Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Archive for March, 2007

Nintendo and the Sensory Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 30, 2007

gamer.jpgI have blogged before about engaging your customer’s senses when I posted on Westin Hotels and their White Tea scent.   Westin Hotels uses this signature scent to evoke certain emotions when customers visit their chain.  Our senses are closely connected to our emotions.  They are also closely connected to how we learn.  People are typically visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners– those who learn best by moving their bodies.  (I am a visual learner, which is why I like blogs so much!  To find out what kind of learner you are, try this free online assessment from researchers at North Carolina State University.)

Nintendo has taken this to new heights.  Of course, the Wii gets everyone moving!  Today, I am talking about the Nintendo DS.  Recently, I watched my son play Super Mario Bros. on my Nintendo DS.  The DS naturally lends itself to a more kinesthetic experience than its predecessor Gameboy, as the DS has a touch-screen and stylus.  (Note to you closet gamers: because of the way the DS opens up, it looks like a PDA, so bringing one to a meeting might not be noticed — unless your boss has one!)

The stylus enables the player to move things around on the screen more easily than using buttons to control play.  It also allows very cool applications.  For example, one mini-game in Mario had my son pulling back a sling-shot (with the stylus) to lob water balloons at little guys dropping from the sky.  I recently bought EA’s Pogo Jungle game, and I was able to use the stylus to manipulate cannons to shoot down balls in Phlinx (a very fun puzzle game).

Even more interesting to me is the microphone on the DS.   It is used for spoken commands in some games, but what really intrigued me was how it is used in Mario.  My son had to blow into the microphone in order to blow up a balloon.  In other words, this gaming experience uses three of his five senses; the only senses not used are scent and taste (but that could be coming in a future version?!).

How can we appeal to our customers’ senses with our marketing?  Much of marketing appeals only to visual and auditory learners.  How can you reach out to those who need to experience something in order to learn about it?  I attended a great panel discussion yesterday on ambient marketing through the San Diego chapter of the AMA.  Although I will post more on this event later, the best examples shared were those where customers and prospects could interact with the marketing.

As you work to understand your customers better, try a learning style communication for existing customers.  Get to know the preferred style of your best customers, then deliver in that style (ex: blog vs podcast vs direct mail).  If you don’t know, ask them what type of information speaks clearly to them.  Depending on your business, you might also involve the other two senses to round out the experience!

(Blog tip to Getting Attention for the link to the online learning style assessment!  Photo uploaded by MViennet)

Posted in Customer experience, Gaming, Marketing | 1 Comment »

Customers Rock! on the Radio

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 29, 2007

bigbizshow.jpgIf you listen to talk radio, you might have heard my voice yesterday afternoon on the Big Biz Show, carried on radio networks such as Business Talk Radio, World Talk Radio, and MoneyWatch.  I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Bob “Sully” Sullivan and Russ “T” Nailz (Russ Stolnack) on customer relationships.  It was a lot of fun, as these two gentlemen are serious about business but make it entertaining (as you can probably tell from the picture above).   Thanks, guys!!

If you missed the show, it was a good one!  We discussed the mismatch between budget spend on prospecting vs keeping customers, customer service (good and bad), and why companies need to monitor the internet and blogosphere (among other things). 

If you are a regular listener of the show and found my blog, welcome!  Please leave me a comment and let me know you came by to visit.

To hear the laughter and fun for yourself, you can listen to the archived podcast by clicking on this link: March 28, 2007 show archive.  (Sorry I can’t put the podcast on my blog, but wordpress.com limits the types of files I can include!)  I am featured as the first guest.  If you have trouble with that link, use this link to get to the Big Biz Show on Business Talk Radio, click on Show Archives/Podcasts, and open the 3/28 podcast in a new window.  While you are there, find out which local radio station airs this program, and tune in daily to hear Sully and Russ “T”.  You’ll be glad you did!

Let me know what you think!

Update 5/4/07: Apparently, archives don’t stay on their site for very long, so you will just have to listen another time for me! 

Posted in Customer experience | 6 Comments »

How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 27, 2007

remote.jpgI love Stan Lee’s blog Brand DNA.  He posted earlier this month on something that really made me stop and think.  The post called Kids of Today shares a pithy quote from a 19-year old college student (found by Stan at Leo B Toronto’s blog):

“Sometimes a prof will ask you to watch a program for school and it’s not something you’d be able to track down on YouTube.”

So, you think you know what your customers are doing with your product?  Think again.

