Last week, while Amazon was rewarding Zappos for their exceptional customer-centric culture, Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis raged against the Cablevision machine. He lamented long wait times for repairs, unrealistic service windows and aggressive, uncaring service representatives. I add to his account my own recent experiences with some of the largest U.S. corporations, not in an attempt to trump Jeff, but to showcase how pervasive the problem with customer service has become. While some bright spots certainly exist (Zappos and Twitter’s ComcastCares to name two), the consistently negative experiences reported by consumers (anecdotally through social media and quantitatively through survey results) suggest that in today’s service economy, even our largest companies are failing the consumer, and ultimately, America.
Tag: customer service
I just finished Dave Eggers' new book Zeitoun. It's the harrowing tale of one man's experience in New Orleans after Katrina. Completely unrelated, and with far less consequence, my husband just tried to get home from Phoenix on Jet Blue's red eye - a journey that took nearly 24 hours. So I have been thinking about man vs. system. The first is a terribly consequential tale, the other banal, but they are both about the systems we construct.
As news broke that Twitter is rolling out a new option for its direct message (DM) feature, reactions ranged from indifference to downright panic.
Good customer service in this age of the Internet of Things will take one step further and take place right on the device itself — screens to tap to search knowledge bases for answers, chat live with a rep, or schedule a service appointment.
There are some excellent service offerings on the African continent. Many of them lie in the tourism sector. In countries like Botswana, Namibia, and Kenya this industry has taken the nature sociability of local people and developed its potential. Sustained investment over decades has produced a first class hospitality culture. In Financial services, and IT, and a host of other industries, the drive to perform well for the consumer is strong. There can scarcely be a modern African enterprise without ‘excellent customer service’ as part of its corporate mission. And brands that rely on service can be very tricky to market. The balance between over claim, realism or undue modesty is hard to gauge. And even harder to get right, over time.
At the heart of the intersection of brain science and marketing lie customers’ needs and motivations, right? After all, the customer experience is essentially the laboratory where companies’ theories about consumer psychology are tested. If a company understands what motivates customer behavior, it has a better shot at influencing that behavior by meeting their customers’ needs. This became clear to me as I navigated through three different reads about customer service in the past few weeks.
In this installment we review the various aspects and formalities of bringing a brand alive, truly alive in social media. Everything begins with establishing the rules of engagement in order to define the boundaries, context, and objectives for conversations. Guidelines such as “don’t be stupid,” “use common sense,” “stay positive,” is not the most useful approach to steering representatives or consumer experiences. While many brands possess a brand style guide, many have yet to adapt it to the social Web.
American workers are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. That’s the clear message of flight attendant Steven Slater’s emergence as a “working-class hero,” after he threw his job away with a tirade against passengers and a slide down an exit chute. Slater’s fifteen minutes of fame may be winding down, but his heady time in the spotlight—he was the subject of numerous tribute songs and his Facebook fan page drew more than two hundred thousand people—suggested just how frustrated employees are with stagnant pay, stressful working conditions, and obnoxious customers. Still, there was something a little surprising about the adulation. After all, the public comprises customers as well as workers, and everyone knows that the contemporary customer is mad as hell, too—fed up with inept service, indifferent employees, and customer-service departments that are harder to negotiate than Kafka’s Castle.
Frequents travelers Christopher Wethers and Elaine Van Carmichael are checking into Marriott Courtyard, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn hotels less often now that they've discovered Hyatt Place, a midprice chain that Hyatt launched four years ago. Wethers, who travels at least 50 days a year, likes to check into his room quickly and bypass the front desk. Van Carmichael, who's on the road 150 days a year, likes dipping into decorative wire baskets on the lobby counter for fresh, free apples.
Businesses work with suppliers, across divisions, and with distributors. In the age of relationships, when the art of conversation has made a big come back, and more and more people have access to search and publishing tools, the answer to the question "who are your customers?" may not be as straight forward. Break any one of those connections, make it less than smooth, and you have a hard time servicing the end customer. The answer never was straight forward, it just got easier to see inconsistencies.
Companies love positive feedback. They share it on Twitter, post it on their website and use it as marketing fodder. But what about when feedback is, well, less than pleasant? What can you do with a handful (or more) of irate customers? Do you ignore them? Bury them out back? Not in today’s social atmosphere. Rather than try to sweep these unhappy customers under the rug, look at them as a challenge and an opportunity to improve your brand and leverage them for some publicity.
