Customers Rock!

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Re-Experiencing Starbucks, Update 7 – Listening to Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 26, 2008

reExperiencing StarbucksPart 7 of the ongoing ReExperiencing Starbucks project with Jay Ehret from The Marketing SpotSurvey at the end of the post - please tell us what you think about the changes at Starbucks!

Slowly but surely, Starbucks seems to be listening.  I blogged about MyStarbucksIdea when it first came out, and there were a lot of improvements to make.  I believe Starbucks has made a real effort over the past few months that they have been up and running with MyStarbucksIdea.   I have seen improvements on both the IdeaSite (new term?) as well as in person.  Read on…

IdeaSite Improvements

MyStarbucksIdea was heavily criticized when it first came out.  The Customers Rock! perspective on it was this – it is good to see Starbucks out there engaging their customers this way.  And boy, have they been engaged!  Thousands of customer ideas have gone on the site, with the majority of the ideas being about the coffee drinks themselves (no surprise here) and then the atmosphere and locations.  What should these ideas tell Starbucks?  First, it should tell them that customers are coming for the coffee, so make sure to get that right.  Second, customers are still in search of what they used to have at Starbucks, that “3rd place” to hang out and relax with friends.

Maybe customers don’t come up with a lot of new or innovative ideas, but the dialogue is a great way for Starbucks to get inside their customers’ heads and see how they think. 

In addition, I am glad to see Starbucks beginning to participate more in the conversation on the site, as well as soliciting direct feedback on how to improve the site.  Be sure to click into that post and read the comments; you can watch a little mini-community forming as you go.  :)

Interaction with Corporate – In Person!

I also had the good fortune of interacting with two gentlemen from Starbucks Corporate recently.  Apparently, part of their role is to go out and visit the Starbucks in their area to see how things are going.  They stopped me on my way out of the line to ask me about “my experience”.  I was happy to share my thoughts with them – about bathroom cleanliness (spotty), about the atmosphere (I like it), about my favorite drink (Passion Iced Tea, sweetened), about how the service seems on weekdays vs the weekends (better when they are busy, I think).  I then revealed that I blog here at Customers Rock! and shared about this ongoing Starbucks Project with them.  They asked me a few more questions before moving on to their meeting with the local supervisory team.

After they left, the employees there thanked me for my kind words and gave me a free drink.  Thanks, guys!

Although I would have loved to see the visitors from Corporate commenting here on my blog, I am pleased to see a team out inspecting the stores and asking customers about their experience.  Kudos to you, Starbucks, for getting out there and interacting face to face with customers.  It is more valuable than you think!

Please Fill Out Our Starbucks Survey!

Jay and I have put together a short survey to see what you, our readers, think about Starbucks and its “re-Experience” project.  Please take just a minute to click on this survey link and fill it out.  You could even win, what else, a gift card to Starbucks!  We will be sure to report the results here soon.

Also see Jay Ehret’s blog The Marketing Spotfor more Starbucks insight on “The Perfect Frappuccino”, as well as Meikah Delid who is keeping her related Starbucks series going with The Sixth Step for Starbucks.  Thanks, Meikah!

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

Part 5: MyStarbucksIdea

Part 6: The Card

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing, social media, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

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: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Buick Reaches Out to Golfing Owners

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 29, 2008

members-only.jpg I attended the semi-final round at the Buick Invitational Golf Tournament this past weekend, held at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego (beautiful course!).  It was great fun watching Tiger Woods and other golfers tackling the rugged terrain (and managing the fans).  Something else caught my eye: the VIP tents.

We looked at the usual VIP tents, sponsored by companies for their guests (many of whom were likely valuable customers); is there any way for the average Joe to get into a hospitality area?  The Buick Owner VIP Area provided that luxury, and all you had to do to get in was show your Buick car keys!  Once inside the ropes, you registered as a Buick owner and had access to an area where you could relax.  Additionally, from what I could understand, you also had access to a VIP viewing area on the 18th fairway!  (As I am not a Buick owner, I couldn’t get in to check it out for all of you, and the security person at the ropes couldn’t tell me much… did any of you readers attend this?  Let me know if you were a Buick Owner VIP!)

