Customers Rock!

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

Archive for April, 2008

Focus on the Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 30, 2008

Lamps at the Grand Bazaar There are so many ways we can focus on our customer.  I wanted to share a very cool post from one of my favorite bloggers, Doug Meacham of NextUp.  Doug is one of the first bloggers I started a conversation with back when I began this blog at the end of 2006 (he has also been one of those trying to get me to start Twittering – I am getting closer, Doug!).

Doug’s post is a great list from another Doug, Doug Fleener at Retail Contrarian, sharing 50 ways to improve the customer experience (note – there are actually 51 – added value).  This is near and dear to my heart!  Most of these apply directly to retail and consumer-based businesses, but they should also be considered for other customer-friendly folks.  Here are a few of the items that I especially liked:

“8. Send handwritten thank-you notes. Come on, do you really do it?”

Come on, really.  Do it!

“15. If you can’t fulfill a customer’s need, suggest another company that may be able to do so.”

Zappos.com does this if they can’t find the shoes you are looking for.  Awesome customer service.

“46. Partner with restaurants and other stores to present exclusive discounts and offers to your customers. (A win-win-win. The other company gets incremental revenue, your customer saves money, and you’re the nice person doing it for both of them.)”

I like this one because, through partnering, your company is able to offer added value (there’s that phrase again!) to customers. This can be a key factor in increasing customer loyalty.  I heard a recent example of this in some interviews I was conducting for a retail client.  The retailer’s store is on a street in a shopping district with several other retailers.  In order to give a reward to loyal customers, the street is holding a drawing for Mother’s Day.  The lucky winner will get one prize from each store or restaurant on the block, including free meals, spa treatments, and clothes.  How fun is that?

Of course, as I mentioned to the Doug(s) in my comments, the best way to take care of your customers is to do the above within the framework of a proactive strategy.   Planning for a great customer experience will make all the difference between “random acts of customer service” and a consistent experience. 

What works for you?  Please share some of your best customer experience ideas with us either by email or in the comments on any of the above blogs.  I will be sure to link to you here at Customers Rock!

(Photo credit: jchambers) (Note – WordPress.com’s photo uploader isn’t working; this photo is coming soon!)  Finally working!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Advertising Trends – It is All About You

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 28, 2008

 Something different drove past us this weekend here in the San Diego area: a Safeco-sponsored truck with a moped, cello, and chair on pedestals.  Not just a picture of these things, but the actual objects.  It certainly caught my eye, and we snapped a quick shot of it with a cell phone (yes, the text in the photo is in Spanish – the other side was in English, but we would’ve had to run into traffic to get that one!).

I have noticed more and more advertising, from television to radio to mobile billboards touting the ability for customers to make it personal.  I grew up on “Have it Your Way at Burger King” jingles, so this may not seem new.  Here at Customers Rock!, we always encourage companies to customize their offerings (in the most efficient way, of course).  My observation is that companies are finally starting to see this as a differentiator and are advertising it.

However, it won’t really make the desired impact unless the customer knowledge gained from working on personalizing products and services is used to improve the customer’s experience – leading to a longer relationship.  In a slowing economy, the strength of these relationships will help companies weather the difficult times.  Not slick ads (although this truck really did look pretty cool!).

What do you think?

(Photo credit: T. Carroll)

Posted in Advertising, B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Right-Selling Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 22, 2008

 I read an interesting article on “Scientific Selling”, which started with the following tagline:

“The way in which a customer is handled has much to do with results obtained.”

How true that is!  It goes on to discuss how a customer cannot be “up-sold” unless that customer is thoroughly understood.

“The worst evil in selling is the action of the man who merely gives the customer what he asks for.  The man who does this is not a salesman, he is just a clerk.”

This article, by the way, is from the New York Times and was printed June 18, 1922!  It still rings true today. 

We need to understand not just who our customers are and what they say they want, but we also need to understand how they are currently using our products and services.  Yesterday, I spoke with Nancy Arter and Suzanne Obermire at RRW Consulting (their blog here) about the marketing basic of “right selling” customers.  We agreed that the most-satisfied customers tend to be those who are using the products and services which are a best fit for their needs.

For example, when I was at HP, I worked in the division where we marketed service subscriptions for HP’s mainframe computers to businesses.  Part of the service subscription included software updates and the ability to contact the call center (this was before eSupport was prevalent!).  At the end of the year, a customer could decide whether to renew their subscription.  If they never called in with a problem, they might have felt that they didn’t get value from their investment.  The most successful subscription services salespeople (say that three times fast!) were those that helped a business find the right level of service for the next year, rather than trying to renew them on the same (under-utilized) level of service.

