Customers Rock!

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

Archive for March, 2008

Age of Conversation Bum Rush is on Today!

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 29, 2008

ageofconversation-book.jpg Last spring, the first Age of Conversation (AOC) book was put together by a very smart group of bloggers, lead by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton.  Over 100 bloggers each contributed 400 words on one topic: conversation.  The result was a book highlighting the thinking of a lot of smart people in marketing, PR, and advertising from around the world.  I was fortunate enough to be included in the book.  All book proceeds went to Variety Children’s Charity.

Today, Chris Wilson is hosting an AOC Bum Rush to try and move the book up the charts at Amazon and raise as much money as possible for Variety.

So, if you have been waiting to buy your copy, or if you would like to give it as a thoughtful gift for customers or clients, today is your day to buy it and get the most impact from your money.

Use this link to buy the book at Amazon, then spread the word!  Follow Chris on Twitter or at his blog to watch it move up the charts and benefit Variety.

Enjoy!

Posted in Blogging, Book reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 5 – MyStarbucksIdea

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 28, 2008

paper-cutouts.jpg Part 5 of the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project with Jay Ehret.  Read Jay’s latest post chronicling his recent trip to Brazil and the contrast between Brazilian coffee houses and Starbucks (what a contrast!).   Obrigada, Jay!  (Thank you, in Portuguese.)

Shortly after my last Starbucks update, Starbucks announced “…new strategic initiatives to transform and innovate the customer experience” at their shareholder meeting.  For a quick run-down of those ideas, see Jay Ehret’s post on the announcement.  For a more in-depth analysis of those ideas, and whether they will really impact the customer, see John Moore’s post.

Controversy

The most controversial initiative is Starbucks foray into the world of social media: MyStarbucksIdea.  Launched about 10 days ago, it is a website where customers can go to share ideas for improving Starbucks, vote on ideas from other customers, and then hear back from Starbucks on which ideas they are considering and/or taking on board.  There are a group of Starbucks partners (employees) who are responding to and interacting with these ideas on the site. 

Is It the Right Thing?

From reading several blog posts on this subject since the launch of MyStarbucksIdea, many bloggers seem to feel this is merely a PR move for Starbucks.  To get a feel for who is griping about it and who likes it, see the AdAge article citing references to MyStarbucksIdea from both camps.  Mack Collier of The Viral Garden wrote a great post comparing MyStarbucksIdeas to Dell’s IdeaStorm.  Mack writes,

“The name is different, but Starbucks has unveiled a new suggestion site that looks an awful lot like Dell’s Ideastorm community. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

I agree, Mack!  Dell’s community has been very good at getting their customers to engage and present new lines of thinking.  Dell has been very good at listening to them and responding quickly.

We can spend a lot of time debating whether this was a good idea for Starbucks or whether they went about it the right way.  It may even have been better for them to engage with customers by doing more listening and commenting through other mechanisms that already exist.  Mack goes on to say something similar in his next post on the subject of Starbucks and customer engagement:

“What would be more effective for Starbucks, to start the MyStarbucksIdea where 48 Starbucks employees attempt to engage Starbucks customers via the site, or to have those same 48 employees attempt to engage SBUX customers OFF the site, a la Richard Binhammer? I would lean toward having 48 employees reach out to customers online in THEIR space if those 48 did even half as well in engaging and responding to customers as Richard does.”

What is the Goal?

Perhaps it depends on the goal of this new online community for Starbucks.  Lately, I have been reading my advance copy of Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff’s fabulous new book Groundswell(review coming soon here on Customers Rock!), and in it they discuss five goals for companies that want to engage with customers via social media: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.  I have assumed Starbucks created MyStarbucksIdea for some combination of listening to customers as well as for co-creating (embracing in Groundswell terminology) with customers.  

Starbucks can easily listen in to customer conversations many places online (and offline) to understand what customers want.  They can also engage in many places online to continue a conversation.  By creating the MyStarbucksIdea site, Starbucks sets the expectation that they want to enable a conversation, join in, and connect customers with each other.  Charlene makes a suggestion on her blog that Starbucks should better close the loop on these interactions.  She says,

“Close the loop, and you’ve not only got me hooked, but I’ll walk the extra block in NYC or drive the extra mile to go to you rather than another coffee house.”  

When I started this “Re-experiencing Starbucks” project with Jay Ehret, I sent feedback to Starbucks via their website, some good and some not.  They responded to the good but ignored the rest.  Hopefully on “their turf”, they will be open to all ideas and close the loop on the feedback they are receiving.