Zappos, the online shoe retailer, is legendary for its employee culture and customer service. Paying employees to quit; offering customers free shipping both ways and a year to make returns; and hiring 24/7 phone reps who are as courteous, kind, and upbeat as Four Seasons concierges are all part of the Zappos formula. When I caught up with CEO Tony Hsieh in California a few months ago, we spoke about how his company's culture came to be, and about selling the company to Amazon for $850 million last summer (a deal now worth more than $1 billion with the appreciation of Amazon's stock).
When it comes to social media for business, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. But to ensure results, you must align it with your overall business objectives and avoid falling for “shiny new objects” simply because they are trendy or hyped. For example, a new business or “first mover” may want to focus on establishing thought leadership, while a more mature business should aim for customer support. In all cases, creating a product that actually solves problems for customers, present and future, should be every business’s top priority — and you should be using social media to help you figure out what that product is. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how each department can blend traditional and social media to drive business goals and collaborate on a seamless customer experience.
On Wednesday, May 26, 2010, just after 2:30 p.m., the unthinkable happened: Apple became the largest company in the tech universe, and, after ExxonMobil, the second largest in the nation. For months, its market capitalization had hovered just under that of Microsoft -- the giant that buried Apple and then saved it from almost certain demise with a $150 million investment in 1997. Now Microsoft gets in line with Google, Amazon, HTC, Nokia, and HP as companies that Apple seems bent on sidelining. The one-time underdog from Cupertino is the biggest music company in the world and soon may rule the market for e-books as well. What's next? Farming? Toothbrushes? Fixing the airline industry? Right now, it seems as if Apple could do all that and more. The company's surge over the past few years has resembled a space-shuttle launch -- a series of rapid, tightly choreographed explosions that leave everyone dumbfounded and smiling. The whole thing has happened so quickly, and seemed so natural, that there has been little opportunity to understand what we have been witnessing.
In January 2009, a disgruntled JetBlue customer was slapped with a $50 fee for checking a box containing a fold-up bicycle, clothes and some cheese. The box met the height and weight requirements to keep it from warranting a baggage fee, but JetBlue's policy for checking a bicycle, no matter the size, called for a $50 charge. The angry passenger called the airline's customer service center but was repeatedly told it was company policy and that no exceptions would be made. After getting back to Portland, Ore., he took his fight public in a blog post on the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's website.
The Ritz-Carlton is still considered the gold standard in customer service — and not just among well-heeled business travelers and jetsetters. At the core of this prized moniker: its employees, who are the face of a brand whose product is service. What's the secret to how the Ritz, and its employees, build loyalty to the brand and their locations? Marketing and pricing can be competitive and close in the hotel business, but there's one factor that makes the Ritz stand out in the luxury hotel market.
Executives are paying more attention to customer service in an effort to increase sales and gain market share in the economic recovery. Drug-store chain Walgreen Co. is training pharmacists to spend more time helping patients with chronic illnesses. Comcast Corp. is putting call-center agents through new training and instructing supervisors to coach their agents more. American Express Co. is expanding a program aimed at getting agents to build better relationships with customers. Just over a quarter of the 1,405 companies surveyed by Accenture late last year said customer service would be the first area they'd increase funding for as the economy recovers. Some companies have begun that practice this year.
If you e-mail Apple’s CEO, there’s a chance you’ll get a personal reply from Steve Jobs himself. But what happens if you write AT&T’s CEO? One inquiring customer received a legal threat. “I want to first thank you for the feedback,” said a member of AT&T’s executive response team, in a voicemail recording posted on the recipient’s blog. “Going forward I want to warn you that if you continue sending e-mails to Randall Stephenson a cease-and-desist letter will be sent to you.”
Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara have figured out a formula for selling low-margin goods online and shipping them overnight to customers. The two entrepreneurs have built Diapers.com into the largest seller of diapers and other baby products on the Web. Diapers.com is on track to bring in $300 million in revenues this year. Now the two are getting ready to launch a new e-commerce site, Soap.com.
Social media might be old. It might even be a dead buzzword. That’s why you need to paint a picture that’s more meaningful and encompasses what “social media” as a label really is. Some of us have been thrust into social media simply because the online landscape showed potential for online conversations. Others have been there for over a decade. Regardless of the many years of experience you have in the online space, the ideas behind social media and social media marketing are applicable to everyone. Let’s take a look at some lessons, takeaways, and tips.