I would bet that Buick customers were surprised and delighted at this offering.  Plus, the people who were “in” would feel like part of a special community.  What a great way to tell your customers you appreciate them!

Buick has been reaching out to its customers interested in golf in other ways as well.  Through their Buick Clubhouse loyalty program, Buick owners have the opportunity to purchase special tickets to premier golf events.  Their interactive Clubhouse website is actually kind of fun; Tiger Woods invites you to come in, and he prompts you to click on various areas while you are there (must have been fun for him to do!). 

The loyalty program targets new owners, but Buick is also accepting existing customers into the program.  Per an article in Promo magazine, Buick is using this to engage new demographics for their vehicles:

“Buick traditionally has had the highest loyalty in the automotive industry,” (Larry) Peck said. “Our buyer has been older, too. With this program, we are trying to get younger buyers. Golf offers younger, more affluent, more educated consumers. We are trying to reach our demographic through the Internet…and offer a premiere owner experience.”

Proceeds from loyalty program events or merchandise after expenses will benefit the Buick Open Southeast Michigan Charities.

Building Customer Loyalty

What are your customers interested in?  Where do they spend their time?  Understanding customers, their interests, and their needs helps us tailor not just products and services, but also outreach and loyalty programs.  Do your customers want to feel special?  Create a customer recognition program.  Do your customers want to have “access” to your company?  Create a community, with your key execs/programmers/personnel playing a central role.

One of the most important ingredients in building customer loyalty is consistency of customer experience.  Buick needed to make sure an owner’s experience at the Invitational Tournament was a good one in every way possible in order to contribute in a positive way to the brand experience.  The same experiences now need to occur with the Service and Parts department, with Sales managers, with any emails and marketing sent to customers, and basically, in every single customer touch at every dealer.  This requires knowing your customers, coordinating across functional areas internally, as well as collaborating with partners (in this case, the dealerships).

Is that doable?  Yes – with planning.  And flawless execution.  Customers have high expectations.  The companies that can do this have an edge.  Is your company one of them?

(Photo credit: fintastic)

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Customer Service Event and Call for Authors!

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 18, 2008

csitnm_badge.png Customer Service Conference in San Francisco, February 4 

In just two weeks, I am hosting a lunch workshop at the Customer Service is the New Marketing event in San Francisco, CA on Monday, February 4.  I am honored to be on a program also featuring speakers from Zappos, Virgin America, Flickr, Google, and Geek Squad (to name a few).  My blogging friend Doug Hanna from Service Untitled will also be hosting a lunch workshop, along with some other smart folks.

There has been some debate as to whether customer service is the new marketing.  I would say that everyone who is in customer service is also doing marketing, as every touch to the customer counts.  Often, it is these customer touches that make the most impact, as the customer spends more time using a product or service than purchasing it (one hopes!).  Customer service is the face of the company, and organizations that see it as only a cost are missing a trick.

There is still time to register for the conference.  The price is $495 for this fabulous one-day event being held at the gorgeous Presidio in San Francisco.  Customers Rock! readers can get a 15% discount if you use the code CRNT when registering; here is the link

Come to the event, and make sure to say HI to me and tell me you are reading Customers Rock!  I’ll even buy you a drink at the after-event bash.

ageofconversation-book.jpg Call for Authors for Round Two of Age of Conversation

Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton are at it again.  They are spearheading the effort to create the 2008 edition of the Age of Conversation book.  Over 100 authors from around the world came together to write short essays and raise money for Variety Children’s Charity; not one penny went to any of us.  The book focused on this conversation age and what it means to marketers and businesses.

Some of you expressed disappointment that you missed out on the last book.  Here is your chance!  Just email Drew and let him know you want to participate.  See his post (linked to his name above) to find out the rules.  You can even vote on the topic (on Drew’s blog).

I am going to be in again; come join me!