Some of you may be thinking, hey, they left money on the table!  You should just try and get the most from the customer.  This, readers, is short-term thinking – trying to maximize the amount of revenues this quarter or year.  This type of thinking backfires when a customer realizes they have been over-paying for services they don’t use, and they then get upset that they weren’t told they could have switched to a subscription which was a better fit. (Does this sound familiar – cell phone plans come to mind…)

The long-term viewpoint says we want our customers to have the right level of service.  That may mean that they reduce the level of service they have with us.  However, if it is the right level of service, the customer will ultimately be more satisfied.  Customer satisfaction equates to long-term loyalty, which equates to increased positive word of mouth.

And that is what right-selling is all about!

(Flickr photo credit: TimParkinson)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing, word of mouth | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Groundswell Book Review – Fabulous!

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 17, 2008

I just finished reading the book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (analysts at Forrester), and what a book it is!  I also had the opportunity to interview Charlene about the book.  Here are some thoughts about the book, as well as a few comments from Charlene.  I will post the transcript of the interview with her soon; stay tuned!

Book Review

I do a lot of speaking on how to use social media to strengthen customer relationships, and Groundswell provides a great overview of not just the how but also the why.  The groundswell, as defined by the authors, is a social trend in which people use technologies to get what they need from each other, rather than from, say, corporations.  One of the reasons I like the book so much can be found in this quote:

…here’s the principle for mastering the groundswell: concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies.

This is Customers Rock! thinking, and I love it.  

This is not the book to read if you want to know all the details of the current social media technologies (although there is a nice overview in Chapter 2 – check out the part that describes how each technology enables relationships).  That is part of what makes this book so powerful.  Although technologies change quickly, the strategies outlined in this book are timeless. 

Setting Goals

Charlene and Josh stress the importance of setting clear goals when engaging in the groundswell.  They recommend choosing one of five different objectives, matching the objective for entering the groundswell to the company’s objective.  These include the following:

  • Listening – better understand your customers
  • Talking – spread your message
  • Energizing – supercharge Word of Mouth
  • Supporting – get customers to help each other
  • Embracing – collaborate on your business

There is a chapter for each of these strategies, including case studies of companies who are doing them well.  In addition, there are several examples of potential ROI for these activities (Charlene did note for me that they “threw everything into these business calculations”, so the costs may well differ for you!).   Charlene also told me that they turned away great cases for the book because they didn’t have the data to back up their successes.

Customer Profiles

Another very helpful part of Groundswell is the tables of customers and their “Social Technographic Profile.”  Forrester has done in-depth research around people’s activities online, and the tables outline which people are more likely to watch the online world (spectators) versus actively participate in it in various ways (creators/critics/collectors/joiners).  Here is an example for small business owners:

 

There is also a free tool on the Groundswell site so you can check out what your customers might be doing.  Although it is a little more generic than the tables in the book, it will still give you an idea of what is happening with certain demographics.

Highly Recommended

I agree with Charlene and Josh – the most important part of engaging in the groundswell is setting objectives.  There are too many companies out there trying to “do social media” just because their competitors are doing it.  Groundswell will help your company take the right perspective and set the right priorities.   It will also get you thinking about customer relationships, and any book focusing on that relationship is one I highly recommend.  I am even considering using this book as the textbook for my class Marketing with New Media (UCSD Extension program)…!

Posted in Book reviews, Customer experience, social media | 8 Comments »

Customers Engage with TurboTax

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 15, 2008

by Amit Gupta Today is the day many Americans dread: the day when their income taxes are due to the government.  TurboTax decided to make it fun for their customers with some cool contests which promote customer engagement.

TurboTax is made by Intuit and is a tax preparation software program.  TurboTax’s focus is on making taxes easy.  Intuit’s focus is squarely on the customer. 

I recently spoke with Brian who does online marketing for Intuit.  Brian shared information with me about the two customer contests run by TurboTax, TurboTax Rap (2007) and Tax Laugh (2008). 

TurboTax Rap was a contest to promote customer engagement, with rapper Vanilla Ice as their celebrity spokesman.  Consumer submitted their own original “rap” video about TurboTax.  The contest site included all the rules/tips for submission.  Here is an example:

“Props are always good.  We are not just talking about a leaf blower or a hairbrush microphone.  But actual shoutout’s to TurboTax or Vanilla Ice.  Let them know how special they are.”