For all of the talk about the empowerment of the customer, some industries seemed to have missed this entire conversation. Frankly, airlines (and others, like banks) continue to run their business in complete defiance of anything like putting their customers first. Remember United Breaks Guitars? Today that video has 8,395,275 views. Given the complaints I'm seeing, I'm not sure that United learned anything from that experience.
Do you have friends or colleagues who prefer dealing with people rather than machines? My wife is like that. When she needs to know her bank balance or just get some cash, she will go out of her way to talk to a bank teller rather than fumble with an ATM; and she'll always push the button for a "live operator" on an automated telephone service menu. This doesn't mean that my wife is averse to technology — she uses email, iPods, cell phones, and the usual array of 21st century devices. But at the same time she is drawn to personal, human customer service and wants it to be part of her life.
Don’t get me wrong … Working on the improvement and development of customer experiences is what we need to do. However, like so many of the customer-focused solutions that have come and gone before it, we’ve lost the forest for the trees. For example, there are 47 pages of Google images for “customer experience.” We now have every conceivable type of chart, graph, hologram, diagram and process about customer experience. But what kind of experience are we all having trying to implement it?
I traveled extensively a couple weeks ago and suffered the usual indignities and disappointments of uneven customer service. You know the drill so I won't bore you with details, except one: After a pleasant, issue-free stay at a hoity-toity London hotel, the guy behind the front desk wouldn't extend my checkout time by an hour. He shrugged apologetically. I will never stay there again.
I went to the Whole Foods near my house and started to look at things I could eat, what could I use for snacks and things like that. The problem is that it could be pretty confusing without a lot of work. Lower sugar usually means higher sodium. Where do you make the trade? Is 10g of sugar OK in a meal or is that too much? And that’s when it hit me: Whole Foods needed their version of a “genius bar.”
In the battle to win over consumers during difficult economic times, marketers are sending their employees to the front lines. The trend seems to be accelerating. Last week, Zappos introduced a new pitch with puppets fronting actual recordings of employee customer service calls. Last month, Lowe’s launched a campaign with store associates advising cash-strapped DIY consumers. Those campaigns come after several others celebrating the rank and file. Over the past year or so, Southwest Airlines, Ford, Domino’s, Bank of America, General Electric, Exxon Mobile and Verizon have featured staffers or actors playing them.
Zappos has launched a new campaign centered around the notion of “delivering happiness”, a value that the company strives for by delivering customer service worthy of a “wow”, its No. 1 core value. Zappos uses the spots to celebrate their customer service reps – known internally as their customer loyalty team, and emphasizes the notion that they are a brand “powered by service” and “happy to help. 24/7.” The first spot in the campaign features Zappos puppets portraying a customer and a customer service rep helping her with her question – based on an actual Zappos customer call.
A popular new reality series on CBS, “Undercover Boss,” shows senior managers working incognito as everyday employees. As for employees who are not secretly C.E.O.’s, they have champions, too, in marketers that are devoting ad campaigns to workers. The latest marketer to join the trend is Zappos, the online retailer that was recently bought by Amazon. In a campaign scheduled to begin on Monday, Zappos will celebrate its customer service representatives, whom the company refers to as the customer loyalty team. The intent is to demonstrate to potential customers — and remind current ones — how the employees make it easy to order or return merchandise, either on Zappos.com or by calling a toll-free number.
Lowe’s launched its spring campaign today, March 2nd, and its focus is on customer service. The brand wants to help its employees (a.k.a. associates) offer better expertise and service to shoppers, while also helping them keep within their budgets. Not a bad idea in these economic times. Associates will get equal time in the new commercials alongside actors portraying customers. Their advice and recommendations are geared towards supporting a growing trend of DIY home projects. “Everything we do in the campaign is grounded in service and value, because that’s where the consumer lives right now,” according to Lowe’s SVP, Marketing and Advertising, Tom Lamb.
I'm very much afraid the government has created a dangerous precedent by bailing out the "too big to fail" banks, insurance firms and auto companies. Now the marketing strategy of corporations will be to get big at any cost so that no matter how badly they screw up, the government will save their bacon. A good case in point is Delta Air Lines. Delta has gotten to be the biggest U.S. carrier by buying Northwest. But Delta wants to get even bigger by forging alliances with Japan Airlines and Australia's Virgin Blue.