Update: Here is a list so far of those planning to contribute this year:

Drew McLellan, Luc Debaiseieux, Ryan Karpeles, Greg Verdino, Lori Magno, Gavin Heaton, Connie Reece, The Kaiser, Katie Chatfield, Tim Jackson, Doug Meacham, C.B. Whittemore, Becky Carroll, Gordon Whitehead, Daniel B. Honigman, Daria Rasmussen, Jay Ehret, Jasmin Tragas, Jamey Shiels, Organic Frog, Bill Gammell, Nathan Snell, Stephen Landau, Stephen Collins, Stephen Smith, Mark Earls, Steven Verbruggen, Neil Perkin, Brett Macfarlane, Dino Demopoulos, Chris Wilson, Asi Sharabi, Mike Sansone, Angela Maiers, Sandy Renshaw.

Here is the list of contributors from last year, and many of these are now friends as well.

Gavin Heaton
Drew McLellan
CK
Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Sacrum
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Luc Debaisieux
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Robert Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
CB Whittemore
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Kris Hoet
G. Kofi Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Polinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman
S. Neil Vineberg

Posted in Blogging, Community, Customer service, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

San Diego Firestorm and Communications

Posted by Becky Carroll on October 24, 2007

sd-fire-2.jpg (flickr photo: prgibbs)

We are in part of the area of San Diego that was evacuated this week.  We packed our cars on Monday night and got out!  Fortunately, winds in our area have died down significantly, and we were allowed to return home last night.  Thank you to those who have emailed me to see how we are doing (email has been my primary method of communication)!  Things are calm now, and there is no longer ash raining down on our house.  We are praying that things stay the way they are now.

Having been evacuated, I have been very frustrated with most of the traditional media.  I realize they are trying to do their best, but they are not really set up to give updated, detailed information.  The county’s websites were not up to date (or even up) a lot of the time.  The best information came from blogs, radio, and the county’s 211 service.

I did find some great citizen reporting that helped get me through when I was out of my home!  Blogs were set up fairly quickly as of Monday, and this was the only place I was really able to find detailed information about my neighborhood.  In fact, this fire blog from SignOnSanDiego, which is an online newspaper, has been fabulous!  Local people from my area were able to report in, and those of us moved out of the area, as well as those with loved ones in the area, were able to get much needed information.  Nearly 200 comments in the last day helped ease the lack of information from the news networks.  Here is a quote from one of the readers responding to another commenter who had (anonymously) plugged traditional media:

Nice plug for cbs news, anonymous. tell your employers that they don’t hold a candle to the people on this website who are armed with nothing more than an automobile and a laptop yet seem to know much more of what’s happening than your paid reporters.Also, you might want to tell your producers to put maps with highlighted areas on the screen when showing the fires raging so that the viewers knows what the hell they are looking at.

Of course, the reporters have been doing the job they were told to do, but it really didn’t help us local folk.  What I needed to have answered were these questions:

  • Where is the fire line now?
  • Where exactly are the evacuation areas?
  • When can I come home?

I received much more information from a mix of radio and social media.  KPBS.org is a great source, with links to Google fire maps with great overlays, as well as real-time updates which are actually Twitter updates!  Well done, KPBS!  What a great idea, as Twitter is a quick way to get the word out.  Another great radio station has been AM 600 KOGO in San Diego, where citizens have been calling in to share information about flames, roads, and evacuation centers.  Thanks, KOGO!  Another local citizen started a Facebook group, but I think it came a little late in the day so wasn’t really used.  Thanks, Heather.

Finally, the county’s 211 service was great.  This is a number for locals to call for non-emergency information about the fires.  Although close to 500,000 people were evacuated over the last two days, when I called 211, I was only on hold for about 3 minutes!  There were always estimated wait times given, and the person I spoke with was very friendly and ready to answer any questions I had (mine were about evacuation areas).    I felt like I had a personal assistant ready to look at fire information on my behalf.  The county was continuing to staff up this line and had added more volunteer personnel to take calls.  Great customer service!  Thanks, guys!

There are also lots of pictures on flickr, with a San Diego Fire Pool started.  They have mapped many of the photos so people know what is happening in their neighborhood.  Thanks to Vince for helping with this.

Overall, this fire is still not over.  There are many areas that are continuing to burn, and my sympathies go out to those still out of their homes. Hopefully, some of you can try the above resources.  The volunteer efforts here in San Diego county have been incredible.  What a fabulous group of people who have been generous with their time and donations!  Thank you mostly goes out to the many brave firefighters, military personnel, and other people who have been fighting this fire and trying to save our homes.  You are amazing.

