illustrations can be a challenge in the formats that have ‘reflowable’ page appearance. Reflowable format is fine for plain-text books such as fiction and permits line lengths and text size to be adjusted to fit the size of the display screen and the user’s preferences. However, this book is full of example charts and drawings – there are more than 300 illustrations. Reworking the layout to suit every type of device and reflow situation just isn’t practical. In fact, I wouldn’t know how to best show a technical book like this on an iPhone, for example. But the PDF format preserves the layout of the printed page, so the charts won’t shift in relation to the text and clarity of presentation will be preserved. We know that students in particular love the portability and ease of access of electronic textbooks, and we’re now able to offer How to Lie with Charts in a format supported by just about every make and model of device, including Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, and Sony Reader, as well as desktop computers, notebooks, and tablets.” (Note that some ebook readers require a third-party app to display PDF.)

Last year, LaPuerta released a companion DVD, How to Lie with Charts – Advice for Investors and Analysts. The edited seminar session runs 45 minutes, including Jones’s live presentation with more than 100 example slides. The DVD also contains a separate 3-minute bonus video that recaps his “Golden Rules” for the honest chartmaker. LaPuerta intends to release a downloadable streaming version of the seminar soon through Amazon Video on Demand (VOD) for rental or for purchase.

“Streaming VOD should be available shortly,” adds Drum. “Watch for our announcement. For the future, we’re looking at other formats and delivery systems. Vook, which can combine ebook and video in a kind of multimedia mashup on readers like the iPad, is intriguing, especially for courseware. We want to be able to provide instructors with test banks, distance learning tools, and course customization software. And not just for How to Lie with Charts, but for other subjects, as well.”

Several sample video clips from the DVD are available for free viewing on YouTube: "Part 1: 3D Bars and Perspective" (2:20 min.), "Part 2: Golfers Lie with Statistics" (6:10 min.), "Part 3: Cartesian Coordinates and Mercator Mistakes" (7:32 min.), and "Part 4: Six Dumb Mistakes" (3:10 min.).

The trade paperback is priced at $23.99, the seminar on DVD at $89.95, both available from Amazon.

LaPuerta Books and Media is an imprint of La Puerta Productions, Santa Monica, California. The LaPuerta name and its logo, an open door, symbolize unlimited access to knowledge, opportunity, innovation, fascination, and delight. The company specializes in developing and publishing on-demand digital media. LaPuerta publishes in trade paperback, plus a variety of ebook and video formats, including DVD and VOD.

For further information, contact David Drum, Director of Marketing, LaPuerta Books and Media,, (310) 742-5656.