Archive for category Marketing

Is Good Customer Service Good Enough?

Posted by on Sunday, 7 September, 2014

Good Customer ServiceIn the last week I’ve experienced two poor customer service experiences. Both were takeaway food purchases gone wrong, and both companies ticked all the boxes to turn it around. I’ll only go back to one.

The first was with a local Mexican restaurant near my new house. The yelp reviews were average to damning, but I really wanted it to be nice.

The food was horrid. Sloppy enchiladas, dry rice and stale corn chips. A few days later a Mileage Plus Dining Rewards email gave me the chance to give feedback, so I did. I was honest and fair. I chose not to share it on social, but did elect to keep it public on the rewards site.

A few days later the restaurant responded asking what they could do to make it better.

The restaurant did everything by the book. The responded nicely; they asked how to improve the situation. It was perfect, right?

Let’s look at another situation from the same week.

I often order my lunch online from a busy West Coast sandwich chain. They have a store across from a client’s office, so I can quickly duck downstairs, grab the lunch bag and be back working in 10 minutes. On this day they left an ingredient out of my sandwich. Of course I didn’t realize until I was back at my desk and I didn’t have time to go back to have it remade. So I logged on their site and sent a message letting them know. I also said that I would have gone back to get it fixed, but no time. I didn’t ask for anything and made it clear it was an FYI.

A couple of hours later I missed a call. The voicemail was from Specialty’s and they were sorry about the slip. They were speaking to the store, but also giving my a $10 credit. They’d follow up with via email.

Both places did the right thing. They acknowledged the issue, and offered restitution. However, I will never return to the Mexican restaurant, but I’ve ordered from Specialty’s many times since.

What is the difference? I don’t doubt either place was genuine with their offer, but Specialty’s made it tangible. I didn’t need to think about what would make it better, it just happened.

The customer service bar has been raised, and it will continue to do so. What you previously thought was good enough is no longer so. And what’s good enough now, won’t be in 12 months.

How can you keep up with good customer service?

The restitution has nothing to do with monetary value. Make the response personal. Do you have order history for that customer? What’s their favorite item? Did you mess up big time? Check their social media or website to see what they like. Gary Vaynerchuk is great with this and uses it to thank customers for large purchases. Think of the goodwill (and social mentions) you’ll get for nailing it. Even if it’s a little off, you’ll still get kudos for trying. If your customer is a business, this still works. Send snacks for the team, or a voucher for a team dinner.

No longer can you get away with checking the boxes for good customer service. It’s time to make it personal.

What’s your customer service strategy?

Posted by on Wednesday, 20 August, 2014

Brian Solis - Customer ServiceWhen I started my first customer service job in 1994 it was easy. If a customer had a complaint they called or dropped by. Occasionally they wrote a letter. Sure the grumpy ones told their friends over the garden fence, but that was just the neighbor.

That was 1994. Now it’s 2014.

Brian Solis recently said that an unhappy customer tells 20 people. A happy customer will tell only one. I recall hearing similar numbers back in 1994.

But in 1994 telling 20 people about a poor customer service experience wasn’t a crisis. Social media has given a new customer service tool. It has also given customers a new, public voice.

Let’s look back at the 20 people who hear about the poor experience. Imagine if one of those tellings was a facebook post. The average facebook user has 338 friends, which instantly turns that 20 into 357. Add in a Twitter account and it’s 576. That’s a lot different than a gossip session over the fence.

What can you do about it?

If you’re already listening to your customers (including on social media) and offering great customer service to minimize any poor experiences, give yourself a pat on the back. Well done.

If you’re not there yet, it’s not too late. Look at your policies and your team. Is that how you’d want to be treated? Yes, it will mean some changes and probably cost you some money, but can you afford to lose 20 customers for each poor experience? To quote Brian Solis (again), “Customers have to be asked and rewarded. It’s something new. It’s proactive customer service.” This is from a social customer service video series that he’s doing with Hootsuite. There’s also his book, [What's the Future] of Business?

And you can always email or Tweet me.

What’s your ROI?

Posted by on Tuesday, 11 March, 2014

What's your ROIMy first marketing lecturer, Dr Mario Miranda, taught me the relationship between price and quality. His example was a Waterman pen versus a Bic disposable. While my tastes are more Mont Blanc, the premise stands. Why do we choose Apple, Nordstrom and Mercedes Benz?

Why don’t we apply the same premise to ourselves? What’s your ROI? Does your price equal your quality?

I was chatting with a colleague last night about clients wanting expert work done at junior rates. We’ve all encountered it, “I’d love to hire you but [insert name] is $500 cheaper.” On eLance, I’m asked to pitch for work at hourly rates lower than the minimum wage in that country. The RFPs are filled with “expert” and “top performing”.