I'm a tough customer. I admit it. Takes one to know one. I'm a loud shocking dose of reality for companies that sell me something. I expect too much from them. I've given them my money for, and put my trust in; their products or services, and I expect them to value that accordingly. I can be a firm's greatest ally or its worst nightmare. So when something goes wrong, I want the company to fix it. Now! When it takes too long, I let them know it. When service representatives can't solve the problem, I want to talk to their bosses, their bosses' bosses, all the way up to their CEOs. And when a service rep tells me, "My supervisor will just tell you the same thing," well, there's nothing I want to hear less.
In a post-recessionary world, trust has moved from the individual to the corporate realm. It is one of the most important issues that business organizations face when it comes to the future of their brands. A 2008 study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council found that some 99% of customers surveyed said they would either scale back or terminate relationships with companies that fail at building customer trust. In the past, trust may not have seemed like a natural part of management's role, but these days it is a critical part of every business, one proven to have an effect on the bottom line. Customers need to see that a solid foundation has been built within a business and that their needs will be addressed--especially in times of crisis.
In the wake of Google’s launch of its new Nexus One phone last week, customers are starting to complain about Google’s lack of customer service. At CES on Friday, Walt Mossberg asked Google VP of engineering Andy Rubin specifically about complaints from people seeking support for the Nexus One. According to All Things D, “Rubin concedes that there is no phone support and that there is sometimes a 3-day delay in response time. ‘We have to get better at customer service,’ he says.”
After building an impressive resume that boasts stints as former president-chief operating officer of Citicorp, CEO of Medco Containment Services and chairman-CEO of Priceline.com, Rick Braddock has distilled a marketing philosophy that's become the cornerstone of his approach as CEO of FreshDirect. Indeed, Mr. Braddock, 67, had an extensive career before joining the internet grocer in 2005, attracted to its innovative model of delivering fresh food to customers in the New York metropolitan area. And what he's been working to do the last few years is make FreshDirect a company known as much for its customer service as its 2-inch-thick steaks.
The C-Suite needs to hear some words from Bob Dylan: Come gather ’round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you Is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin’.
Today, technology is enabling new capabilities and I see three trends which are recreating customer service in a new, more responsive, and economically efficient manner: transparency, tribes, and talent. Transparency is best exemplified by Federal Express's efforts over the years. They were among the first companies to "expose" their internal systems so that not only could the customer schedule pick-ups, print labels, and manage his account, but he could also see the same level of detail the firm had about the location of his shipment. Many firms could benefit by letting customers see where their product or service truly is. BMW allows people who have configured and ordered a Mini Cooper to check the status of the order, and see it location on the high seas as it is shipped across the Atlantic. So what? Well, just think about how the dynamic with your cable company would change if you could actually see if the service truck was on its way to your house. It certainly would change the attitude between the customer and the company. Heck, even the government enables you to track tagged polar bears!
iPhone owners may love Apple’s sexy mobile device, but they absolutely can’t stand AT&T. It ranks dead last in customer satisfaction for dropped calls and spotty 3G service, a sore spot that Verizon has been poking at with new ads. Now the U.S.’s second largest wireless provider is looking to turn things around, hopefully before it loses iPhone exclusivity rights. Its newest strategy is especially unique, though, because it comes in the form of an iPhone app called Mark the Spot [iTunes Link].
As the high season of holiday shopping pain (or gain) arrives, I find myself fixated -- perhaps irrationally, and certainly emotionally -- on Best Buy's Twelpforce. This is the viral army of 2,200 Best Buy employees who answer questions and solve customer problems via the customer-care channel we know as Twitter. Self described as "a collective force of Best Buy tech pros offering tech advice in Tweet form," the program has nearly 15,000 "followers" and it's growing. Think Apple Genius Bar but without the physical counter.
EBay is a Web pioneer, having built a multibillion dollar business out of allowing people to essentially put garage sales on the Internet. That simple idea led to fast growth more than a decade ago and helped define what was possible online for other companies that followed. The company's IPO in 1998 turned founder Pierre Omidyar and eBay President Jeffrey Skoll into instant billionaires. Fast-forward to 2009, and the 1990s Internet darling is steering through turbulence. EBay seems to be want to be more an online retailer and less an online auction site. If it makes such a move, if will have to fight online retailers such as Amazon.com and Zappos and their impeccable customer service. It will also have to take on formidable brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart and Target, which are focusing more on online sales. Why does eBay want to join a battle it's not likely to win?
Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer service – a potent digital marketing tool. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, kicked off day one of PubCon 2009 with a keynote on the importance of delivering happiness through service. Founded in 1999, Zappos has grown to 1,400 employees and is listed at #23 in Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies To Work For.” Zappos is “Powered by Service.” Its goal is to provide the best online shopping experience possible.
If monitoring conversations and knowing what you're listening for is the first ingredient in good online best practices, knowing when and how to respond is much more than good etiquette. It's become an integral aspect of brand management and can mean the difference between a flop - or worse, a crisis - and a deposit in your company's reputation bank. It's easy to dismiss Twitter's usefulness as a tool. That is until you figure out that on Twitter you can find mentions of your brand and you can actually connect with customers directly and provide a first line of response. Chances are, that in 140 characters, you won't be able to do much more. But don't underestimate the importance of that public gesture.
The Web is shaping up to be one of retail's bright spots this holiday season, thanks in part to a new take on an old-fashioned retail idea: good service. At a time when traditional retailers are being ultra conservative, many Web sites have been spending to make shipping times faster, consumer-generated reviews better, and to offer new features such as online layaways. Amazon.com Inc. is rolling out more "frustration-free" packages that replace hard-to-open plastic clamshells; eBay Inc. is highlighting merchants with the best ratings; and Sears Holdings Corp. is launching online layaway. In contrast, many traditional retailers have cut way back on inventory levels and holiday staffing, hoping to avoid the massive profit-eroding discounts of last holiday season.
Most platforms gain traction through a killer app. In the second generation of real time, that killer app was market data for financial traders. What will it be in the third generation? Today, the real-time Web is associated with social networking status updates via services such as Twitter and Facebook. But whether this will be the killer app for this generation is not clear. As we enter a period of "social update exhaustion" (as in, "I really do not care what you had for breakfast"), the real-time Web may evolve into things that we really need to make a living or to get essential stuff done. The killer app matters, because the winner at the platform layer will be the company that hosts it.
This is a no-brainer, right? Because we all know you create the strategy first, then find the tactics that help you best execute that strategy. Right? But. So many companies are jumping on Twitter and Facebook (for example) because they are the 'hot' sites of the moment, and/or because they think they need to be there. They use these sites for a couple of weeks, then realize they have absolutely no idea what's going on. That's when I get the 'we started using Twitter/Facebook but really have no idea what we are supposed to be doing with it' email.
The recession, fewer travelers and rising fuel prices haven't dampened the "LUV" at Southwest Airlines. The carrier with a notable stock market ticker symbol has weathered the industry's downturn with a determined focus on customer service and its well-known spirited attitude, although it has faced challenges and bumps along the way. "In September, things feel like they have stabilized, and it feels like our business is picking up some," Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said.
We try so hard to build the first circle. This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list. Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle. The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.
Kansas City Chiefs fans struggling with ticket payments can finance them on a team-issued credit card. Got a dirty windshield? Buffalo Bills boosters renewing season tickets online enjoy a free car wash. Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, claims the NFL’s first all-you-can-eat section. Jacksonville Jaguars supporters choose between a dozen ticket packages. The Oakland Raiders even subsidize the train to the game. NFL teams, confronting the worst economy many have ever faced, unveiled a rush of new ticket sales initiatives this offseason that just 12 months ago would have been unthinkable in the country’s most popular sport.
"We're sorry." That's what you say when a large number of your customers are upset with you. AT&T customers have been complaining for months about dropped calls, spotty service, delayed text and voice messages and slow download speeds for the iPhone. So, AT&T released this video on YouTube.
Failure to recognise the value of building a brand internally will cost a company its competitive advantage. Failure to implement internal branding should cost the CEO his or her job. Sustainable competitive advantage can only be achieved by the consistent meeting of customer expectations. In simple terms, this means that the brand has to keep its promise. While the more glamorous application of external brand-building — through campaigns in a variety of visible media and communication channels — is necessary for connecting with customers and other stakeholders, it should follow the brand platform established internally, and not lead it.
I'm sure I'm not the first one to tell you: We're in a recession. The doom has advertisers hanging signs along the lines of "Will Work For Food" on their agency walls, and marketers continue to face facts and figures like these, from Forrester's 2009 Global CMO Recession Survey: 71% of marketing budgets have been reduced this year, and more than half reported reductions greater than 20%. Now here comes the curveball: I think this might be the best thing that has happened to our industry in decades.
