The Rise Of The Search Butler
Let me start this month with the following disclaimer: I despise humble bragging in all its forms. I find the whole process nauseating — so much so that I have taken to parodying my own tweets that even remotely smell like a humble brag. That stated with the utmost sincerity, I can tell you I […]
Let me start this month with the following disclaimer: I despise humble bragging in all its forms. I find the whole process nauseating — so much so that I have taken to parodying my own tweets that even remotely smell like a humble brag.
That stated with the utmost sincerity, I can tell you I recently went through a life change when my car lease came up. I was hell bent on getting something practical, efficient and just downright not another Orange County me-too car.
Yet, with all my resistance to trendy and all my good intentions, busy schedules and other priorities got in the way. So I ended up with the exact make and model of my last vehicle. It costs the same, it rides the same, it looks the same, but it had one major difference; it came with a search butler.
To be quite candid, I find absolutely no difference between sedan models, and I had no idea this service was included until I went to pick up the vehicle. While I maintain my surprise that car dealers are still using ancient sales tactics, I have to admit I was also surprised by how easy it was to become hooked on this new service.
When I picked up my vehicle, I was shocked at the advances in technology since the 2009 model year. The product specialist spent two hours with me explaining how to drive my new car. And then there was the butler. You push a button on the dashboard, and a real live person answers your call. Said persons are prepared to do Anything, Anytime, Anywhere, and I really wanted to test the depth of that tagline.
The person answering the call greets you by name and asks, “What can I do for you today?” What they can do for you today usually amounts to searching for things, making recommendations and functioning as your personal assistant in whatever capacity to help you find what you need. The bulk of their information relies on how well they can search the Web.
Logic And Reasoning
I know exactly how to drill down into a search and find what I am looking for. I know all the search shortcuts. I don’t waste time with Facebook when I want a restaurant, you won’t catch me looking for some healthy chow in a map app on my phone.
The problem is, not everyone is a digital marketing expert, and search for some people is still like trying to find Waldo. Or the path to enlightenment.
Finding what you want isn’t as easy as it should be and often requires the use of multiple devices, applications, websites and talking to people in the process. And why on earth would you want to talk to people? It’s always a bad connection. They never speak the language you want them to speak. And chances are that it will take you less time to actually look for what you want on the Internet — unless, of course, you happen to be driving.
Since I have only had the car about a week, I’ve only been calling the personal assistant about six or seven times a day, roughly 50 times in a week. Like every other addiction, it started slowly. I would call and ask for directions to be downloaded directly to my car’s navigation system. Then, I started to go a bit further.
Search Less, Live More
They really were prepared to do anything and haven’t refused any request I have sent their way.
• I asked the assistant to call my hotel and add a room to my existing reservation while en route to a meeting.
I got a text in six minutes telling me that this had been done.
• I inquired as to an udon place I had visited that I was pretty sure was in Fountain Valley but I couldn’t remember where it was. When they found the noodle place, I asked them to read the menu to me, call and place my order, then download the directions to my navigation system.
I picked up my noodles and had a grand meal.
• There seems to be a worldwide (or at least Southern California) shortage of Ciao Bella brand blood orange sorbetto and Sobe Life Water in blood orange mango. I asked them to locate supermarkets in the area with both in stock.
Fed my blood orange addiction in no time and got a detailed email with all locations with the stuff I like in stock.
• Then I realized you didn’t need to be in the car to use the assistant. I called to find out how I could get back into an airline lounge to shower and change for a meeting after clearing customs at LAX.
You can’t do this, by the way; you have to change on the plane.
• I asked them to compare the costs of taking a Taxi, Car Service and Public Transportation in getting from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo. The winner: Express train. Unless you are really into burning money.
• I asked them to call my wife and ask her what she wanted for dinner, if the local seafood store usual was going to be OK and what wine she wanted with dinner and, if it wasn’t a wine we had on hand, could the assistant locate it and tell me where I could pick it up.
Santa Monica Seafood was OK and they had our favorite white Conundrum in stock at the local grocer.
• My favorite music group, Band of Horses, was playing at a nearby venue last Saturday, and I had purchased tickets about 5 months in advance. I am crowd intolerant as a general rule, so I took extra care to get good seats. Long story endless, the other touring groups had cancelled, forcing a change of venue and I was SOL in the ticket department. I asked the assistant to find me some tickets for the new venue four days ahead of the show in seats that didn’t suck and perhaps didn’t come at the scalpers prices.
Yeah, that last one was a no go.
With every request, I had the option of getting an email, a return phone call or a text (or all three) with the information I needed. What I found particularly interesting is each email contained a detailed synopsis of my request, along with the sites visited to track down my request.
This is what the search path looked like for Band of Horses tickets:
Here’s what it looks like when you want to compare options in getting to Tokyo from Narita Airport:
Are you seeing the same pattern I am seeing here? Searching and finding is no easy task.
Where Is All This Taking Us?
In the early days of search marketing, we spend a lot of time analyzing what language people use to find what they need. Later, we decided that it was more important to figure out how to get them to discover new things using search. Then, we really needed to know how the act of search and discovery benefited from, or provided benefit to, other types of digital marketing.
Today, we want to know how people interact with search on every screen they have and how those relationships co-mingle. I own two tablets, two notebook computers, two connected gaming devices, and a few mobile phones with smart interfaces. I interact with at least two screens when I’m in the car or sitting on the couch watching television.
It really isn’t as easy one might think to find what you seek. People become aware on one device and move to another to do research and when that one has a compatibility or trust issue, they move to another to make a purchase.
Yet, many are still counting clicks and purchases on one device as their only means of proving the value of online ads. That’s just not going to cut it in the new multi-screen, multi-source world where even a search butler can play a role.