Tag Archives: marketing

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

Ask Me What I REALLY Mean

#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.

Understanding the customer end goal vs. pushing your product and business interests. Check out the article  @DanielBurstein @MarketingSherpa

  • Customer-first means seeing that wanting a 1/4-inch hole – not the sameDrywall as a 1/4-inch drill
  • Customer-first means not confusing a type of shoe with a desire for shoes
  • Customer-first means having a liberal return policy —  customers will be grateful, not abusive of your good will

Are you confident that you were able to uncover an answer that reflects the source of the customer pain?

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!

 

Yikes! How Do We Tame the Elephant in the Room?

You, too, can tame the elephant in the room

You know that feeling you get in your gut when a difficult subject needs to be addressed and you suddenly become the world’s master of procrastination. Is there an elephant in the room? What do you do if:

  • The customer service center was unable to handle the volume of inbound leads generated by your Facebook campaign
  • You hit “reply all” on a conversation which included sensitive subject matter intended only for “reply to sender”
  • An entire electronic file appears to be missing and the intern is still working on updating the documents
  • Cash is missing or you realize that someone chipped the heirloom figurine and neglected to tell you
  • Your toddler, who is in the middle of toilet training, decides to show off their new skills in the toilet remodeling department of Home Depot (Just saw this LOL scene on TV)

No matter how much training you have in mediation or facilitation, these sorts of situations are rarely viewed as light-conversation. Unaddressed, these issues foster confusion and make everyone distracted, preoccupied and sometimes fearful. All of these emotions waste valuable time and hamper productivity.stresses business

Wikipedia describes the elephant in the room phrase as “an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed….. an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss”…..

Recognizing the elephant is an important first step, however the real finesse comes in acknowledging  the elephant in a manner that allows everyone to feel comfortable enough to participate in the discussion and then to move past it. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we can tame the proverbial elephant in the room”

  1. Open up the discussion by expressing the issue and inviting input from others. To do this effectively necessitates that you share your views with little or no emotion. Why? Because emotions are contagious and at this point, you are looking to ask others to share.
  2. Asking others to share their viewpoint displays consideration for their perspective. Stop and listen – really listen to what they say. Acknowledge their input and demonstrate a sincere interest in their comments. Creating an environment where someone feels like they can share allows you to discuss a potentially “forbidden” subject and sets the tone for continued dialogue. As the dialogue continues, you collect more information that can be used for a reality check.
  3. Do a reality-check: Is this really an elephant or can we resolve this with less drama? Your attitude on this may set the tone for others and alleviate stress or awkwardness. Honesty expressed in a calm and thoughtful manner can help to disarm the elephant.
  4. Be honest, direct and convey confidence. A difficult issue becomes an elephant in the room when it is ignored, despite everyone being aware of it. By naming what others may be avoiding, you will transform the elephant into an obstacle—obstacles are far less overwhelming to the psyche to handle and move off of.
  5. Move forward: Thank everyone for their inputs. Summarize the next steps. Ask others to concur with your summary. Where possible, ask others to take on a responsibility that increases the likelihood of maintaining harmony

Deep breath. You can tame the elephant in the room and move forward.

A version of this posting was made on the MENG blog in Nov 2013.

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?

Perspective On It’s Side

#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.

Perspective, defined as an attitude, a way of regarding something or a point of view.

For years, both business and psychology articles highlight the importance of looking at life through the eyes of another….stopping to consider the perspective of the customers, patients, clients, staff or any other constituents. And, as we know, doing this successfully leads to good personal relationships and good business outcomes.

Walking through an upscale department store, I took notice of a floral arrangement that put flowers on their side in very ordinary glass dishes. Such a simple example of displaying something familiar in a non-familiar manner to make people stop and take notice.

The presentation, at a main store entryway may well have been designed to create a subconscious influence of how people will shop.

flower side
When was the last time you turned something around, upside down, or inside out to allow for an alternative perspective? Try it today.

Let Me See What You Got

#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.

The power of suggestion is all around us.
In just a few city blocks, I took note of how many storefronts ensure that their services are out-front and easily visible for all to see. Playing with animals, casual dining or sit-down tablecloth dining – the experience is as much about the product as it is the ability to share it with others.doggie care

magnolia bakery

starbucksWhen was the last time you grabbed a cup of coffee or a snack because you walked by the storefront window, saw it and thought “Yeah, I would like one of those!”

 

The power of suggestion is all around us. What will you spontaneously pick up later today?