Starbucks Corp. built its business as the anti-fast-food joint. Now, the recession and growing competition are forcing the coffeehouse giant to see the virtues of behaving more like its streamlined competitors. Under a new initiative being put into practice at its more than 11,000 U.S. stores, there will be no more bending over to scoop coffee from below the counter, no more idle moments waiting for expired coffee to drain and no more dillydallying at the pastry case.
With the recent spate of companies such as United Airways, Domino’s Pizza and Habitat UK, being hit by negative publicity online, one could be forgiven for thinking that social media can be used as a cure-all for such issues. But in fact, social media will only ever be a band-aid for such problems, unless it’s tied into fundamental changes in the way such companies operate.
To really incite the full range of customer reaction to a brand -- and by full range, I mean everything from bitter rage at the low end to fantastic appreciation at the high end -- traditional advertising is not the way to do it. In these postmodern times, where every interaction with the customer is a marketing event, the real crunch point comes when the customer meets your customer-service department.
I want to love my cable company – honestly, I do. They bring me things I love and depend upon. I love TV. I really, really love the internet. (The phone? Well, I love that, too – but unfortunately for the cable company, it’s my iPhone I adore.)
A new role is gaining prominence in the C-suite, as companies increasingly are hiring chief commercial officers to oversee sales, marketing and innovation. That's the finding detailed in a new white paper from executive-search firm Heidrick & Struggles. According to the firm, 56 companies appointed CCOs in 2008, up from just five in 2001. And already in the first half of this year, 36 companies have appointed CCOs.
Is customer service a media channel? It's a great time to ask that question, as it comes right smack in the wake of Amazon purchasing Zappos for nearly a billion dollars. That's a big number for an online shoe company.
In true Zappos fashion, CEO Tony Hsieh alerted the masses that his company had been purchased by Amazon via a tweet and his blog.
Amazon just announced that they're spending $800,000,000.00 (looks better that way) to buy Zappos.com. But wait. Amazon already has plenty of shoes. Amazon already has great technology. Amazon already has relationships with Fedex and UPS. What you buy when you spend that kind of money is what matters now.
Zappos let 22 marketing agencies aggregate in Las Vegas last week to vie for the honor of spending $7 million of its money on "evolving our brand" next year. It should reimburse them for their expenses, and forget the entire shebang. Zappos was the poster child darling for a brand that's based on customer service, quality, and all the other attributes we normally ascribe to reality. It put all its cash into customer service, and thereby turned every purchase (or service issue) into an opportunity to satisfy and delight customers (and attract others). Now, it's trying to dilute that approach, at best, and perhaps blow it up entirely.
Your neighborhood video store. Your cell phone carrier. Your credit card company. The airline you flew last week. What do all these companies have in common? Two things, really. One is that these categories generally score quite low on customer satisfaction surveys. The other is that companies in these categories have become notorious for nickel-and-diming customers.
Forrester Research released its five year forecast that estimates interactive marketing spending from 2009 – 2014. Forrester predicts that interactive marketing in the US will near $55 billion and represent 21% of all marketing spend by 2014 and will include search marketing, display advertising, email marketing, social media, and mobile marketing. More significantly however, overall advertising in traditional media will continue to decline in favor of less expensive, more effective interactive tools and services.
I started my ad career working on an airline account – American. So like my first love, my first kiss and a host of other firsts in my life, American and the airline industry will always be special to me. Guess that is why it really irks me to watch them making such tragic mistakes. You can’t nickel and dime your way to profits.
Customer service is the new marketing because it is grounded in competency, people, and contact - all things that can help you with innovation and relationships and that cannot easily be outsourced. They in turn create the experience your customers have that contributes to your story - that of your company and your brand.
Best Buy is picking up market share, thanks in part to the demise of rival Circuit City. But the electronics giant also has a formidable competitor in Walmart, which has been revamping its electronics departments and stocking more-sophisticated products. Now Best Buy is battling back with a spot that calls out Walmart by name.
There's a saying in the business world: Customer acquisition is an investment, but profitability is built on customer retention. And with the economy in its current state, it's more important than ever to keep the customers you have.