New media is changing the way communication takes place, and it is especially effective in an emergency.  Traditional media, listen up.  Get with the program.  There is a better way!

Posted in Citizen journalism, Community | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Be My Guest: Red Sox Beat Angels

Posted by Becky Carroll on October 3, 2007

baseball.jpg Today, I welcome a guest blogger, Lewis Green.  Lewis is a great example of building strong friendships and connections through blogs.  Although I have not met Lewis in person, we have spoken by phone and exchanged comments on each other’s blogs.  Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t!  That’s what makes an interesting conversation.  I asked Lewis if he would be so kind as to write a guest post for me, which he has done today.  

As the baseball playoffs are starting up here in the USA, Lewis writes about which team he feels will win – from a social media and marketing perspective!  Thank you, Lewis.  You rock!!

Red Sox Beat Angels

by Lewis Green, bizsolutionsplus and L&G Business Solutions

Baseball, like all businesses, depends on marketing for growth and for product sales. And nobody does it better than the Boston Red Sox. So while we Sox and Angels fans watch a battle of equals on the field in the first round of the playoffs, there is no contest when it comes to marketing. The Sox win in a rout over the Angels. Their secret weapon: they turn control of much of their marketing over to the fans.

Both Boston and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have fine web sites, featuring fan forums, players photos, videos and great souvenirs, and of course both teams invest a lot of money and marketing effort in season ticket sales. But that’s where any comparison ends. From that point on, the Sox put the hammer down on the Angels as well as most of MLB.

Sell-outs are not an issue in Boston, so marketing efforts for brand building and souvenir sales are turned over to the fans, who are made to feel a part of the team, whether or not they can get tickets to a game. It all begins with Red Sox Nation.  And if you have ever seen a Sox away game, including against the Angels, you cannot help but notice the impact Red Sox Nation has on baseball. It is not unusual for thousands of Red Sox fans to be in the seats of away games. In some places, notably Toronto, Detroit, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, Red Sox fans frequently outnumber the home team’s fans. Even in evil Yankee Stadium, Sox fans are easy to find and even easier to hear.

Red Sox Nation is a social media site for the fans. Anyone can become a member, choosing from four tiers of membership, from free to the most expensive, the Ultimate Fan Pack, which along with Monster Memberships quickly sold out, leaving late-comers to choose either the free tier or the least expensive Fan Pack for $14.95.

Depending on the level of membership, fans receive newsletters, membership cards, bumper stickers, publications, free game-day audios,  free access to the weekly Red Sox Video Report, discounts at the team store, their own exclusive gate at Fenway Park, member’s-only pages on redsox.com, and special offers throughout the season for everything from team gear to away-game travel packages, to home-game tickets.

This year’s highlight featured the election of a new President to lead Red Sox Nation. It included a candidates debate televised on NESN, the New England Sports Network, moderated by Tim Russert of “Meet the Press,”  and held at Boston University’s George Sherman Union. Candidates included fans such as Cheryl Boyd, Great-niece of Elizabeth “Lib” Dooley, a long-time, well-known follower of the team; Cindy Brown, Head of Boston Duck Tours; Jared Carrabis, who has worn a Red Sox shirt 1,400 days in a row ; and Rob Crawford. who raises funds for education. Candidates also included legendary baseball Hall of Famer journalist Peter Gammons; former Red Sox relief pitcher Rich Garces; former Red Sox left-handed slugger Sam Horn; and Red Sox Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Jerry Remy. At the time of this writing, fans have finished voting and we now await the results.

The election has been a marketing coup. Because of Red Sox Nation, ESPN and ESPN2 have adopted the phrase to describe Sox fans, and the press, local and national, covered the Presidential race. Fans and Members love it, members come from all over the world, they buy tickets well in advance when the Sox come to their neck of the woods, and they brag on their membership to anyone who listens. You can’t buy this kind of marketing. It is social media at its best and an example for all businesses and consultants to study and mimic, if they can.