The entries were then also posted on YouTube.  The results were unexpected.  It generated lots of interest, curiousity, as well as some awesome content!  There were 450 entries, and although most were not stellar, about 30 of them were really quite good.  Per Brian,

“These customers were passionate.  They included the core reasons to believe in their videos.  I am not sure an agency could have done some of this!”

The winning entry has had over 330,000 views on YouTube (and the winner took home $25,000 to boot).  It didn’t cost Intuit much money to put on this contest, and they had a lot of customer engagement as a result.  For your viewing pleasure, here is the winning video:

Of course, just like any social media activity, customers have the opportunity to share their thoughts.  Some viewers didn’t like the winner (“Too many special effects”) and preferred the low-tech video which won 2nd place.  A learning for TurboTax was to have customers and other viewers rate the videos or vote on them.

This year, TurboTax created a TaxLaugh contest, with the tagline, “Comedy is hard.  TurboTax is easy.”  The top 20 videos/finalists were chosen through voting on YouTube.  Fewer entries this year (hey, comedy is hard), but again, great quality and passion that can only come from customers.  I especially liked this one, which wasn’t really comedy but was very clever and still promoted TurboTax – using ping pong balls!  You’ve gotta watch this (which has had over 500,000 views):

This year, TurboTax also sponsored a Promoter Contest.  Those viewers who were the best at promoting a video won prizes like a trip to Southern California to see the TaxLaugh celebrity comedian spokesman Jay Mohr or a Flip video camera.  Winners included the most viral TurboTax promoter and the most viral TurboTax choice.  The winning promoter had over 100,000 views!  Talk about using word of mouth to get things buzzing.   Also, check out the interesting viral map put together by Brickfish, who helped with the viral promotion.

While taxes may not be a laughing matter, TurboTax has found a cool way to connect with their customers, to promote themselve to non-customers, and to increase engagement in both categories.  Plus, they are part of a very customer-focused company.  You rock, er rap, TurboTax and Intuit!

(Photo credit: Amit Gupta)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Focus on WOW for Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 10, 2008

 I just got back from my local branch of Wells Fargo, and something caught my eye behind the friendly teller, Jennifer.  Another employee was preparing a chart to go on the wall entitled, “11 Ways to WOW the Customer.”  Of course, being the customer-focused professional that I am, I had to ask about the chart.

Great Customer Service

Jennifer told me it was to help remind the team about customer service, with the main goal being that customers feel welcome each time they come into the bank.  They want the experience to be such a good one that customers will seek them out for their future banking activities, even if this is not their home branch.  Most of the items on the chart are simple, such as welcoming customers into the bank verbally when they come in the door.  Smiling.  Or, as she said, “Keeping your grump to yourself!”

This is consistent with Wells Fargo’s corporate focus on customers.  Here is an excerpt from the Customer Service page on their website, describing the 11 Ways to WOW.

“Welcoming”

  • you make me feel at home.
  • you care about me.
  • you make me feel special.

“Delivering value”

  • you give me the right advice.
  • you provide me value.
  • you keep your promises.

“Following up and building relationships”

  • you help me when I really need it.
  • you know me.
  • when you make a mistake you make things even better.
  • you thank me.
  • you reach out to me.

Employee Retention

Jennifer said this customer focus makes the branch experience not only better for customers, but also better for her and the other employees that work there.  She enjoys her job more when she is able to truly help customers with their needs.  She spends time talking to them about the task at hand, but she also spends time listening to them talk about their lives.  Customers have become her regulars, and one of them even brought in not one, but two cakes for the team.  The pace at this branch is a little more leisurely, so the employees there have time to chat with customers, their kids, and even their dogs!

I love this line, again from the Wells Fargo website: “We’re only as good as our first impression and last connection. This is all about culture and attitude.”

That, my friends, is what this blog is all about. 

 

WOW Your Customers

I encourage each of you to think of how you can WOW your customers.  Don’t leave it to chance or count on just hiring great employees.  That is not enough.  Customers Rock! companies set a goal for WOW customer interactions, then they make a specific plan to meet that goal.  Finally, they check back with their customers to see whether they made a difference from the customer’s perspective.

Jennifer, you guys rock!  Thanks for making it special, and I will work on baking you some cookies for the next time I come in…

(Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Coffee Experience: Free Coffee at Starbucks

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 8, 2008

 Hat tip to Jay Ehret for this one.  If you have been reading Customers Rock! for awhile, you know that Jay and I are jointly working on a project to see if Starbucks is able to re-invent their customer experience.  (You can go to the Categories list in my sidebar to see all posts on this.)  One of the key areas is, well, the coffee itself.  People have said that Starbucks doesn’t even smell like coffee anymore when you walk in.