"Next in line!" shouts the counter person in the fast food restaurant. If you're the customer, the impersonal language of the server says that you are nothing more than the next 'cheeseburger-do-you-want-fries-with-that?" order. But go down the block to another fast food establishment and you'll find employees who have been trained to ask, "May I help the next guest, please?" For thousands of companies that depend on the instant impressions created during these Moments of Truth between employee and customer, the words that employees use are more than just language. How your employees speak with your customers is, quite literally, your brand brought to life.
Diapers.com’s innovative Web strategies turn customer acquisition and retention into an art form. Launched by two active but frustrated fathers who grew tired of having to race to stores at all hours of the night to replenish their children’s diaper supplies, Diapers.com has soared to $89 million in sales in just four and a half years. The online retailer’s mission is simple yet effective when carried out properly, which Diapers.com appears to have done: “To make moms’ lives easier by delivering all the necessary baby products in a timely manner with great customer service,” says CEO/Co-founder Marc Lore.
We wrote last month about the Zappos story, about how they have used customer service to extend and enhance the customer experience and how this has had a positive impact on sales, satisfaction and growth. This example highlights the power of customer service - of listening to and then rewarding customers.
The new owners of Saturn – whoever they are – will get a franchise that offers a fresh array of products and a dealer network well versed in providing a superior retail customer experience. What the new Saturn owners will not get, though, is a brand with a demonstrated ability to capture a substantial share of the U.S. market.
Zappos.com of course is the legendary online retailer. It's probably most famous for selling shoes and its rabid commitment to customer service. It has since gone on to sell many items, such as clothing, accessories, and bags.
The toll-free number. The email to tech support. The Tweet? Is Twitter the natural evolution of customer service? The immediacy and transparency of tweeted support is all the rage, with defined case studies (@ComcastCares, @JetBlue) and emerging software to enable and track it.
If brands can wrap their heads around why they should be on Twitter (hint: it should have a direct tie to your overall business strategy) and are creating compelling content, they'll quickly learn this dirty little secret about Twitter: it's not about how many people are following you. That's a traditional media measurement. What really counts is how often and frequently people are passing your content along to their trusted networks through the retweet.
Qwest Communications International has launched a Twitter page to improve customer relations. Seven company reps take turns monitoring @TalkToQwest around the clock in a quest to provide prospective and existing clients one-on-one near real-time support.
In just a little over 10 years, Google has built a business that is impossible not to admire. In fact, its success begs the question -- what would Google do (WWGD)? Media pundit and thinker Jeff Jarvis tackles this question head on with a new book by the same title. In "What Would Google Do?," Jarvis breaks down Google's practices into 12 distinct rules and then applies them to aging industries like media and advertising.
Bill Simon, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., delivered the following points to analysts and investors Wednesday: Walmart has 21 minutes to get a customer's attention, from the time a shopper walks into a Supercenter to shopping aisles and checking out; Customers will find fewer types of products on Walmart shelves, as the company reduces inventory and changes store layouts to implement its "fast, friendly, clean" message.
Let's not forget that social media does not - and cannot - exist in a vacuum. It's not as if your brand can overcome a litany of other deficiencies just because you're engaging customers on Twitter, or blogging every day. If your product or service is inadequate, social media won't fix that, it will highlight it.
Wireless carriers are not known for their customer service -- most marketing messages are about having the cool new phone or cheaper family plans -- but perhaps they should pay more attention to it. According to a new study by Sametrix Inc., word of mouth (WOM) has a significant financial impact.
As the economy plunges deeper into recession, many companies are confronting brutal choices. While businesses may feel forced to trim costs, cutting too deeply can drive away customers.
Regional burger chain Culver's Restaurants is prepping its first national TV ad to air during the Academy Awards. Despite only having 395 locations in 17 states, Culver's is planning a 60-second national buy introducing the country to its "unbelievable" customer service.
As the upfronts loom, many big brands—like General Motors and Citibank, for instance—are slashing their spending on television advertising out of necessity. But another factor to consider is the maverick CMO who is willing to spend a lot less on TV advertising or cut it out entirely.
Stinting on customer service is a common and sometimes costly response to tough economic times. By managing the customer experience more rigorously, companies can maintain quality while still saving money.
If you prefer a customer service agent who speaks "American," then computer maker Dell has a deal for you. Catering to consumers put off by the accents of Bangalore, Manila and other call-center hubs around the globe, Dell will guarantee — for a price — that the person who picks up the phone on a support call will be, as company ads mention in bold text, "based in North America."