Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

COVID-19: Let us not forget the hopeful news, part four

The positivity in the midst of the pandemic just keeps on coming. As it should!

I know I'm supposed to write about CRM, customer engagement and customer experience and that's what you expect from me. And far be it from me to fall below your expectations. But, if you know me, one of my major themes for the last two or so years around engagement and experience has been not just personalization, but humanization – which translates broadly and very roughly into empathy and the need to be empathetic as a business and as individuals. It also has been themed around communicating that empathy with your customers, your employees, your friends, your family, even absolute strangers. It should be part of your soul, and in a different way at the heart of whatever institutions you are involved with.

latest developments

Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

From cancelled conferences to disrupted supply chains, not a corner of the global economy is immune to the spread of COVID-19.

Read More

Thus, for the last now month, I've been doing the "Let us not forget hopeful news" a.k.a. the acronym-awkward LUNFHN (Lunfin?). The purpose was to separate the good, the warm, the hopeful news signals from the non-stop litany/noise of  the sensationalism of the media  premised on their head-scratching decision to double down the old saw "if it bleeds, it leads." I have a degree in journalism and a major in English from Northwestern and honestly, I am ashamed of the way that the press makes sure that all the horrors are evident all the time and when you watch the broadcast media, you see them going into excruciating detail of the worst of the worst. For many it becomes suffocating and even traumatic as they see what they believe is a never-ending horror.  To punctuate this, the media makes a point of interviewing grieving people who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and make sure they ask questions that make the heartbroken person relive what they just saw and felt so that the media can push the point home.  All in the name of realism and news.  So, what you get if you watch the news is an overwhelming, suffocating feeling of both horror and uncertainty and at minimum a nasty headache.

I say otherwise.

If human history means anything, you find always that we manage to get past these crises and once we do, we've learned something that at best ends the crisis and prevents future similar ones, or at worst gets it under control in a way that allows us to continue on with our lives – even as changed as they may be.  We are often better as a result of the worse.  World War II was an uncertain horror of a different kind. But we ended up with a prosperity that led us to the generation of the greatest wealth in human history – and to the benefit of a larger part of the population than had previously been imagined, though of course, there were struggles along the way.

But what has been phenomenal as we approach May -- the third full month of this pandemic -- is that the human spirit is not only not lost, it is flourishing. The level of creativity, the transformation of norms and changes in memes and weathering storms (note the poetic turn there) has been just inspirational.  It is amazing what people can do on their own, with their families and friends, or professional colleagues when physically unable to communicate but virtually in communication all the time. Also, its genuinely astonishing how many beautiful voices are out there singing to and for all of us – and themselves of course. Just as amazing is that we have the technological infrastructure to allow a massive increase in volume and velocity of digital communications that, while it might be stretching the system, isn't breaking it – allowing us to continue to connect.  And equally as impressive is the imagination of people and the creativity and humor they manage to bring to themselves, their families and the world in the midst of crisis. And despite all the dire warnings of the length of time it will take to arrive at a safe enough vaccine and to develop the treatment to help resolve the illness and to end this pandemic even if it doesn't eliminate the virus, the level of global cooperation is unprecedented with scientists/medical professionals working together around the globe to come up with an answer. The results of ongoing and just starting, efforts? In record time, we've begun human and animal trials.

Hopefully, this is a source for you of some positive but real information, news and entertainment. I spent hours auditioning the videos to come up with the best of the best that I find each week. I spend hours and hours finding what can be random but always interesting and useful (I hope) posts and articles and videos on things that might do anything from keep your hygiene at human levels to entertain you – but all of this is to remind you of both the resiliency, creativity and general goodness that characterizes our species and that manifests even more powerfully during crises like the current one.

So, event though we are in a pandemic….enjoy.

Useful Information…Sorta

  1. McKinsey charts a wise course for how to engage (or "connect") with customers during  a crisis like this. Not surprisingly they come to the same conclusion that most of us have come to. Empathy.  Their way of putting it might be a bit more dispassionate – "lead with empathy" but the sentiment remains important.  For the complete document – well worth reading – come here. You'll have to register for a McKinsey account, but its free.
  2. Okay, cutting your own hair as a useful thing in a business post, might not rise to the level of a McKinsey report – but then again… Don't think this is important? Take a look at yourself in a mirror, dude(ss).  It's clearly important. Given that we still cannot go to barbers and that barbers are actually essential to the grooming of our coiffure, I scoured the web looking for the best guides for cutting your own hair (given that your significant other may refuse to do it). First, here's what Bored Panda found happens when it goes wrong for 24 different people.  If that isn't scary enough to make you want to do it the right way, then let it grow out. But if you want to do it properly, here are guides on how to cut hair the right way when you are doing it yourself.  First for women: Here's what Good Housekeeping put out just as the crisis wound up. Now for men: Men's Health magazine includes some recommended kits)…a lot simpler. At least I thought so.  Let's just say if I had a butcher do the haircutting for me I would have been better off. Oh, BTW, buying hair clippers is not so easy either. Most of the ones  mentioned in the Men's Health article are unavailable except for a very few. Mad rush to Amazon….commence.
  3. Since you do have time, I'm thinking that you're thinking "I wish I was a DJ."  Well, lucky you. The Library of Congress, the center of contemporary music, has a new tool out called "Citizen DJ" which lets you mix your own beats. For me I can mix beets (the red ones) and, thus make a salad, but this….?  Nah. But hey, each to his own. I'd do this if I had any talent at all. I don't.
  4. This is an old school thing that might be of real interest to those of you who are a. baby boomers and b. die-hard sports fans who are really missing sports (I raise my own hand). Here is an article that appeared in ESPN re: playing the baseball replay games that might fill that hole in your various organs. If you are interested in playing your kids or your parents in the board games, here are two of the most popular (for 50 years) APBA. Stratomatic. Not to be outdone, if you are younger and a sports fanatic here are some PC-based versions of the same and similar things.  APBA Baseball for WindowsStratomatic Computer Baseball. The multi-sport (baseball, Football, Hockey, Basketball, Golf) Action PC Sports – arguably the best of the lot.  It will help, though won't complete you.
  5. Zoom fatigue isn't just a term invented by some bored SIPers, it's something that we are now going to have to deal with because of its impact on people's psyches.  SAP's Future of Customer Engagement and Experience's  Editor in Chief and all around Renaissance person Jenn Van De Zande speaks of not only the emerging issue that is concurrent with the continuous use of Zoom (and other engagement communications platforms) but some of the ways to disengage and deal with the fatigue.

The Good Things Non-Tech Companies Do

  1. All State is returning the enormous sum of $600 million in premiums to their customers. These are their auto insurance customers. They are giving the customers a 15% rebate on their already paid insurance premiums due to the lower instance of auto claims due to the….obvious. Geico is doing the same, though, being a Geico customer, I personally have no evidence of this.
  2. Verizon has been acting super responsibly during the crisis – in part by adding services and bandwidth for free to existing customers, like 15GB of wireless LTE (4G) hotspot data for free, but even more importantly by investing seriously in supporting the frontlines.  They have donated more than $50 million to "nonprofits including No Kid Hungry, the American Red Cross, and the CDP COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO. And in partnership with the New York Times, we're giving 14 million high school students within the U.S. free digital access to NewYorkTimes.‌com."

The Good Things Tech Companies Do

  1. Once again, I'm mindful of how important it is when companies are supporting the supply chain in this time of crisis. Materials management -- which involves the prioritization of goods and services being made available to the appropriate parties and the movement of goods when disruptions upset the supply chain among its many values -- is the subject of an app that German-born tech company Celonis has developed for customers and non-customers alike. It's called Celonis Snap. For their customers, it can be dropped into the system. For non-customers there is an online site where you can upload data and get the results you are seeking.
  2. Oracle is now the technology infrastructure backbone for Zoom. That might not sound like "the good things" and might be seen by some as a business deal – Reuters for example, but it is much more than that. Read this blog post by Oracle correspondent Barb Darrow on the agreement between Oracle and Zoom that is public as of April 28.  The key is the blog headline: "Zoom Taps Oracle to Keep Schools Teaching, Businesses Running, Friends and Family Connected." With 300 million Zoom users and Zoom as a verb, Zoom has become vital to international communications, even though it was unintentional. Oracle's backbone can support that scale and thus can --as best as can be anticipated -- help secure the success of communications that are currently vital to the world.
  3. Microsoft was asked by New York State to help build an app to support COVID-19 and antibody testing. A team of Microsoft, local, and state government engineers built it with Dynamics 365 and had it up and running in five days. Now it's being used across 22 testing sites to register patients and schedule tests. Five days.

