Category Archives: Customer Service Delivery

How did you find that out?

B to B Marketers: do you spend as much time speaking with  your direct buyer audience as you do speaking with your distribution channels ? Remember the game of telephone where we would each take a turn whispering a message to someone else; how often was the last person in the chain able to duplicate the original message?

The importance of being in touch with the ultimate end user cannot be under-estimated. magnifying glass

Can Customer Service Excellence Go Too Far?

Did you talk about, tweet, email or blog about customer service today?

We have created new standards of service delivery and in this post; I ask if we have taken the concept of “anything for the customer” too far. Yes, pick up that jaw and let’s ponder the question.

Zappos is filled with best practices in their delivery of customer service. Let me add a personal experience to the list. Sometime during the summer months, I bought a pair of all leather sneakers. Upon receiving them I decided to put them away until the colder weather warranted a solid walking shoe of this sort. However, come November when I took the shoes out for walk, I realized that they were indeed very heavy shoes and made me feel like an old lady. I gave them one spin around the block for a total of some 40 minutes of outdoor wear. They continued to look mighty new, however they were used!

customer care imageCalling Zappos, I explained to them that I had an unusual request that may necessitate managerial input. “No problem” said the happy CSR, “tell me what I can do for you”. Here is where my own jaw dropped to the floor. The CSR then directed me to my email where I would find a pre-paid return postage form …..And for this one time only…..I would receive a full refund for my “worn sneakers”. This far exceeded my expectations and reinforced an already loyal relationship. My Zappos customer service experience will pay off in spades. I have little reason to buy shoes for my family elsewhere.

A similar situation happened to a friend of mine who knits with very expensive yarns. After discovering that she received some yarn skeins from another dye lot, the company graciously replaced the skeins. Unfortunately, the replacements were a completely different color of yarn. In turn, they once again replaced the yarns, being most careful to send the correct color and dye lot.

The extraordinaire part of the story, delivered by thepluckyknitter.com, comes with the full refund that my friend was given for the totality of her expensive yarn order. This experience gives her little reason to go looking at other yarn artisans at this time.

A recent meeting spot with a friend occurred in front of the reception area for a bank branch located in New York City’s Grand Central Station. I was amused as people came into the bank to ask for directions, restaurant recommendations, bathroom locations and so many more incidentals that were completely unrelated to financial services. This is not at all surprising considering the location of the branch. When the triage manager signed on-line to get a Google map for the individual inquiring about the nearest location of a Hale and Hearty soup restaurant, I was highly impressed. Unfortunately, in short time, I became somewhat disappointed. Why? Murphy’s Law made an appearance and a line at the triage desk was forming.

The exceptional customer service described in the Zappos and fine yarns examples are directly linked to potential business; Is the friendly banker example as clearly linked to a new deposit or mortgage application?
Here’s where the concept of “anything for the customer” can be taken too far. First off, it was not clear if the individual had a bank relationship——which is irrelevant when the bank triage staff is not busy with others. As the line formed, the triage staffer needed to make a business decision and take action: Specifically to take a quick inventory of the questions needing attention from those on line.

Human nature tends to supporting and helping others. In a front line role at a retail business center, the customer takes priority and in a major transportation hub like Grand Central Station, the triage staff is guaranteed to get a variety of esoteric inquiries. As I watched the line form and the impatient faces turn sour, I pause on defining the interaction I witnessed as customer service extraordinaire.

For quite some time, retailers have adopted the concept of triage in helping front line staff to direct customers quickly and effectively. In a healthcare setting, triage includes the identification of a patient profile so as to determine the urgency of the situation and the best way to deliver care. In our friendly banker example, we are reminded that retail triage also necessitates a qualification process. A process that should be used consistently with all interactions…..Individually, we all know way too well that Murphy is watching us from the corner!

 

Water Bottles on Demand

water bottles

Give a man a fish and he eats a meal; Give a man a fishing rod and he feeds himself forever. Give a man a bottle of water and he can drink throughout the day. Maybe…..however it is worth taking note of the modern version of a hotel water fountain. It certainly makes it easier for us to stay hydrated in an environmentally-friendly format throughout the day.

Here’s an interesting water bottle factoid: “According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles used in the US become garbage that ends up in landfills throughout the country. Considering that approximately 60 million plastic water bottles are used every day in the US, we can assume that nearly 18,834,000,000 end up in the landfill each year. Each bottle can take up to 700 years to decompose.” (Source)

Are you using a singular water bottle throughout the day — one that you carry with you and refill as required?

Make like a honey-bee!