What’s the best way to find out?  Talk to them!  I posted on how to listen to your customers earlier in March.  It is so critical to interact with your customers in order to learn from them.  You can’t get some of this information from a market research report.  There is just no substitute for meeting customers face to face and really understanding what they do and how they do it.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out and get to know your customers today!

(Photo uploaded by redbaron)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Marketing, Voice of the customer | 3 Comments »

Who are You Competing With?

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 26, 2007

choices.jpgOne of the most common questions I get is the following: “Who are the companies in my industry with best practices in customer focus?”  The person asking this question is usually someone in marketing who knows their industry but wants to find out who they should emulate when it comes to customer strategy.

We should ask ourselves this additional question: Who are the companies with best practices in customer focus – in any industry?  Many benchmarking projects fall short of the mark because they do not look outside of their world.

I like the perspective from Sharon Heili.  Sharon is a librarian and writes the blog Libraries and Librarians Rock.  She says in her recent blog post Libraries Need to be Cool:

Libraries need to rock, to be cool.  Why?  To survive…to thrive…to be valuable…to be essential for our customers.

I have heard many librarians proclaim arrogantly that we are not in competition with the video store, the DVD store, Google, iTunes, and YouTube.  But we are! WE ARE!

Sharon goes on to share her thoughts on what libraries should be thinking as they think about their customers, both present and future.  Her customers have a lot of other media competing for their attention.  Sharon evokes a passion for libraries that will surely rock her customers’ world.

Do you know who is rocking your customer’s world?  Is your competitor more focused on customers than you are?  Perhaps there isn’t anyone in your industry yet who has a Customers Rock! attitude and strategy.  However, your consumers may be experiencing Nordstrom or Southwest and their great customer service.  Your business clients may be serviced by Pitney Bowes, who have been recognized by Gartner for their excellence in CRM. 

Customer expectations are set not just by our organizations but also by all the other organizations our customers touch, whether in their personal or business lives.  Do you want to rock your customer’s world?  First, understand their world and who is rocking it.  Then, meet their needs.  Along the way, exceed their expectations.  You will then have the building blocks for a long-term customer relationship.

(Photo uploaded by geotrac)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer strategy, Marketing | 1 Comment »

The Golden Rule for Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 22, 2007

golden-rule.jpgMany organizations struggle over which rules to create when it comes to dealing with customers and their concerns.  

“What if a customer says …?” 

“What do I do when the customer won’t …?”

Whether we are in customer service, sales, or marketing, anyone who deals directly with customers will reach a point where there is a conflict.  Entire books have been written on how to treat customers better.

Jim Kleinfelder had a simple rule that he instituted for his company with respect to dealing with their customers (clients).  Kleinfelder, Inc. is a privately-held professional services firm specializing in environmental and geotechnical engineering.  Founding his business in 1961 as a materials testing service, Jim saw that while the company needed to be flexible enough to adjust to client needs, it also should adhere to a set of core values: honesty; integrity; respect for all individuals; exceptional client service.

Jim Kleinfelder’s golden rule when it came to a conflict with clients was this:

It’s not who’s right, it’s what’s right. 

Forget about you and me – it’s about the end result to be achieved.  Fourteen years after Jim’s retirement, this legacy is still alive and well at Kleinfelder.

The Golden Rule for Customers is simple yet powerful.  It will support any organization building customer relationships based on integrity.  And ultimately, that will translate into loyal customers.

(Photo uploaded by Scanty)

Posted in Customer service, Customer strategy | 3 Comments »

Are Chocolates on the Pillow Enough?

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 20, 2007

chocolates-book.jpg I just finished my review copy of Jonathan Tisch’s new book Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience.  The book is a great primer on thinking through the customer experience.  As Tisch writes,

“It is no longer enough to manufacture fine products or provide good services.  We need to help our customers improve their lives - one experience at a time.”

Jonathan Tisch knows a thing or two about helping customers improve their lives.  As Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, it has been his passion over the years to consistently create great customer experiences through the travel and tourism industry.  In this book, Tisch and co-author Karl Weber outline what it takes to impact your customers at various stages and touchpoints of a relationship.

chocolate-heart.jpgMy favorite aspect of the book was that it shared example after example of companies doing it right.  It is chock-full of stories, from In-n-Out Burger to eBay, Build-a-Bear Workshop to Stamps.com.  The wide variety of companies profiled helps the reader see how re-imagining the customer experience can assist them in strengthening their own customer relationships.  One of the stories I really liked was that of Anthropologie.  In a quote from the book, Tisch relates their philosophy of welcoming customers.  As described by Kristin Norris, the visual director of Anthropologie:

“I think of everything [in our stores] as a story… A bedding story isn’t just about linens and comforters.  It’s about the feeling of night-time and a sense of place…We try to create little environments that tell a story.”