Customers are being very active on the site, adding quite a few ideas and doing a lot of voting on others.  The main ideas on the site right now are dominated with requests for free “loyalty” drinks as well as free WiFi.  These are consistent with some of the pain points expressed by customersin a recent global survey, highlighted by Meikah over at Customer Relations, where price was the number one pain point.  Perhaps once Starbucks gets past these long-desired customer concerns, the conversation will blossom into other areas as yet unexplored. 

What do you think?

Go check out the site and let me know what you think.  Is this site a good way for Starbucks to keep an ear open to customer requests?  Will it be effective for co-creating with customers?  Do you think it will succeed?

Starbucks – are you listening?

Related Customers Rock! posts in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project series:

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Part 2: Transformation Starting

Part 3: The Training

Part 4: Little Things

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing, social media, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

How do Customers Want to Engage in Social Media?

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 26, 2008

blog.jpg I spoke to a fabulous group of marketers last night at the iMarketers.org meeting, talking about social media and customer loyalty.  Before the talk, I spoke with a few of the attendees about how they were using social media to engage with their existing customers.  As I listened to some of the ways people were working with new media for “old” customers, I started to hear three main themes critical to success.

  • Ask customers – Don’t just assume your existing customers want to engage in a certain way or with certain media.  If the uptake isn’t what you expected, go back and ask your customer/client base whether they use this media.  If so, how do they use it?  If not, why not?  What might get them to use it?
  • Use trial and error- The adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” was never more true than in the age of social media.  One example we discussed last night was a sports and social club and their use of Facebook.  Members were definitely engaging through this medium, and the CEO was looking for ways to further get customers involved.  He thought the “Send someone a beer/martini/drink” application would be a perfect fit for this group of active adults, as the club often met in bars after the sports events were over.  It flopped.  However, putting photos of the sports contests and the after-sports happy hours was a big hit!
  • Make a plan- Don’t just blog or start using MySpace because everyone else is doing it.  Social media needs to be as well thought-out as the rest of your marketing mix, perhaps even more so because it is so quickly visible!  Set goals, create guidelines for your internal team, test with customers, and ask for feedback.  In other words, treat social media as a great marketing tool, using the same rigor as you would for direct mail or email (those are still great tools to use).

Do you have any social media tips for how to better engage with customers?  Come on out and share them here!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing, social media | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

How We Communicate Matters – It Really Does!

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 19, 2008

blah-sign.jpg I spent today with an auditorium full of non-profit marketers as I co-chaired the American Marketing Association’s 10th Annual Cause Conference.  There were many smart speakers who shared ideas about branding, marketing, and even social media marketing that Not For Profit organizations can take back and use immediately in their jobs.  The day’s most amusing speaker had to be Elaine Fogel.  Elaine is a senior contributor for MarketingProfs Daily Fix, and today she previewed her lunchtime keynote speech on marketing mistakes.  See her post for two examples of copy-writing gaffes.

How you communicate with your customers/clients/donors is critical to how they view your organization.  Whether the communication is written or verbal, brand impressions are made at each interaction.  So – take a few minutes to review that email  you are sending to multiple clients.  Have someone else read over your copy for that newsletter article.  Check those call center scripts for plain English!

Make each interaction count.  Your customers will thank you for it.

Fun detour: If you enjoy reading other people’s English errors or just like word play, you should grab a copy of one of Richard Lederer’s books.  His book Anguished English is a riot!  That said, in some ways it is kind of disturbing as well…

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer service, Marketing, social media | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 4 – Little Things

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 16, 2008

starbucks-sign-march-medium.jpg Part 4 of the ongoing Starbucks Project with Jay Ehret and myself.  Here is Jay’s fourth installment about getting involved at Starbucks – he is!

Seven Bold Moves 

Recently, Howard Schultz, CEO at Starbucks, sent out his 10th Transformation Agenda, describing to Starbucks partners (employees) the results of a “global summit” of Starbucks leaders.  One of the outcomes was this list of Seven Bold Moves that Starbucks will be making as they re-focus on customers, coffee, and partners:

1.      Be the undisputed coffee authority

2.      Re-engage and inspire our partners

3.      Re-ignite our emotional attachment with customers

4.      Expand our global presence — while making each store the heart of the local neighborhood

5.      Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact

6.      Create innovative growth platforms worthy of our coffee

7.      Deliver a sustainable economic model

Emotional Attachment

I love the third “bold move”, re-igniting emotional attachment with customers.  I have seen new branding at all Starbucks to make it look more human-inspired and friendly.  Over the coming weeks and months, Jay and I (and others) will be watching and looking for the building of emotional attachment and relationships.

On the Big Biz Show this past week, along with the co-hosts Sully and Russ, I asked listeners whether they had seen any changes at their local Starbucks.  One woman called in to share that the customer service had definitely improved at her Starbucks.  I have also seen improvements along these lines, and in talking to baristas here in San Diego, they said much of the recent training was focused on how to take care of customers.

My husband recently had to wait for Starbucks to brew his decaf coffee, which he didn’t find out until after he had paid.  The barista apologized and gave him a nice card, good for any drink – complimentary.  Although these cards have been around for awhile, I have never seen one handed out.  Perhaps, in the quest for making the perfect drink for customers, Starbucks is encouraging these to be used more frequently (baristas, any comment on that?).

See the Difference

The most telling sign that Starbucks is putting laser focus on the customer experience will be whether we can truly see a difference.  Slowly but surely, I believe I am seeing little things.  What about you?  Have you seen any difference in the Starbucks Experience?  Send me your thoughts to becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com, or leave a comment.  I will catalog the changes in my next Starbucks update.

(Picture credit: me, taken at our local Starbucks – spelling of the word “Caramel” may be intentional…?!)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Bungie Rocks! Fixing (someone else’s) Customer Service Error

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 12, 2008

nathaniels-xbox-360.jpg When a person sends in a device to customer service for a repair, there is a certain amount of trust that is given by the customer. They trust it will be fixed.  They trust it will come back in one piece.  And in the case of a loyal Halo video game fanatic, he trusted it would be returned to him will all his memorabilia still intact! (Hat tip to bs angel at Hawty McBloggy , who gets full credit for the info on the story details and these images.)

The Problem

Nathaniel is a fan of the Halo video game franchise created by Bungie.  When he purchased his XBox 360 (pre-ordered it!), he started taking it with him to get autographs from the folks involved with creating his favorite game.  He had accumulated quite a few autographs from the gaming studio and the XBox 360 team, in addition to some artwork from notable gaming artists, which were written in black permanent ink directly onto his gaming console (see photo at top for a view of some of the goodies he had on there).  Notice I keep using the word “had”.  Nathaniel’s beloved XBox 360 console stopped working, and although he debated about it, Nathaniel sent it in to Microsoft to have it repaired. 

To ensure his valuable console would be returned unscathed, he called customer support at Microsoft to see if they could promise to protect this decorated casing.  They said they wouldn’t harm it and would return it the same way it came to them.  Not convinced, Nathaniel also included a letter with his XBox 360 when he sent it in asking that the technicians be careful not to smudge the artwork.  He additionally requested that if the inside of the console needed to be replaced, would they please be so kind as to return his original case with new innards.

Crushed! 

Well, Nathaniel did get back his original case (the serial numbers match his original one), but it was wiped completely clean.  No autographs.  No cool artwork.  Only a few hints of permanent marker remained where previously there had been treasured memorabilia.  To read the full story, you can go over to Hawty McBloggy, who documented the letter that Nathaniel sent and the results in this first post on the subject.

Now hang in there with me, Customers Rock! readers, because even though this story took a negative turn, the ending totally rocks!

Nathaniel was crushed, as you can imagine.  The Hawty McBloggy blog decided to help him share his story with the gaming community to make sure none of them got stuck like he did.   At the time, all of Nathaniel’s questions to Microsoft were going unanswered.  The gaming community, however, rallied around Nathaniel – there are over 700 comments to bs angel’s original story on this!

Heroes to the Rescue

halo-helmet.jpg Bungie Studios, the creators of Halo (and their most recent version, Halo 3), also heard about what happened.  Even though they weren’t remotely responsible for this error made in console tech support, they wanted to do something about it to help make it right.  Only a few days later, a huge box arrived on Nathaniel’s doorstep – absolutely stuffed with cool Bungie “swag”.   Bungie is well known by the gaming community for treating their fans like royalty, but this one must be a record, even for them!  Here is a list of what he received (documented by bs angel):

Included in the Halo swag bag were :