In addition to Red Sox Nation, Jerry Remy created Rem Dawg Nation.  Remy’s members receive the very popular Remy report and are the beneficiaries of freebies ranging from tee-shirts to box seats. And because Remy is on the air for nearly every Red Sox game, he markets the heck out of both Nations, adding to the appeal of membership, especially to kids who make up the team’s future customers.

In the Conversation Age of Web 2.0, the Boston baseball team’s marketing model is one we all need to pay attention to. It demonstrates the power of giving up at least some marketing control to your customers and clients. Red Sox and Rem Dawg Nation have sparked an interest in the Boston team and their products that exceed most marketing efforts, whether at multi-national companies, sports franchises, or small businesses. It demonstrates the power of Social Media as a marketing tool.

(Photo: cmillc22)

Posted in Community, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy, Guest bloggers, Marketing, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Conversation: Customer Support in a Web 2.0 World

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 29, 2007

touching.jpg  There is a new dynamic taking place in support. Customer service is becoming very public. The world now hears the details when a consumer has a poor customer support experience as it is bantered about on blogs, parodied in YouTube videos, and finally picked up by the mainstream media. The effects are spilling over into technical support as well. Customer expectations are higher than ever. The need to engage with customers in an honest and transparent way is becoming a business necessity.

As the support industry makes the shift from break-fix service and support to providing value to customers beyond the product purchase price, there is a need to practice the ancient art of conversation.This art has two components: listening and talking. In order for the conversation to be successful, the first component, listening, is really more important than the second. Support organizations have become very good in the art of talking at customers; the art of listening to customers is often less practiced.

The Self-Service Conundrum
While customer self-service is an important aspect of providing support when and how customers want it (in addition to potentially reducing support costs), there is a side-effect. Customer self-service takes away the human touch to the customer, the face of the company. Rather than a back-and-forth conversation about a support issue and its resolution, customers spend time on their own trying to figure out how to get the necessary answer. If they are successful, this can be a great model. If they are unsuccessful, the level of frustration mounts, only to be unleashed on the next unsuspecting CSR that answers the phone or the chat.

Value-added support is about people and continuing to build trust so that long-lasting customer relationships form. Value-added support is not about technology. Technology can be an enabler, and Web 2.0 technologies and social media help put people back into support. These technologies are facilitating conversations: customer to customer and also customer to company (and back).

Reluctance to Embrace
Some support organizations are part of companies that are quickly embracing Web 2.0 and social media. They have built large communities in the past and are re-engaging with those communities through blogs and wikis. Other organizations are starting to dabble in these new methods of communicating with customers. Many are still watching from the sidelines and a little leery of getting involved. At the recent SSPA Best Practices Conference in San Diego, I moderated a sharing session on web self-service, and the conversation turned to Web 2.0. Most of the companies in the room were considering how they wanted to use Web 2.0 technologies in support; only a handful actually had a blog, wiki, or similar social media in use with customers today.

Part of the reason for this reluctance to embrace social media is fear. There is a concern that customers will use this forum to start talking publicly about their issues with the company and all will turn sour. Guess what? These conversations are already taking place on the internet, with or without the company! One just needs to decide whether they want to be part of those conversations, even managing them from the company’s website.

Customer Support as a Conversation
If we are to truly transition support to a value-added model, a key ingredient is building customer relationships. This cannot be done through one-way communications. An ongoing conversation with our customers is necessary, as trust and relationship only take place over a longer period of time than one support interaction. If we just focus on the support transaction, we miss the opportunity for the relationship. If we view each support interaction as one part of an ongoing conversation with our customers and are willing to listen to them, we begin to look at the customer in a different light.

Customers want their immediate problems solved, but they also want proactive support. While the basics of providing customer support are still important, Web 2.0 and social media tools enable a conversation which goes past solving the problem at hand.  Tools such as blogs, wikis, tagging, social networking, and even forums begin to create a sense of community and belonging as they facilitate proactive communication with customers. The potential return for the company is enormous. Transparency and honesty are required to play the game.

(This is Part 1 of a two-part post.  Tomorrow I will publish the second part about using Web 2.0 tools for customer support.)

Posted in Blogging, Community, Customer experience, Customer service, Technical support | 8 Comments »

A Tale of 80 Interviews and 103 Authors: Assignment Zero and the Age of Conversation

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 3, 2007

team.jpg In March, Wired.com announced the formation of a crowdsourced citizen journalism project called Assignment Zero.  The idea was to have a crowd of volunteers write a report on, well, how crowds of volunteers are affecting business in the New Media age.  In April, I signed on to be part of a collaborative project to write an ebook called Age of Conversation.  This book was jointly written by 103 authors each contributing one chapter (a one-page essay) on the aforementioned topic in whatever way they chose.  It turned into a hardcover, softcover, and an e-book orderable through lulu.com, with all profits going to Variety Children’s Charity.

Each of these initiatives was something of an experiment in collaboration – one in collaborative journalism, the other in collaborative publishing.  Moving others to action towards a common goal is a great benefit of web 2.0 technologies!

Results of each initiative:

Assignment Zero: Some great feature stories were published on Wired.com (including this great article from Kristin Gorski on Crowdsourced Books!).  One of the best results was a powerful resource: the AssignmentZero Interview Directory, containing transcripts for 80 interviews of some of the best minds and experts around crowdsourcing, customers, and technology (go to the bottom of the above linked article and click on the category that interests you).

I had the privilege of interviewing two leading thinkers.  First was Dr. Martha Rogers, co-founder of Peppers and Rogers Group (where I was formerly a senior consultant); her interview is called Customer Relationship Management: Crowdsourcing at Work or How a business can collaborate with customers.   I also interviewed Jack Jia, founder and CEO of Baynote, Inc; his interview is called What Exists Beyond the Seen Crowd or The wisdom of invisible crowds.  Although I had a few standard questions to ask each of them as part of my reporting assignment, I was able to be flexible and explore other areas as well.  A real learning experience for me!

Age of Collaboration: A fabulous book with many varied insights from the 103 authors.  I just received my hardcover book the other day and am still working through it!  It was great to see the different perspectives on conversation; it reminds me how important it is to understand another person’s context before trying to get your own message across.  My chapter is on page 14 called Conversations and the Customer Experience.  It is about looking at a customer’s experience as a set of conversations across the customer lifecycle.  If we can manage the conversations properly, we can create a fabulous customer experience!

The most amazing part of this collaborative effort is that it has only just begun!  The conversation is continuing at Facebook, on the various blogs of the authors, and best of all, through new conversations between the authors.  We are becoming a large “team” who is getting to know each other better and building a special community.  We are using social networking to pull together sub-teams to champion the book and its cause.  I love being part of this kind of team with such passion – a team of great thinkers from around the world.

How can you start to collaborate today?  Who would you do it with?  Your customers are a great place to start, and they just might be waiting for an invitation.  Your competitors are another area to consider.  Sometimes a collaborative offering can be more impactful in the marketplace as it focuses on meeting customer needs more completely.

Take a few moments this weekend to peruse some of the AssignmentZero interviews, or get yourself a copy of the Age of Conversation ebook and start reading.  Keep a pad of paper and a pencil close by; you just might find an idea or two worth putting into action through your own network next week.

(Photo credit: solarseven)

Posted in Community, Customer experience, eBooks, Interviews | 4 Comments »

The Conversation Draws Near

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 10, 2007

ageofconversation-book.jpg It is almost here!  Next week, on Monday, July 16th, we will see the launch of Age of ConversationBack in April, I signed on with Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton to co-author this book (one chapter), along with over 100 other contributors (see below for list).  While originally designed as an eBook, due to popular demand, it can also be had as a paperback or hardcover book.

All proceeds from all book sales will be going to Variety Children’s Charity.  Get ready to have a good read for a good cause!  Special thanks to Drew, Gavin, and all the other authors for making this happen.

I can’t wait to buy it and read the other chapters, and I hope you will do the same!

Authors:

Gavin Heaton
Drew McLellan
CK
Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Sacrum
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Luc Debaisieux
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Robert Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Kris Hoet
G.Kofi Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells
Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Polinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman
S. Neil Vineberg

Posted in Community, eBooks | 4 Comments »

 
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