This is a wonderful example of putting the customer in the story and crafting an experience that helps the customer feel like they belong.

In addition, each company profile has a section following called Your Big Aha’swhere the concepts being shared are listed, along with a short description.  This makes it easier for the reader to apply the lesson to their own organization.  For example, one of the Aha’s for the Anthropologie story above is this: Start with your customers, not with goods or services.  This has been one of my mantras!  Some of my other favorite Aha’s are the following:

  • Think about all the touchpoints where you connect with customers and work to make each one better. (Dell story)
  • Rules should serve the business, not vice versa. (Commerce Bank story)
  • Don’t be afraid to learn from seemingly unrelated businesses. (health-care story)
  • Customize the features your customers actually care about. (Build-A-Bear)
  • Start building your future with your existing customers. (Harley-Davidson)

Throughout the book, Jonathan Tisch does a fabulous job of applying his knowledge of customer experience to the business world.  It is an easy read and one which I recommend.

After you have read this thought-provoking book, come back to this post and let me know which are your favorite Aha’s.  Add some info on how you plan to apply it, and we can reinvent the customer experience, one blogger at a time!

Posted in Book reviews, Customer experience | 4 Comments »

Ravenswood Winery Rocks with a Memorable Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 19, 2007

wine.jpgHaving previously lived in Northern California, my husband and I have made our fair share of trips up to Napa and Sonoma into California’s wine country.  One of our most memorable experiences comes from a Sonoma winery, Ravenswood.  Ravenswood focuses on zinfandel wine, a category they have helped to expand.  The winery itself offered a great experience not only for my husband and me, but also for our children!

At most wineries we visit, we keep the kids off to one side when they come with us, as they are usually ignored by tasting room personnel (at best) or stared down by them (at worst).  It was different when we visited Ravenswood.  One of the tasting room managers offered to get something for my kids to drink.  He took my kids to a back room, got them each a bottle of homemade rootbeer and a bouncy ball (with the Ravenswood logo and lights inside!), and brought them back out.  My kids were all smiles and felt very grown-up drinking their rootbeer at the picnic tables while we tasted our wines!  It gave us the permission we were seeking to spend time tasting as well as the leisure to think about our purchases (how many cases?!).  The personal touch, when it can be achieved, builds loyalty like nothing else.

Steve Woodruff also posted recently about Ravenswood on his blog impactiviti.  Steve makes this comment about Ravenswood’s clever tagline:

Ravenswood’s tagline is No Wimpy Wines! Simple, memorable, and a bit sassy. While the elitist might consider this approach just a tad plebeian, for the vast majority of wine buyers who are looking for a good quality, hearty wine, this is great branding. It makes Ravenswood stand out, and the phrase taps into something “aspirational” – after all, who wants ANYthing wimpy? Finally, it passes the T-shirt test (yes, I have one with the crossed-out Wimpy Wines on the back – it regularly accompanies me to the gym, silently promoting heart-healthy Ravenswood reds while I do my cardiovascular workout!).

Note the way Steve points out the experience Ravenswood is crafting with their tagline, No Wimpy Wines.  When you see their wine, you know what to expect — a hearty wine!

The Startup Studio has an interesting podcast interview of Ravenswood’s founder Joel Peterson.  In it, he discusses how he used “guerrilla marketing” when he was first getting started.  (Note – he also talks about why he chose zinfandel and how he helped grow the zinfandel category.)  This was in the early days before people were talking about word-of-mouth marketing.  Joel used it as a good way of connecting with customers.

Ravenswood Winery is a company with a Customers Rock! attitude.   They focus on creating a great experience for customers in their winery tasting-room environment.  They have an easy-to-navigate website with consistent branding and good customer-focused information.  They have been marketing in a customer-centric format since the beginning.  And the personal touch they gave us at the winery has stuck with my family for years, to the extent that our kids encourage us to buy Ravenswood whenever we are out shopping for wine.  They will likely be loyal customers for life.  So will I. 

(Photo credit: uploaded by partytime)

Posted in Customer experience, Customers Rock! | 5 Comments »

How to Land Your First Job

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 15, 2007

graduate.jpg Drew McLellan at Drew’s Marketing Minute recently posted to ask his community to give advice to a college grad facing the job market today.  We have all been there, so now it is time to give back. 

I wanted to share my advice with all of you, as I firmly believe the same advice applies to how we work with our customers.  Here is what I wrote as a comment to Drew’s post, along with my advice to anyone who deals with customers.

1. View every interaction with the business world as an opportunity, and put your best foot forward at all times.

Story: In high school, I was a straight-A student and applied for a National Science Foundation scholarship. Part of the application was being interviewed by a scientist at NASA/Ames Research Center. I still remember the interview vividly. We had a great conversation, and all went well. At the end of the conversation, something unexpected took place. I was informed that I did not win the scholarship, but I was offered a job to work at Ames! It was for the summer, and it turned out to be such a great summer job, they offered me a job when I graduated from college. I turned this one down, but it was a fabulous experience to work at NASA! Every interaction you have with the business world can have positive outcomes for your future career. Make the most of them.

(Application to customers: View every interaction with a customer as an opportunity.  If all goes well, it will bring them back for more.  A great example of that is this post from Mack Collier at The Viral Garden on a stellar customer experience at Long John Silver’s!  Every interaction at this fast-food restaurant made an impact on him, and rightly so based on the story.  Every person who interacts directly with customers can have an impact on their customer’s attitude, regardless of the role of that person.  We just have to decide whether that will be a positive or a negative impact.  My suggestion: make the most of each interaction!)

2. Be honest at all times.

Story: I was an engineering undergrad and interviewed for a job at HP. I was told the hardest part of the interview would be the technical interview session. With sweaty palms, I entered the conference room and was asked many questions to test my technical abilities and knowledge. There was one question that was especially challenging, and I didn’t know the answer to it. I could have faked something, but I decided to be honest and said, “I don’t know the answer.” The interviewer thanked me and moved on to the next question. “Wait, what was the answer to that question?”, I said. The interviewer answered, “I don’t know, either. I just wanted to see how you would answer.” I got the job (and then worked for HP for nearly 14 years!). Honesty and integrity will serve you well as you put your best foot forward into the job market (and beyond). Go get ‘em!

(Application to customers: Be open, honest, and transparent with customers at all times.  If you truly can’t answer their question, let them know — but then find someone who can.  Customer trust is often shaken by even small mistakes.  Admit them, apologize, and do what’s right for the customer.  Building strong relationships will help your organization grow trust with your customers, but it takes time and planning.  It is worthwhile!)

Now take a minute, go out to Drew’s blog here, and add in your own advice to a college grad looking to land their first job.  You’ll be glad you did!

(Photo: uploaded by keeweeboy)

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer service | 1 Comment »

Citizen Journalism – Get Your Assignment!

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 14, 2007

last-slide.jpgThere is a project brewing over at Wired.com.  It is actually a collaborative effort between Wired, NewAssignment.net, and anyone else who wants to join in the fun!  The idea is to use crowdsourcing to write an article on, well, crowdsourcing.  The theory is that using a large group of people, whether they be journalists, bloggers, or otherwise, a better story can be written due to the large pool of information which will be brought to the discussion.

The project is called AssignmentZero.  You can read the details here, and here is the blurb describing it from their Newsroom:

Welcome. We’re covering a story: How the Web makes it possible for the crowd to be the source of good ideas. But instead of one journalist reporting, we’ve created a site where many people can work on the story, with editors as guides. You are now in the Newsroom, where you can find an overview and learn what others are doing. The Assignment Desk is where you can see what we’re covering in detail, and get an assignment. The Exchange is a place to offer new ideas. Check the day’s developments with The Scoop. Ready? Join up.

Although I already consider myself a citizen journalist via blogging, I have signed up to participate in this project.  I think it will be fascinating to be part of this initial trial, and I look forward to sharing ideas with a whole new crowd.  For my assignments, ideally I will conduct some interviews, I may do some research, or perhaps through this blog, we will provide some story profile information.  You see, you can contribute as an individual, as part of a group, or even as a blog community.  I think we have some great ideas here at Customers Rock! with a perspective that is all about customers.  That includes crowds!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about this idea and whether you decide to join in the fun.  I will keep you posted on my progress!

Posted in Citizen journalism, Community | Leave a Comment »

To Rock or Not To Rock

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 13, 2007

man-with-headphones.jpgToday I have the pleasure of having a guest blogger on Customers Rock!  C. B. Whittemore is the blogging maven at Flooring the Consumer, a fantastic blog.  She has put together a rockin’ post for you, so grab a cup of coffee and take your time reading it.  It is a perfect match for my blog.  Thanks so much, C. B.!