  • Legendary Edition Helmet signed by most–if not all–of the studio staff (see photo)
  • Halo 3 Soundtrack (two disc) signed by Marty O’Donnel (with “DO NOT ERASE!” written under his name)
  • Bungie Jacket
  • Bungie T-Shirt
  • Halo 3 Messenger Bag
  • Two Halo 3 Limited Edition Wireless Controllers (one covenant, one human)
  • Halo 3 Faceplate and Skins for Xbox 360
  • Four McFarlane Action Figures (MC, EVA Spartan, Brute Chieftan, Jackal Sniper)
  • Halo Actionclix Preview pack (Target exclusive sticker on the front)
  • Halo Actionclix Game Pack 4
  • Halo 3 Wall Graffix
  • Halo 3: Ghosts of Onyx Novel
  • Halo Graphic Novel
  • Halo 3 Wristband
  • Halo 3 Hackeysack

Nathaniel was overwhelmed by their generosity and the support of the whole gaming community.  Here is his reaction:

“And finally, to the staff of Bungie Studios: I cannot thank you enough for the outpouring of support that you have lavished upon me in the aftermath of the release of my story. Long have I known of your dedication to your fans and community, but I find this single act of kindness mind boggling. Apart from the fact that a few of you had signatures adorning my console, you had no involvement in what occurred. As such, you have far surpassed any response I could have anticipated. I don’t think I could ever repay you for this.”

This unexpected response from Bungie totally rocks!

The Community’s Response

Yes, Bungie Studios now has a fan for life in Nathaniel, and in his friends I’m sure, as he will be spreading the word far and wide.  bs angel’s blog has also helped to spread the word – both the sad saga as well as the happy ending.  There are over 200 comments to the second post detailing the “swag” sent by Bungie, and most of them are Bungie fans saying how cool the company is for doing this!  Here are some sample (verbatim) comments:

  • bungie rocks. i’ve never seen a company so in touch with their fan-base before.
  • Just more confirmation why we all love Bungie so much.
  • It would be a massive boon to society as a whole, if somehow most of the corporate world would follow Bungie’s lead. They seem to always give back that huge amount of extra.
  • Good Job Bungie.
    Handled like a company that appreciates its customers.
  • Class all the way.
    It’s little gestures like this that make a good business truly great.
  • More companies need to do more things like this. The world is losing sight that back in the day “mom and pop” shops would do things like this all the time.

And these comments, folks, are only a few from this gaming community.  Bungie just created a huge list of raving fans by how they responded to this incident. 

How did Bungie do it?

- They were listening to their customers, using social media.

- They had previously built up a strong community (see their website for forums, insider information, and an open and honest attitude including Bungie podcasts, photos, and webcams!)

- They decided to “do the right thing”, even though they were not the ones in the wrong (the console manufacturer made the error, not the video game studio)

- Bungie has prioritized customers as a critical success factor for their business – and has acted on it.

Clearly, Customers Rock! for Bungie Studios.  Way to go, Bungie!

Posted in Community, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customers Rock!, Gaming, social media | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

New eBook on Social Media

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 7, 2008

ebook-solis.jpg Last month, I got a chance to meet another blogger, Brian Solis of PR 2.0, face to face in San Francisco.  We had a great conversation, and the next day he asked me if I would be willing to collaborate on his upcoming eBook on, what else, social media. 

Here we are one month later, and Brian just launched his eBook today!  It is titled, “Customer Service: The Art of Listening and Engagement Through Social Media.”  Brian was nice enough to give me billing right on the front cover – thanks, Brian!

If you haven’t read any of Brian’s writings, then you should definitely pick up this eBook.  He and I come from a very similar perspective on many things, and his thinking is simply brilliant.  If you have read Brian before, then you need to pick this up, as you know what you will be getting – lots of good information!  It relates very well to my three key points from my post earlier this week on social media and relationships:

  • Social media is one tool in the toolbox for interacting with customers.  It will work well if customers are willing to engage in that medium!
  • Social media is a great tool to help create and strengthen relationships.
  • It is all about the people.

You can download the eBook from Brian’s site or from right here at Customers Rock!

PDF version

Word version

Let us know what you think, and if you have any other examples of using social media to engage and interact with customers, please send them along.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, eBooks, social media | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Customer Service – The Face of the Company

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 6, 2008

happy-sad-faces.jpg I had two very different customer service experiences today, one right after the other.  The first was a great example of what not to do; it took place at an office supplies store.  Directly after that interaction, I went to another store next door and saw an example of a nice service experience; it took place at a pet supplies store.

