Customers Rock!

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

Archive for the ‘B2B Marketing’ Category

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Customer Expectations and Loyalty

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 25, 2008

red-carpet-2.jpg I have long been telling clients that they need to look outside of their industry for competitors.  I shared this in a blog post last year:

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. 

Doug Meacham over at NextUp points out something similar from trendwatching.com’s latest briefing.  In their article on the Expectation Economy, they discuss how the increasing speed of worldwide communication among consumers, along with blogs and other online reviews, is helping to raise the bar on customer expectations in every product or service consumed.  Doug states the following:

“While consumer’s expectations are up and rising, most brands choose to not keep up with the “best of the best”. The result: Informed Consumers are Indifferent or Irritated. The briefing suggests that these states will likely manifest themselves in Fake Loyalty and Postponed Purchases.”

He describes Fake Loyalty as something which is gone as soon as something better (or sometimes cheaper or more convenient) comes along.  Drew McLellan at Drew’s Marketing Minute discussed something similar in his recent post about his dry cleaner.  Drew describes his relationship this way:

“By all impressions — I should be an easy win for another dry cleaners. 

  • I am very dissatisfied with my current provider
  • What they sell is a commodity
  • There is a low cost of entry — doesn’t cost me a lot to switch

Yet, I (so far) am staying put.

I have also called customers who exhibit this Fake Loyalty by another name: “hostages”.  Hostage customers are those who subscribe to cable because it is the only way to get certain channels they want to watch.  Or they are those customers who sign up for a company’s service plan for their machines because no one else (currently) offers service for them.  Or, as in Drew’s case, they stay with a service because it is convenient – until something more convenient comes along (Drew, what if someone offered a service to pick up and drop off your cleaning at your house, for the same price?).

All of this goes back to understanding customer expectations.  We need to begin benchmarking what is going on in our own industry, but also the other industries where our customers do their purchasing of goods and services.  I may be a business customer by day, but by night I experience Amazon or Lands’ End and their fabulous customer service.  As I stated in my previously-quoted blog post,

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.

Which companies are rocking your customer’s world?  If you have been a reader of my blog for some time, you will think of candidates such as Nordstrom, who focuses on people, Southwest Airlines, who is good at engaging customers via their blog, and even The Busy Bunny, who is good at thanking customers.  They are all Customers Rock! companies in one fashion or another. 

Do your customers do business with these companies, or others like them?  If so, now you know more about your customer’s expectations.  If not, you can still learn from these examples as you create your customer strategy to keep and grow business.

(Photo credit: eraxion)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Thanking Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 24, 2008

thank-you-2.jpg I read a great example of interaction between a business and its customers – a pizza restaurant!  Ben McConnell at Church of the Customer blogged about HomeMade Pizza in Chicago and the experience of one of his friends there.  In response to filling out the (optional) customer contact card, Ben’s friend received an email from the store manager thanking her for her business.  She sent back a quick reply (that she loved the pizza) and then received another message, this time from a company VP, thanking her for her feedback!  (Be sure to go read Ben’s blog post for the text of the emails – they are very sincere and not at all canned.)

No where in these messages was any selling taking place.  There was simply an air of customer appreciation and open lines of communication.  HomeMade Pizza has started a conversation with their customer, and I predict that a long customer relationship will be a result of this interaction.

Why did this have such an impact on Ben’s friend?  The simple fact is, very few businesses stop and take the time to thank their customers.  When they do, it exceeds our expectations and stands out above other experiences. 

Have you thanked a customer lately?  The best companies don’t do it randomly; they make thanking and interacting with customers a regular part of how they do business.  It is baked into their marketing plans.  It is taught in their customer service training sessions.  It is modeled by managers that thank employees.  It becomes part of a company’s DNA.

What’s in your organization’s DNA?

(Photo credit: karenr)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Marketing Like a Rock-Star

Posted by Becky Carroll on December 27, 2007

rock-crowd.jpg Anyone who has ever been to a rock concert has felt the excitement in the air.  Fans are wild about the band’s music, especially when a favorite song is played.  Rock-stars can amass quite a loyal following!

Mack Collier of The Viral Garden has written a great post about how to take some of a rockstars “secrets” and apply it to your marketing.  Here are the six main themes of his post (be sure to go read it first!), along with some of my additional thoughts.

- Join in with your customer community.  Be a fan of your own company and products/services.  Do you use your own products and services?  You need to be part of the community conversation around your offerings.  A great idea is to try and hire some of your fans to work for you!  Coldwater Creek reached out to its loyal customers who live near their retail stores to get extra help for the holiday season.  What better way to ensure your customers are talking to raving fans?!

- View your company and products the way your customers do.  It is too easy to use corporate lingo and assume our customers will “get it.”  We need to look at our company using customer lenses.  This will help us understand what our customers see in our offerings, how they talk about it, and what motivates them to buy and use our products or services.

- Empower your fans to market on  your behalf.  A strong customer strategy will build up customer relationships to the point where customers become outgoing advocates for your company and products.  There have been many reports lately on customer trust which state consumers in particular trust what others have to say about a product more than what that company has to say.  If you are involved in your customer community and are using their lingo/way of thinking, creating customer advocates will be a natural outcome.

- Give customers input, and listen to it.  Engaged customers have a lot of great ideas for product or service improvements.  This is a good area to use social media in order to create ongoing conversations around products.  Just be sure to let customers know their input was heard!

- Have fun with your marketing – and your customers!  Mack gives some great examples here of companies who know how to make their marketing fun for all involved.  Do it in a respectful way, and you could really get customers talking!  How about this idea from David Polinchock over at Experience Manifesto blog on the Volvo “human joystick” game played at movie theaters – by all the patrons at the same time!  Here is a video of the experience:

Finally, use your community like Threadless does.  Mack gives some great examples of this in his rockin’ post, so go check it out if you haven’t already!

Music definitely has raving fans.  Your company can, too, when you decide to talk with your customers instead of talking at them.  Listen to their needs, and create your products and services in such a way that your customers can customize your offerings for themselves.  Hire great people who have a positive customer service attitude and who love your products.  You will then be on your way to having a Customers Rock! company.

(Photo credit: solarseven)

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

 
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