Today, Starbucks is hoping to raise their image to change that.  They are introducing their new Pike’s Place Roast, and as part of the introduction, they are giving away free Short (8 oz.) cups today, April 8, at US-based Starbucks cafes.  This is coffee made with their new process, fresh ground beans, brewed at least every 30 minutes.  From their press release:

Customers Spoke.  Starbucks Listened.
The new Pike Place Roast™ was artfully created by Starbucks master blenders and roasters using input from customers and baristas to achieve a bold taste and smooth finish.  Nearly 1,000 customers spent almost 1,500 hours providing input on what’s important to them in a cup of coffee.

“It was an exciting opportunity to find the right roast that would produce the flavor customers told us they wanted in a daily coffee,” said Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks master coffee blender. “We heard our customers and we were determined to deliver the consistent high-quality cup that they expect every time they walk into one of our stores.”

According to some of the discussion at MyStarbucksIdea around offering a sample size of beverages, Starbucks will already give you a sample of a drink for free so you can see if you like it.  Plus, they are standing by their new mantra that a drink should be to your liking, or they will remake it for you, free.  So what is up with the “free” Pikes Place Roast today?

I agree with Jay on this one: they are most likely trying to build some Word of Mouth around their new blend, bringing attention to themselves and their re-focus on coffee.  Good for them for getting the word out.  Now let’s see if it works! 

Go check it out, and let us know what you think about this “celebration of Pikes Place Market”.  Is the customer experience enhanced with the aroma of fresh coffee?  Does it taste better?  While you are having your coffee, go online and learn more about Word of Mouth by joining Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba’s  Society for Word of Mouth (or SWOM).  I did, and it looks to be a great resource!

(Photo credit: muha04)

Posted in Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Instant Customer Connection – The Personal Touch

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 7, 2008

A note from Tsufit Marketing is all about building personal relationships.  Here is a wonderful example of the right way to reach out to others. 

Todd Andrlik contacted me to say my blog was included in the appendix of a new book called Step into the Spotlight by Tsufit (her full name, by the way).   Customers Rock! was one of 39 blogs on Tsufit’s list of Cool Marketing Blogs.  Thanks, Tsufit! 

Todd wanted to know if I would like a complimentary copy of the book, and I agreed.  It arrived in my mailbox the other day; on the envelope were a bunch of very cool-looking postage stamps picturing movie stars (Tsufit was most recently in the entertainment industry in Canada before becoming a business coach).  Excited to see the book, I ripped the package open (carefully, of course!).

Tsufit

I was really pleased to see that Tsufit had written me a note, on a Post-It, and had attached it to the front of the book.  Not only was it hand-written (see photo above), but it was personal.  She had taken the time to go to my blog, read some of my posts, and find a connection between us.  Here is the text of her note:

“Becky,

Here’s the book Todd Andrlik promised you.  I see you & I have singing in common.  Couldn’t believe it when I found a post on your blog called ‘Where Did My Dress Go?’ – years ago, I co-wrote a spoof song to the tune of You Light Up My Life about a shopper’s disappointment in a store ’cause the dress disappeared & it was called ‘Where Did My Dress Go?’  Hope you enjoy my book.  Pls confirm receipt.  Tsufit”

Not only that, but she autographed it as well on the inside: Tsufit\'s autograph

Her efforts to personalize the material she sent me were very much appreciated and brought a smile to my face.  I felt compelled to go find a quiet corner and sit down with the book. (Note: It is a very interesting book about how to “get noticed”, treating your business and yourself as if you were a star!  I will review it here soon.)  Not only that, but I felt special that she took the time to get to know me and reach out in this way.

A Lesson in Outreach

As a blogger, I am often asked if I would be willing to read a book and review it on my blog (I was asked to read Tsufit’s, but the email that went out in December got completely lost in my inbox).  Sometimes, I say no if I don’t feel the book will be relevant for my readers.  Other times, I accept, and the author sends me the book.  I then share my honest thoughts in a book review post (look in the left margin of my blog in the Book Reviews category to see books I have written about).

Very rarely does an author or PR firm take the time to personalize the material sent to me.  Sometimes, I get a printed letter from the PR firm with “sound bites” about the book and the link to where to get more info/book cover photos.  Usually, there is just a book in an envelope, sent to my address (once, I even got a book I never requested!).

Tsufit provides us with a glowing example of how to market.  It should be relevant.  It should build a personal relationship.  It should stand out in our minds, not due to clever tactics, but due to the personal touch.