What Not To Do 

After picking up my merchandise, I went to the cashier and waited for him to finish whatever he was doing on the register/computer screen.  Without looking up, he asked me, “Do you have a rewards card?”  I didn’t, and he completed the transaction.  He then asked me, “Do you want a bag for this?”  I did, and off I went.  The whole thing was done in 13 words, and the cashier never looked at me at all.  I may as well have used a self-checkout machine (if they had only had one!).

What To Do

As I brought my merchandise to the front, the cashier saw me coming and smiled at me.  She said hello and asked me how I was doing today.  She then proceeded to chit-chat about the weather (warm and sunny), asked me for my rewards card (everyone is doing these, huh?), and finished up the transaction.  We had a real, human-to-human interaction, with real conversation.

A Quick Analysis

It should be fairly easy to see the differences between these two experiences.  I don’t think I will return to the first store; I will find somewhere else to buy my office supplies (online, perhaps?).  The personnel seemed more interested in their own internal activities than in serving the customer.  The second experience was friendly, courteous, and professional.  The personnel there were attentive and interested in serving the customer.

As I have said before, it all comes down to the personal touch.  In the competitive retail space, the personal touch is critical – we don’t make relationships with brands, we make them with people.  Every interaction with the customer is another brand experience, and each person who touches a customer is marketing that brand through their customer service.

A Third Example

One can go too far with “friendly and chit-chatty.”  I was at a clothing store a few weekends ago, and one cashier (a young man) was very talkative.  He really seemed to care about the customers and talked about everything like he was an old friend.  Nice, but it was a little excessive – some of the people in line behind us asked him to hurry up and not spend so much time chatting.   We really have to look at our customer experiences through the eyes of our customers… and to most customers, he may have been a little too friendly and talkative.

Little Things

I heard an interesting quote on the radio today which sums this all up: “The little things aren’t a lot – they are everything.”  Little things like looking a customer in the eye, greeting them, smiling, and carrying on a human conversation go a long way towards marketing a company/store as friendly and welcoming.  And it is cheaper than all those advertisements, right?!

(Photo credit: www.stockxpert.com)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Social Media Live!

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 4, 2008

dsc_0326-medium.jpgbloggers-medium.jpg 

The more I talk about and use social media, the more I have been stressing a few key points.

  • Social media is one tool in the toolbox for interacting with customers.  It will work well if customers are willing to engage in that medium!
  • Social media is a great tool to help create and strengthen relationships.
  • It is all about the people.

In my recent talk on Social Media and Customer Loyalty for the Direct Marketing Association, I used the case study of the Washington Humane Society.  Tara de Nicolas is their director of marketing, primary author of their blog, and director of their social media strategy – which includes FacebookMySpace, flickr, and YouTube, for the moment.  (For more info on their blog, see Geoff Livingston’s post where he interviewed Tara - thanks for the info, Geoff!)  Tara and her team use their social media channels to connect with potential adopters, families that have already adopted, and donors.  Quite a community has developed, with the photos of the WHS staff being one of the areas that are most widely viewed.  As Tara told me in my interview with her, it is all about connecting with the people and putting a face on the Society.  Way to go, Tara and team!

Blogging is also about connecting with others, mostly online.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to connect live with two wonderful blogging friends: Doug Hanna of ServiceUntitled and Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Blog: see the photos at the top of the blog post!

As much fun as it is to send emails and connect via blogs, there is nothing like a good ole fashioned face-to-face meeting to strengthen relationships.  Doug and I had the opportunity to connect in San Francisco for the Customer Service is the New Marketing conference, put on by Get Satisfaction, where we both gave workshops.  Toby and I met up for dinner when she came to San Diego to give a workshop for the American Marketing Association.  Both meet-ups were great fun, and I could see the blog personalities in the person, very clearly.  Toby even sent me a nice thank-you note afterwards, with a small toss of her trademark pink boa.  Thanks, Toby!!

A whole group of marketing and PR bloggers is getting together next month in New York City for a Blogger Social, put on by CK and Drew McLellan – wish I could be there!  Steve Woodruff is even profiling all the bloggers who are attending to help them get to know each other better.  You guys all rock!

Social media is indeed about building relationships and making existing bonds stronger.  It is a great way to get to know customers, as well as to make your organization seem more personal and authentic.  Use it as part of your marketing strategy, but be sure to complement it with the old-fashioned way of building relationships – face time – where you can.

Posted in Blogging, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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