#agreesharon

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

honeybee 1Waiting on a store check-out line, I listened to the telephone conversation of the person standing behind me. The dialogue was around customer service. “ I want my customers to receive the best possible customer service from my staff. At the same time”, he continued, “I will not allow my own staff to be bullied or intimidated.”

It seems that a staff member was upset because the customer’s approach was something like: “This is what you will do to correct the situation now” as opposed to “I would like to see you do the following to make good on the situation. What would be the next steps for this to take place?”

In your own dealings: Do you ask them OR tell them what you want?  As my father-in-law used to say: You get more with honey than vinegar! Now, go make like a honey bee.

 

 

Customer Experience? Customer Engagement? Just do it!

To positively experience something OR to engage with something:

Are they any different?

Speaking to another marketing-industry friend recently, we joked about the overuse of the words: customer engagement and customer experience. The word engagement implies a deeper connection with the customer although the two of us agreed that every experience can make a lasting impact on ones’ choices and impressions.

  • Just do it.
  • Make me buy your product.
  • Make me use your service.
  • Make me smile.
  • Make me say “Thank you so much for making this happen for me.”

Here are a few simple examples.

Walking back to the office one afternoon, I passed this Starbucks promotion. Looking to bring patrons back into the store for a mid-afternoon energy boost, the offer plays to one’s earlier purchase and reinforces Starbucks position as an all-day food source.  The price point for the treat equates to a chocolate bar. Having been in the store earlier in the day, you would know that the breakfast crowd paid 3-4 times that price. (And, to those snickering, let’s assume that the product freshness is intact.) starbucksMake me buy your product. 

Our family does not own a car and we become weekly rental customers during the summer. blue carFinding myself in Boston with a customer service problem involving a car picked up at the local Boston airport, I first called the Executive Member Customer Service center. Fail. Then I called our local rental site hoping that they would help. Fail. A direct FB message resolved the problem in one hour.
All four components of that experience made an impression on me.

Make me want to use your services.

This photo was taken at a marketing conference about a year ago. infographicThe artist was quick, creative and able to distill key points into a visually appropriate sequence. Looking at the info-graphic, like watching a twitter feed at a conference, served to reinforce my own learning while the visual format highlighted nuances in the presentation.

The multi-sensory experience made me smile. 

Walking around Manhattan during the bewitching hour of the mid-afternoon school dismissals, can be most entertaining. The other day, I literally stopped and turned around as I heard the voice of a very young child telling his mother that he splattered paint in class similar to the Jackson Pollack style of painting. It was not surprising when the child then went on to ask his mom about her email follow ups to confirm his weekly play dates.

As a mom, I was mighty impressed with the school’s ability to engage this very bright young child. I could almost hear the mom saying to herself:

“Thank you (school and teachers) for making this love of learning happen for my child.” 

Customer Experience. Customer Engagement. Whatever you call it. Just make it positively – memorable.

 

 

Originally posted for MENG on Feb 20. 2015: Customer Experience? Customer Engagement? Just Do It? http://ow.ly/JjYLb by @sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing

Bubble in the Starched Shirt

#agreesharon

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

Walking by one of the fancier, established NYC hotels, I watched the starched shirt doormen assisting the well-dressed and casually-dressed hotel guests alike. The doormen juggled their assistance with the luggage, the hailing of the taxis and the requests for directions with never-ending smiles and cool composure.

So it is not surprising when I took a moment to pause because out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the clean cut doorman having a moment of rest —- and blowing a big bubble gum bubble covering up the bottom quarter of his face. Really??!!! Not quite the class act hoped for by the hotel management.

little boy blowing a bubble

And a good reminder that we all sometimes do things that are best done when not in the public spotlight.

Lesson reiterated……Someone is Always Looking. LOL

The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference

I was lucky enough to attend The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference delivered by conference logoThe Economist and further supported by MENG. The discussions surrounding big data, social networking and customer engagement crossed almost every industry. In this blog post, I will share twelve highlights from the March 2014 conference; they are in no particular order. For additional twitter streams, check out #BigRethink, @TheIdeasEconomy and @sharonlewisnyc.

1.Real Time Marketing
This is the Holy Grail that we marketers seek to achieve with confidence, reliability and available budget parameters. The concept behind achieving this is to set up multi-functional teams that are empowered to be spontaneous within a pre-determined set of boundaries. Huh?? Is this possible?
Yes. The example was the 2013 SuperBowl Dunk in the Dark Oreo campaign. With a zero media spend; one tweet generated 525 million media impressions.

2.Data Context: Opt-in May Still Need a Human Intervention to Avoid Bad Assumptions
At @1800Flowers, they do not assume that you send the same person a Valentines’ Day bouquet every year! In a similar vein, you cannot re-use the data that you collect for an arrangement being sent for a funeral or for condolence purposes. Enough Said!