Thanks, Tsufit and Todd.  I can’t wait to finish reading the book!

Related Posts:

Where Did My Dress Go?

Your People: The Competitive Advantage

Posted in B2B Marketing, Book reviews, Customer loyalty, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

FreshBooks Rocks: Getting Personal with Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 2, 2008

wagon.png One of the best ways to get to know your customers is to spend time with them face-to-face.  This method of doing business is a hallmark of a Customers Rock! company and is usually supplemented with other types of customer conversation, including traditional and social media marketing.  For FreshBooks, based in Toronto, Canada, this is not an unusual way to do business – it is business as usual!

Unique Customer Outreach

FreshBooks provides online invoicing and time-tracking for service professionals.  I had the chance to speak with CEO Mike McDerment, and he shared with me his story about their unique and effective customer outreach campaign.  Mike and a few other folks from FreshBooks were attending two different conferences here in the USA last month, including speaking at this year’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.  Coming from Toronto, the easiest way to get there would have been to fly – but not for this team.  They decided to take the fun path and rent an RV (see photo above), meeting and talking with customers along the way!  By the end of their Roadburn roadtrip, Mike and his employees Saul (who put the trip together) and Sunir (marketing and community development) had 11 meals over a period of 4 days, meeting with more than 100 customers over breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The Roadburn blog above chronicles the trip, and several customers came out to it, requesting stops in their towns.

vinyl_rev01.png This was not a product roadshow.  This was a listening tour.  Mike and his team didn’t lead the conversations at all.  They merely asked a few simple questions to get them started, such as, “Hey, how are you?  What do you do?”  Rather than peppering their customers with questions, they encouraged the customers to network with each other.  By the end of these meals, many of these customers were swapping business cards and planning to do business with each other.  According to Mike, the result was “almost a mini eco-system!”  Listening in this type of environment provides fresh (get it?) customer insights that you can’t get on a survey!

I loved the way the FreshBooks team described the intent of the road trip on their site:

“The FreshBooks RoadBurn may seem like a stunt or a marketing ploy but in reality it is pretty much what FreshBooks is all about….listening to it’s beautiful customer base and getting to know them on a level that other companies wouldn’t make the effort to do so.”

Getting to Know You

FreshBooks wants to get to know customers and wants to be easy to talk to as well.  They have actually been holding these “customer meals” for about four years now.  According to Mike, every time he goes to a city he gets a list of FreshBooks customers in that city, and he invites them out for dinner to see what is going on with their business.  As you can imagine, this is pretty effective for building customer relationships, as well as for great word-of-mouth.  Mike says,

“We are conscious that there is always someone on the other end of the computer screen who is using our products.  We keep asking ourselves, how can we get closer to our customers?”

FreshBooks does it not only with face-to-face meetings, but they believe that social media really helps, too.  First of all, there is their blog, FreshThinking.  FreshBooks uses it as a way to communicate updates to their customers, as well as business tips and other tidbits.  It must be working – the blog regularly gets comments and has over 1100 readers (per Feedburner).  In addition, FreshBooks is a big fan of Twitter.  They twittered the road trip as they went across the country; Mike described it as “random and quirky” writings.  They Twitter from inside of FreshBooks as well to share with customers what is going on at the company.  It is also part of their customer support mix.  For example, the aforementioned Saul, at home on a weekday evening, sees someone using Twitter to ask how to do something in FreshBooks, and he replies and gives the answer. 

Good customer service, right?  Yes.  FreshBooks is paying attention to customer conversation and helping where needed.  Per Mike, “…we are not instigating these conversations; rather, we are being where they are.”

Caring – A Core Value

Customers are embedded in the corporate culture at FreshBooks; it is in their DNA.  Mike supports this in a few ways.  One, he hires for fit.  He describes this as hiring people who feel good about helping people out.  In addition, everyone at FreshBooks does a rotation into customer support.  This gives all employees the opportunity to hear from customers directly and to understand their pain points.

Mike says one of their core values is caring.  As CEO, Mike is always taking care of employees, making sure they have what they need for their jobs as well as looking out for their happiness and health.  Here is his formula for success:

Take care of staff –> Staff takes care of customers –> Customers take care of referrals

This works!  From customer satisfaction surveys last year, FreshBooks had a customer referral rate of 98%.  This year, the rate went up to 99%!  This rocks.  Per Mike: “There is really nothing better.  Happy customers are a great pool of positive WOM.”

I couldn’t have said it better, Mike.  FreshBooks rocks!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers