Customers Rock!

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

Archive for November, 2007

Speaker Tips

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 28, 2007

speech.jpg Many of us are often called upon to give speeches.  I do it on a regular basis and find it quite fun.  Others of us are not too keen to get up in front of an audience, whether at a conference, a customer presentation, or at an end-of-year employee gathering. 

C. B. Whittemore, blogger extraordinaire at Flooring the Consumer, came up with 10 Tips to Not Trip Up a Speech.  I especially like her first one (also applies if you are doing any singing!):

1. Never eat a banana immediately before a speech. For that matter, avoid dairy products, too. Both contribute to a distracting need to clear one’s throat during a presentation.

Here are my tips to add to her list.

  1. Find a friendly face in the audience.  You should “work the room”, of course, but in so doing you might find a face or two that are frowning.  Don’t take it personally!  Find a friendly face and keep coming back to that person for encouragement.
  2. Always keep a mint or hard candy with you at the podium.  Sometimes a sip of water doesn’t clear the “frog” in your throat!
  3. Minimize the number of bullets on each slide.  No one can read a slide with too many words on it!  Three bullets of short phrases are all that is necessary.
  4. Include something humorous at strategic points during your speech. A light laugh is always good to keep people focused!
  5. If you are comfortable in front of the crowd, get out from behind the podium lecturn!  A bit of wandering makes your presentation more visually interesting. (I know, C. B. had this one, too, but I think it is worth mentioning again.)
  6. Turn off your lavaliere microphone if you go to the bathroom before your speech.  ‘Nuff said.

All you public speakers out there, what are your top tips for a successful speech?  Add them to the comments or to C.B.’s post, and let us know what makes you shine!

(Photo: tomml)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Staying Top of Mind with Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 26, 2007

remember.jpg Chris Brown over at Branding and Marketing is challenging us to come up with some tips for staying top of mind with customers.  My blog post this past Friday on creating a customer communication plan is an integral part of staying top of mind.  Chris gave three very specific suggestions for keeping in touch with customers to help them remember you, as well as these ideas for how to communicate:

  • It shouldn’t take a lot of time to execute
  • It shouldn’t feel too much like an ad or in your face
  • It should help your customers or potential customers think of your services

Here are my three tips.

  • Quarterly “How are things going?” contact.  This is a good reason to let a continuing customer know you are thinking about them, and it will also prompt thinking about you.  Additionally, if there are any concerns, you will most likely hear about them.   Use phone, email, or in-person communications depending on the customer preference.
  • Send a newsletter with interesting, relevant information.  You can do this via a newsletter, if that is a way your customers want to hear from you.  We had a realtor who sent this type of newsletter monthly (in the mail), and I always stopped to read about the seasonal ideas, interesting stats, and of course, their latest customer testimonials! 
  • Send pertinent industry information.  This method is easy.  Just send along a link to a blog post or industry story you read that you think will be interesting for them.  You can do this while you are reviewing newsletters, blogs, or top news stories online.  If it is a blog post, and your customer doesn’t normally read blogs, you might also want to share why you read that particular blog.

What are your top three tips for staying top of mind?  Add them to the comments here or on Chris’s post, and let’s see what we can put into action for 2008!

(Photo: bsilvia)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

‘Tis the Season: Holiday Giving

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 23, 2007

christmas-hearts.jpg At this time of year, companies think about their customers with a holiday card, and for some customers even a gift.  But customer service isn’t a once-a-year phenomenon.  It is year-round. 

What message is sent to the customer that only hears from a company once per year?  Put another way, what do you think about those holiday cards that are the only communication you receive all year (other than bills)?  Customer relationships require ongoing care and feeding in order to be maintained or to grow.  The same can be said for mentoring junior staff, employee reviews, and many other things.  They should not be once per year events but a continual process.

Here are a few tips for creating a customer contact plan for existing customers.

  1. Be sure to understand your customers’ preferences.  How do they want to be communicated with?  Email?  Print?  Phone?  Facebook?  Utilize their preferred method of interaction; it is probably different for different customers.
  2. Understand what business your customers are doing with your company.  Have they been customers for a long time?  Is this their first 30 days of doing business with you?  Have they just referred new business to you?  Communications should be adjusted accordingly and should acknowledge that level of business.  Most customers want to know you see them as more than just a number/name in an email list.
  3. Intersperse up-sell and cross-sell communications with “just because” communications.  At least quarterly, call or contact customers to see how things are going and check in on their satisfaction levels.  Customers are usually happy that you want to know how they are doing.

Go ahead and send out those holiday greetings.  As you put together the finishing touches on your plans for this upcoming year, however, make sure you are creating a plan for how you want to contact your customers throughout the months that follow.

(Photo: zocky)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Giving Thanks

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 21, 2007

dscn1715-small.jpg As America gets ready for our annual Thanksgiving holidays, our thoughts turn to what we are thankful for. 

Be thankful for your customers  Without them, you wouldn’t have a business!  Take a minute, right now, and let two or three of your best customers know you are thankful for them (without trying to up-sell or cross-sell them).  You can write a thank-you note (here are some suggestions from Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer).  You can call them.  Just let them know they are important to you!

Be thankful for your employees  Many of them are your company’s face to the customer.  As I mentioned in the story about my Disney World experience, employees who are empowered and who feel great about where they work can turn that into positive experiences for customers.  It will ultimately also help with employee retention (for other thoughts on making a difference from employees, see these ideas from Lori Deschene at BNET).  Let your employees know they matter to you!

Be thankful for your business network  We often meet many, many people and collect many more business cards, but have we stopped and thanked these folks for how they help us?   Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent has a great post on how to make the most of your network (hint: don’t do it for what you will get back!).  Let  your contacts know you value their relationship!

I am very thankful for all of you, my Customers Rock! readers.  Without you, I would be talking to myself!  Thank you so much for your support and loyalty.

Now to all my American friends: Happy Thanksgiving!  And to the rest of you, think about what you are thankful for.

Related Posts

Thanking Others (expressing thanks)

Customer Language (using the preferred communication methods of customers)

(Photo taken by me at Disney World, EPCOT at the end of the Test Track attraction.)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

BrandingWire Gets an Overhaul

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 19, 2007

bw_logo_med.gif Many of you know that I have been part of an ongoing team of bloggers who writes monthly for BrandingWire.  Below is the list of posts I have contributed to this effort to date:

Growing the Business: Coffee House Blues about branding a small coffee company

Coming back for more in Estes Park, Colorado about helping this destination town shine up its image

Car ownership made easy about customer service in the auto sales industry (with tips!)

It’s Cool to be a Geek about making IT services more exciting

BrandingWire: Helping a Consulting Business about better serving consulting clients

This has been a lot of fun – so much fun, in fact, that we are going to start opening it up for others to join in!  There are two ways to get involved.

1) Send us your marketing or branding challenge.  We love to work on real-life examples (like the IT services company or Estes Park).  The benefit to you is gaining outside perspective on your case, with hopefully some great suggestions for improvement.  Anyone can submit a challenge or respond to a challenge.

2) Chime in on any upcoming BrandingWire challenge.  We would love to include you in the posse!

For more information, as well as examples of marketing briefs for case submittal, check out our group site.

In the meantime, tell me what you think.  Do you like the BrandingWire format we are using?  What would you want to see to improve it?  Would you be interested in participating?  Drop us your thoughts in the comments, and together, BrandingWire will keep heading down the road to more great ideas!

Here is a list of the other BrandingWire authors; you can tell them what you think, too!

Olivier Blanchard,  Derrick Daye, Lewis Green, Gavin Heaton, Martin Jelsema, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, Kevin Dugan and Steve Woodruff.

Posted in B2B Marketing, BrandingWire, Marketing | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Customers Rock! Disney Style: Exceeding Customer Expectations

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 16, 2007

mom-and-mickey.jpg When I was visiting Disney World recently, I had a great experience with the Disney tours.  We can all learn something about the importance of customer relations from this story, in addition to lessons about employee empowerment.

The Question

I was on my own for one day in the Magic Kingdom before my conference started.  Inspired by C.B. Whittemore’s great overview of some of the key areas shown in a “behind the scenes” tour(detailed in her blog Flooring the Consumer), I decided to see if I could take one while I was there.  I went to Guest Relations at City Hall and asked if there was room on their Keys to the Kingdom tour.  All 20 spots were already booked up, but the very friendly person at Guest Relations suggested I wait and see if a spot might open up (people get sick, etc).  For the next 30 minutes, I stood quietly in the Guest Relations office, chatting casually with the Cast Members (Disney term for employees), and keeping my fingers crossed (it was raining buckets, so I was hopeful).

The Surprise Answer

Five minutes before the tour was to begin, one of the Cast Members came out and told me I was on the tour.  “Did someone cancel?”, I asked.  “No.  You have been so good about waiting patiently, we decided we could make our tour 21 people today.”  I was thrilled!  But wait – there’s more to the story.  The Cast Member continued:

“And, since you have been such a good sport about this, and you have been so polite to us, we are bringing you on the tour compliments of Disney.  What would you like for lunch – it’s included!”

Wow, I was totally impressed!  This was a $60 tour, and these Cast Members had been empowered to give it to me for free.  My expectations were wildly exceeded, and I have been raving about the tour ever since.    This was truly surprise and delight for me.  I was thrilled to go on the tour, but to give it to me for free was amazing.  I was indeed floored.

The Tour

My tour guide, Mark, did a fabulous job, and I spent 5 hours engrossed in the stories he was telling and gawking at the sites I got to see: behind the scenes where they keep the parade floats, the giant water tank that makes up Splash Mountain, the Pirates of the Caribbean building (from the outside of it), the impressive garbage collection system (where they sort trash by hand), some of the characters before they go “on stage” in their prep area, and the amazing “utilidor”, or employee tunnel system that runs under the entire park.  We also got to go on 3 rides accompanied by our guide who shared some of the “secrets” behind them.  Very cool!

The Lessons

There are lessons here both for customers as well as for companies.

Customers: There is never any need to get overly upset when the answer is “no”.  Being polite and treating others with respect is the best way to get what you are hoping for.  Customer service reps are people, too – and sometimes, their hands truly are tied.  Other times, like at Disney World, they are empowered to “make your dreams come true”.

Companies: How are you empowering your employees to surprise and delight your customers?  It makes the customer feel great, and the employee also feels great about how they can help a customer.  It doesn’t always have to be about giving things away for free.  It is most often the little things that make a difference – like taking one more person on a tour, or sending a thank-you note.  A big smile really helps, too!

For more conversations about surprise, check out Andy Nulman’s blog, Pow! Right Between the Eyes!  You’ll be glad you did.

Related posts:

Designing the Disney Experience

Little things make a difference for customers

More little things that make a difference

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customers Rock! | 18 Comments »

Making a Difference for Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 13, 2007

last-slide.jpg I gave a seminar this morning called “Can you hear me?  From Communication to Conversation to Conversion” for the San Diego chapter of the Direct Marketing Association.  One of the exercises I gave my participants was to share one of the best customer service experiences they have had lately.   What kind of experiences do you think stood out for them?

The interactions that stood out were those where someone took the time to go the extra mile for the customer

  • An employee went out of their way to help a customer.
  • A customer service rep quickly and efficiently solved a problem – at no extra cost.
  • A customer who was part of an “elite” customer loyalty program received red-carpet treatment (unexpectedly).
  • An employee showed appreciation for the customer.

 As the stories unfolded, here were the common elements in a great customer experience:

  • Customer recognition
  • Surprise and delight
  • Customer expectations met – and exceeded

Organizations wanting to create great experiences for their customers need to bake these types of elements into their planning across all customer touchpoints: sales, marketing, service, as well as websites, retailers/distributors, and the product/service itself.

Many companies are in the process of finalizing their plans for this upcoming fiscal year.  Don’t forget to prioritize the customer experience in those plans!  If you don’t, your competitors most likely will.

Posted in Customer experience | 1 Comment »

Customer learnings in the hot tub

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 8, 2007

hot-tub.jpg I regularly advocate spending time listening to your customers at the locations where they “hang out”.  In many cases, that would be in online forums or chat rooms, on Facebook or MySpace, or on blogs.  In the case of Disneyworld guests, it could be in the hot tub!

Recently, I stayed 4 nights at a Disney resort in Florida.  At the end of a long day, with feet aching, we headed to the hotel’s jacuzzi by the pool to soothe tired muscles for another day of theme park exploration.  What interesting conversations take place there!

We learned which theme park to visit early in the morning and where the crowds would be.  We learned which hotel restaurants to visit, and which ones not to (and why).  We learned about using the pools at other Disney hotels.  We learned about what other Disney guests liked and didn’t like about each park: rides, restaurants, shops, lines, shows – you name it, they discussed it.  We were definitely influenced by this unexpected word-of-mouth.

What valuable information that would all be for Disney!  Yes, we were surveyed at the park by a very nice lady, and of course, I answered the follow-up survey they sent me via email.  But I believe that Disney’s operations team would find the most open and honest information bubbling out of their guests if they went to any of the Disney resort hotels and listened in at the hot tubs.

Where do your “guests” congregate?  Are you taking advantage of those opportunities to hear candid feedback from them?  Tell me about the most interesting place you listen for customer feedback.  Jacuzzi, anyone?

(Photo credit: DarrenGree)

Posted in Customer experience | 6 Comments »

How to Take Care of Existing Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 6, 2007

bird-in-hand.jpg Business is tough to juggle sometimes.  We have to focus on two main areas when it comes to our customers: bringing new customers in and taking care of existing customers.  The old idiom, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” comes to mind here.  I like this definition from the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Third Edition, 2002). 

The things we already have are more valuable than the things we only hope to get.

From my experience, many companies spend most of their time and budget focusing on the sale to new customers and end up neglecting their existing ones.  This works in the short-term, but eventually these companies find themselves losing more customers out the back door than they bring in the front door. 

Example

Here is a hypothetical example.   Company A, a business-to-business  manufacturer, is growing rapidly and has had a big year-end push on getting new customers to purchase their product.  During their latest promotion, Company A saw a lot of interest in their product and was able to acquire several new business customers.  As the promotion drew to a close, the focus remained on bringing in those last few customers who had expressed interest but weren’t yet “in the fold”.  Company A succeeded in beating their promotion goals by bringing in additional business for the year.

Was Company A successful?  Yes, with their goal of bringing in new customers.  Were they successful in taking care of existing customers?  Yes.  They didn’t lose sight of those that had already purchased before and during this big push because Company A has a team of people that focus on keeping and growing existing business.

Five Tips

Here are a few tips for companies to ensure they aren’t letting go of the “bird in the hand” while pursuing those in the bush:

  • Be sure to thank customers when they buy from you.  Whether products or services, you want customers to know you appreciate their business!  If possible, a personal thank-you card is best when you have a small or targetted group of customers. 
  • Recognize a return customer.  If a customer has purchased from you before, acknowledge that in your thank-you note.  A customer doesn’t feel valued when they get a note saying “Thanks for trying us.” when they have been buying from you for 5 years!
  • Properly welcome a new customer.  This could be a customer who is new to you altogether, or they may be new to this part of your company.  Best practice organizations provide “welcome kits” to help customers navigate the system or get started.  It could be as simple as the name of their account manager along with that person’s phone number.  The kit is usually sent after the “thank you” note goes out.
  • Follow up with existing customers on a regular basis.  This could be an email or note to customers (especially useful if you have a lot of customers, as many consumer-focused companies do) or a quick phone call to see how things are going.   Use whichever interaction approach your customer prefers.  NOTE: This is not a sales call!  The best way to turn off existing customers is to constantly pressure them for business (see Seth Godin’s post today on Spam for examples of how not to do it, especially his Dell example). 
  • Look for ways to improve the relationship.  Let your customers know you truly value their relationship with you by asking them how it could be made better.  Needs change.  Budgets shrink and grow.  By keeping in touch with your customers and understanding their needs and preferences, you will be aware of these changes and can react to meet those new needs.

Taking care of existing customers can’t be left to random chance.  It also can’t be left only to great customer service personnel who react when there is a problem.  Taking care of customers needs to be an ongoing, proactive part of the business.  This will take time and budget. 

But it’s worth it: just ask Harley-Davidson!  They were the subject of one of my first blog posts here at Customers Rock!, and they have legendary customer loyalty.  They are truly a great Customers Rock! company.

(Picture credit: Erika Aoyama, November 16, 2002)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 13 Comments »

Bathroom Blogfest: Door Signs

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 2, 2007

An important part of crafting a great customer experience is attention to detail.  Today I am sharing some very creative signs which indicate the location of the bathroom door.  They all align with the theming of the establishment or area in which they are found.  Which one do you like best?

Disney doors:

Disney’s California Adventure: This is the door sign that went with my earlier post on the Route 66 bathroom.  It is shaped like a USA highway sign.

dscn1666-small.jpg

Disneyland at Space Mountain: This sign is found on the women’s room door which is at the exit to the Space Mountain rollercoaster.  As the coaster has outer-space themes, so does the door.  Good for large and small aliens to use.

dscn1674-small.jpg

DisneyWorld at EPCOT World Showcase: In case you haven’t been to this Disney theme park, EPCOT in Orlando, Florida has two main areas.  The first is FutureWorld, and the second is the World Showcase.  Several countries are represented there.  These two signs come from the Norwegian pavilion and the USA pavilion, respectively.

dscn1691-small.jpgdscn1727-small.jpg

Non-Disney:

Samba Room, Orlando, Florida

This restaurant serves Cuban cuisine in an Asian-fusion style.  I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the doors to their men’s and women’s rooms (respectively).  Clever!

romeo.jpgjulieta.jpg

The Bathroom Experience

Have you considered how even the smallest of details can speak volumes about your establishment?   I hope this blogfest has given you some ideas to consider.  Who knows; maybe I will feature your bathroom in next year’s blogfest!  Feel free to send me pictures throughout the year, and I will credit you and your establishment.

Visit the Bathroom Blogfest group blog, as well as the other Blogfest bloggers:

Posted in Bathroom blogfest, Customer experience | 5 Comments »

 
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