The New Normal?

    stabakrobot1.jpg

    Source: Thomas Torjusen
  1. The Norwegian Professional Football League's Stabaek team held a press conference announcing a new appointment for the club. In attendance: a club official, the new guy, a camera man, a sound man and the press…robots.  Each of the press were not only represented by these cute little R2D2ish creatures but even had press credential badges and were able to ask questions via the robots and get answers.  Went off without a hitch. (See above.). For more of this tune in to this CRM Playaz episode that Brent Leary and I did last week with Thomas Torjusen, Head of Media and Chief Digital Officer at Norsk Toppfotball -- and a thoroughly knowledgeable, and charming man.
  2. Preferred Hotels did a global travel survey to see what people are planning post-pandemic when it comes to travel. It has an old normal vibe to it which is somewhat surprising, but it still is something to see that people still want to get on planes and go places, with all of this. Kind of makes me happy.
  3. Apparently the signage industry has a new, hot category, social distancing signage.  There isn't a whole lot to say about this one.  Just click on the link and look at the signage.
  4. Finally, Phil Wainwright of the esteemed diginomica writes a piece on how business will be changed forever post-Covid-19 "Six Ways Business Will be Changed Once Covid-19 Passes" that isn't just the usual fluff and fantasy. None of what he says is a stretch – all of it is possible.  He wrote it at the end of March. But its still timely since the crisis hasn't ended, and, thus, its ahead of its time.

Best Corona Covers

These are some of the most creative things I've ever seen - virus or not - the level of parody, production and great singing voices are nonpareil.(I've inserted the link to the definition because I know you don't want to bother to look it up but you're not sure I'm using it right).

Broadway

Zach Timson seems to be a really talented parodist and his lyrics are exceptionally clever – leading to Corona cover medleys of Broadway tunes. And he has a decent Broadway-ish voice too! Here is his Broadway Corona Medley recorded 3/21/2020. The reason I mention the date- he makes a point of saying, updated info please wear masks.

Pop/Rock

This comes from a very talented someone who calls himself "The Kiffness." Not sure where that comes from, but the guy not only writes funny parodies but also does spot-on imitations of the artists singing the songs he parodies. This was my favorite though spoiler alert and warning, it's a politicized one. It's called "Crappy" parodying of course, Pharrell's "Happy."

Best Original Not-Really-A-Corona-Cover

Once again, my favorite Corona Cover artiste (yes, artiste) Chris Mann, has an original from his album on what a date night looks like under quarantine. His wife is in this and she's pretty good too.  Called "Old Fashioned."

Best "We Are In This Together" Professional Zoom Music

Broadway wins again in this one. This is the official London Theatre Company Quarantine Zoom Production of the Mamma Mia theme song. The sheer fun they have singing it is worth it alone. Just great!!

What Can I Say? John Krasinski SGN #4 The Prom

There's no competition with this guy with his funny, sweet, empathetic, brilliant show and audience connection.  So, from, now on he is hall of fame and will be featured in each of these LUNFHN posts I do. In this one, John realized that no one was going to the prom this year so he staged a prom with the Jonas Brothers among others and lots of shots of kids dressed to the prom eights (hey, the nines dressing comes when you are older) dancing to the music. Kind of touching to see these high-schoolers dressed up and smiling as they danced to an audience of millions on the internet – and music that, most likely, they wouldn't have heard at their actual proms.

CRM Playaz presents the Playaz Place Bar and Not Grill Happy Hour

If you are interested in joining the hit event The CRM Playaz Present: Playaz Place Bar and Not Grill Happy Hour any time in the next 38 weeks, here is a link to register. Warning: We are sold out (don't worry its a free ticket) for April 29 and now May 6. There is some availability for the rest of the month of May but we are getting daily registrations. We do have other weeks available, so feel free to sign up for them. Or put yourself on the Waitlist for an already sold out Happy Hour. If you are interested, the Happy Hour is 3:30pm ET every Wednesday. Bring a glass of a drinkable liquid with you. You will be asked about it.

We will be announcing some super cool stuff throughout the Happy Hour (called, by some of the attendees, the Magic Hour), though for those of you who are willing to date themselves, I'm not a big fan of that, because if you do remember, Magic Johnson had a TV show called the Magic Hour that lasted all of six episodes and was the only thing that I think he ever failed at. Thus, the Happy Hour it stays. Come join us. All are welcome.