As marketers, we have a choice to make. We can take the work and discount our rates, or we can walk away. We can decide if we see ourselves as a Kia or a Mercedes Benz. In other words, what’s your ROI?

I know you’re thinking, “There’s more to the job than money, Bianca”, and I agree. Sometimes it’s a job title, resume points, or brand names that make up the difference. I’m doing some work currently that gives me studio photography experience. But that’s part of the ROI calculation. I gain experience and a small amount of cash; they get product photography.

It’s when the returns don’t equal or exceed investment (in this case you) it harms the entire industry. Precedents get set, your price goes down and you turn from Apple to Samsung. It’s hard to recover from this, and near impossible if it’s across the industry.

Yes, this was written as a vent over a recent situation, but also because walking away from a particular project was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The ROI figure just wasn’t a good result and saying yes now will mean it gets pushed further and further with each contract renewal. I hope I’m never in this situation again.

This Valentine’s Day, All You Need is … Evernote Market

Posted by on Monday, 10 February, 2014

This week is Valentine’s Day. That day of the year filled with cheap chocolates, hard-to-get dinner reservations, and women in the office comparing the size of their bouquets.

It’s a great sales opportunity, but what do you do if your product isn’t all hearts and cherubs?

Last week I received a Valentine’s Day promotion email from Evernote. You know, that information management app. Here it is.

Evernote-Valentines-Day

I suspect your first reaction is the same as mine, “Really? Valentine’s Day? Evernote’s not romantic.”.

Then I thought about it. I am the target market.

No one could ever get my attention with flowers and hearts, and I can never imagine dating anyone who gets into Valentine’s Day. And I’m not alone.

With this email, Evernote has expanded the Valentine’s Day market size. Now it includes all those people, like me, who ignore Valentine’s Day.

So the lesson is to be creative and find your market. You may be fortunate, like Evernote, and create a new one.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Who are your Competitors?

Posted by on Sunday, 19 January, 2014
Who are your competitors

Image courtesy of Amazon via Geekwire

Last week Amazon launched their back-to-school campaign by attacking independent college bookstores on their own turf – literally.

As reported by Shelf Awareness and GeekWire, they set up displays on at least four college campuses across the US and college-aged promo teams approached students with the Amazon Student program and offering the chance to save $1,000s on text books.

There was outrage. How dare big, bad Amazon be so cruel to independent bookstores?

“New Amazon Low: Trying to Steal Customers Outside Indie Store” – Shelf Awareness

The outrage was misplaced.

I don’t know a single independent bookstore who should consider Amazon a competitor.

Really, I don’t. And I can explain.

Do you know who your competitors are? Why are they your competitors? There are many different models you can use to do this. I like looking at the customers/target market, after all, they’re the ones handing over the cash.

Let’s use the Amazon and independent bookstores situation as a case study. To make it easier, I’m going to refer to all independent bookstores as one organization.

First make a buyer persona of your customers. Current and ideal works well. To keep this concise, I’m only going to look at the buyer motivators of customers from each organization. You will have multiple buyer personas, but I’m cutting this down.

Independent Bookstores
– value-driven
– passionate: genre-focused geeks
– community-minded
– local

Next list your competitors, and make possible buyer personas for whom you assume are their customers.

Amazon
– price-driven
– wants range and choice
– often geographically diverse

Have a look at the motivators for each buyer. Are they the same across organizations? How vast is the difference?

Your competitors are only the ones with the same customers.

Going back to our case study, you’ll notice the motivators never overlap; they are not the same customers.

An Amazon customer will seek out the lowest price.

An independent bookstore customer will pay full price for their books, knowing they can ask the bookseller for recommendations, attend book clubs, meet their favorite authors, etc. Sure, they love a bargain, but that’s a bonus, not the reason.

Should the Independent Bookstores Ignore Amazon?

Business plans are dynamic, so never totally ignore your “not-competitors”. They may change tactics, or you may change tactics and try to reach their customer. Just don’t focus on them and ignore your customers. The Amazon campaign was cheeky, but not something the college bookstores should be worried about. Leave the low margin customers to Amazon, and focus on providing value to your customers who may initially purchase text books, but come back for gift books and stationery.

Disclaimer: While I haven’t included any information or inferred anything that isn’t public, I do need to state that I am current contracted to the University Bookstore in Washington. I’m the Husky photographer for the online store, and help out with PR in any downtime. I wasn’t in the office during the Amazon campaign or involved in any of the communications around it.