To Rock or Not To Rock 

What’s the difference between companies where customers rock and those where they don’t?

Where customers don’t rock, companies tend to focus on product, on price, on their own internal systems, and not on adding value, creating a memorable experience and building loyalty.  We’ve all been in those places…  They’re uninspired, grim places that drive you out as quickly as possible.  Employees tend to be surly, resentful and unhelpful.

 

In places where customers rock, the opposite happens.  Rocking retail environments practically sing out to consumers inviting them in to explore and imagine the possibilities within.  For example, an Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters store disavows direct selling [i.e., NO HARD SELL!] because that conflicts with a customer rocking attitude.  Talk about an experience!  These stores are magical in how they have been designed to engage the senses – beautiful juxtapositions in product displays, unusual materials [e.g., old bricks wide, sun bleached planks] used in-store to create a wall or a shelf, intriguing scents – and welcome all those interested and not so interested [they offer comfortable seating].  Essentially, customer rocking companies design the whole experience – their processes, their communications, their product assortment and display, their follow up, their interactions – from the customer’s perspective rather than their own.

 

A customer rocking retailer exudes passion and enthusiasm for the product, the category and how it adds value to a customer’s life.  Everyone working within feels energized, empowered, and focused on how to provide customers with meaningful value.

Customers inevitably react with delight and curiosity, appreciation, and heightened expectations.  And once that customer has fully experienced what that company has to offer, she leaves feeling good about the transaction and more than willing to engage in a series of transactions – otherwise known as a relationship – for additional purchases.  She also tells everyone she knows about this amazing customer-centric or customer-focused organization she just encountered.  In other words, it generates intense loyalty.

 

Now, some organizations might respond by saying “we don’t want those customers walking all over us; we’re not going to give it all away!”  That’s not the point.

 

The point is truly understanding and appreciating our business from the customer’s perspective to make us easier to interact with, to eliminate any friction between his or her buying process and our selling process, and to make each feel really good about doing business with us.

 

So, we’re not talking about a relationship where the customer walks all over us, but rather a relationship of equals where both parties benefit.  The customer must feel that she is obtaining value from the experience.  After all, if the consumer spends money in our establishment, she is rejecting the commodity experience and acknowledging that we represent significant value over and above the cost of the item.  At the same time, we must earn a return for that value to remain in business.  

 

Many customer rocking organizations put tremendous effort into acknowledging and nurturing the relationships they have developed with their customers.   After all, that loyalty literally represents the key to profitability and that ongoing acknowledgment means that the creation of value never diminishes.

 

I have a strong preference for Continental Airlines.  Even when I fly for pleasure, I only consider Continental.  The reason?  I feel intense loyalty toward them.  They rock!  They have made a significant effort to meet the needs of business travelers by redesigning the travel bins to fit luggage, and coming up with small ways of making travel less onerous [e.g., Elite Access to expedite the security screening process].  Yes, I participate in their loyalty program, but I don’t get upgraded very much [flights too full].  I appreciate, though, the on-line advance check in, the weather report for the city I’m traveling to, the food that Continental still serves in flight, the friendly and professional staff….  The overall experience is geared toward making my flying experience just a little easier.  I feel valued and I’m grateful.

 

Another organization that rocks for me is Coldwater Creek.   It sells attractive, fun, well-made and fairly priced apparel.  Its catalogs delight me with how outfits are put together, and colors and patterns coordinated.  The catalog cover inevitably features an inspiring nature shot – sometimes Georgia O’Keefe-like, sometimes more Monet-ish, but always beautiful and colorful.  The store experience itself is a delight:  nice flow, comfortable chairs, engaging outfits and a big focus on welcoming consumers and helping them, particularly during the changing room experience.  In fact, the store dedicates a store associate to the changing room to help facilitate the process, search for different sizes or coordinate options not to mention help entertain busy 5 year olds!   During my most recent experience, the woman in the changing room did all of that plus help me locate on-line the product I wanted in the correct size, and she then made sure that the on-line folks honored the in-store sale price on the item + no shipping charges because I couldn’t find the item in-store.  The dedicated and passionate sales help I encountered combined with all of the other aspects of my Coldwater Creek experience make this a treasured resource.

 

I bet you can come up with your own customer rocking examples that have earned your loyalty.  What about your own organization?  How do you nurture your customer relationships?  Do customers rock, or do they not – and how do you demonstrate that?

Posted in Customer experience | 1 Comment »

 
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