3. Our attention span has become so short that we do not take the required time to explore many worthwhile options. Here are two examples:
Remember the amount of time that what went into making a 30 second or 60 second commercial? Our requirements for immediate gratification (read: short attention spans), have further crept into the creative process. What happened to the evolution of an idea? Some speaker discussion suggested that similar to the final campaign, the creative process has become one that demands instant gratification. As such, we may be pre-maturely eliminating some great campaigns and bottom line results.

As it relates to getting the consumer to the action stage of the offer: @MaryKayUS spoke about a mobile – first strategy with the goal of accomplishing any action within two clicks. …. “Making it easy for the soccer mom en route to the practice field” to be productive……. @SherryAG That does sound pretty close to instant gratification!

4. We have too many channels of vertical expertise. This impacts our corporate structures and our recruitment efforts
Comments from the CMOS of Lowe’s and The Weather Company spoke to trying to break down the vertical channels of expertise. As an industry, we have already established many proven formulas for successful, relevant marketing. While the quantity of the messaging channels has changed, and the available channels for marketing have changed…… The principles of relevant messaging and singular focus to action have not changed.
A good marketer can learn the nuances of a unique communications channel; Good marketing skills are applicable across any vertical channel. Hence why do we suggest otherwise in our (formal and informal) recruitment and career development policies?

5. “Say what”…….Whose language are you speaking? Whose perspective are you sharing?
There was an “aha moment” when the McCann Truth Central story was shared about a focus group participant stating that they engage in low rates of text messaging. Further probing revealed that this young adult had some 300 text messages daily; another participant piped in to say that they wake up some mornings to 1000 messages on their phone. @McCannTruth @TruthLaura
Lesson reiterated: Perceptions are everything. Probe and define the perception from which one speaks!

6. Crisp, singular messaging is nothing new and should continue to be a mantra for good communications.
Remember the old adage for a good billboard ad: six words or less! Why do we act surprised when the role of crisp singular messaging is re-proven with each new communications channel that we invent?

7. Data Sharing and Privacy
There are conceptual lines that consumers use in determining how/when/what they share. Brands are starting to learn that consumers are more aware than ever that they are sharing and that when they do… “They want something back for it”. Many of the speakers noted that they have received customer complaints from those feeling that their data was not being maximized. Again, this creates a fine line in differentiating a personalized experience from a Yuk factor, also known as a “creepy factor”. The app for a healthier lifestyle called @Noom, spoke to their success in the creation of trusted on-line weight-loss support groups; Caesar’s Entertainment spoke about real time data updates regarding the preferences of their clientele.

8. Data Context, Data Filters and Timely Data vs Relevant Data
A real time, big picture challenge that continues to be tested by marketers are the models behind: How does a brand insert themselves into a conversation that is appropriate and relevant to the customer experience?
• Here is where mobile is changing the retail shopping experience.
• Here is where content is being taken to new levels of storytelling, relevancy and entertainment (interpreted as three distinct and intertwined objectives).
• Here is where the concept of “filter failure” needs to be fine-tuned for efficacy and relevancy.

9. Would this ad prompt someone to want to see the ad again?
It seems logical that re-watching an ad is an important criteria to wanting to share the ad, thereby allowing it to go viral. Music videos being replayed on YouTube are a great example. The “Lowe’s Fix in Six,” vine series offers simple, everyday improvements that could also fit into the category of a “want to replay it”. The Apple ads that speak to what you can do with an apple product were touted as another example.
It is hard to predict what will spark a viral reaction; it is easier to go with creating something that people simply want to see/hear/experience again.

10, Note-taking was visual and intrigued everyone in the audience. Take a look

11. Analysis Paralysis
With data exploding at unparalleled rates, projects quickly become so big that they are scary—even to the best minds in quantitative model development. The presenters advised that we all just get in there and start doing it — not everyone can have the big budgets, however everyone can create learning environments.

12. Funny Expression of the Day
The budgets available to test, measure and deliver were never stated during the conference. SVP and CMO of Frito-Lay North America enthusiastically shared some memorable experiential campaigns with the audience. And, with such stories, she had us all laughing with the expression: “The juice is worth the squeeze”.

In closing: I will paraphrase an organization that was not represented at the conference: “Ya gotta be in it to win it”

Wishing us all much positive learning in our campaign endeavors.

This blog originally posted in March 2014 through the mengonline.com community via http://mengonline.com/blog/2014/03/18/reflections-economists-big-rethink-360-cmo/