Customers Rock!

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

Archive for the ‘Customer strategy’ Category

Guest Blogger: Esteban Kolsky on Customer Service and Email

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 18, 2008

Today we have a special guest with us, Esteban Kolsky.  Esteban is a VP at KANA where he is very focused on great customer experiences, especially in the area of customer service.  He is also an active commenter here on Customers Rock!, so please welcome him and enjoy the post!

Five Winning Strategies to Excel at Customer Service via Email

Back in the “early” days of the internet (read 1990s) we all thought that email was going to revolutionize the way we do customer service.  Customers were going to send us all their questions and inquiries via email, which in turn was going to be answered within a few minutes – either automatically through a software package or manually by knowledgebase-assisted engineers. This setup was going to do away with the need to use telephones and call centers (after all, emails can be answered from anywhere), and reduce the cost for customer service.

Fast forward 15-20 years and it seems to be not where we thought it would be.  Alas, we did try using email as much as possible yet the results were not as expected: automation was harder than we expected, customers did not like the speed of response (which was down to days in some cases, and non-existent in others), and transactions completed via email were not similar to transactions completed via the phone.  This slow realization of the problems of using email for customer service made the adoption slow down almost to a trickle – pushing customer service automation via email to the point of extinction.

So where are we today?  After 2-3 years of very painful experimentation and working in the lab, we are beginning to discover how to use email properly for customer service.  There are over two dozen best practices and lessons learned that anyone starting to implement email for customer service would do well to read and understand before starting.  However, the following five are the top sure-fire ways to get customer service email to work well in your organization:

1. Classification – customers tend to ramble in free-form emails, posing questions somewhere in the middle of long sentences or paragraphs. That makes it almost impossible for parsing engines to identify the inquiry within the email. Eliminate free-form emails in favor of web-based forms with drop-down menus to allow customers to send emails. You can create a unique answer for each unique combination possible, or a workflow to gather more information or open a ticket if needed. Knowing what customers are asking, what are the variables or terms more often used also assist in improving the knowledge-base.

2. Automation – customer service emails, as with phone-based inquiries, follow an 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the questions can be answered with 20% of the content available. However, with the constraints of email as a communication medium (complex, oddly-written messages, lack of interactivity for clarification or expansion of data), the 20% gets reduced very rapidly to around 5% of content that can be properly expressed through email. Alas, still it can answer a large number of incoming interactions automatically, greatly reducing the dependency on agents to answer those emails, and improving the speed of response for customers. Identifying that 5% of content and questions, creating the specific rules and deploying it can greatly improve the experience for customers, and create a fertile lab for organizations to discover more and more interactions that can be automated.

3. Integration – the best way to add value to an email response is to provide the customer with personalized, custom information that matches the customer intent when writing in. If they want to know the status of their order, don’t send them a link to the page where they can get it – send them the information. This is impossible to do unless the ERMS and the data stores and applications are integrated. In some cases, this integration is done directly and the data flows are controlled via business rules. In others, the integration happens through an existing application feeding data back to the ERMS. In either situation, the customer feels as if the system has been custom-made for their needs increasing satisfaction.

4. Maintenance – the quintessential secret to having a powerful customer service solution via email is the maintenance of the solution. This is nothing new; we learned how to do this while deploying our knowledge management solutions. Yet, email has a complicated set of business rules and workflows that must be maintained. Even if you support a centralized model for knowledge management, the email-specific components still carry a heavy load of maintenance. You could streamline the maintenance by deploying a centralized rules server across channels. Alas, as it is with knowledge, business rules and workflows get outdated as soon as they are deployed – making maintenance THE way to manage the content properly. The mid-life of an improperly maintained ERMS is very short, usually not passing a couple of months before customers stop using due to poor results.

5. Marketing – similarly, marketing is the secret to growing the adoption of email among your customers and within your organization. Customers don’t know you offer a specific solution unless you tell them about it, and they understand the benefits they can get out of it. Your organization does not understand the great job your email solution has done for you unless you tell them about it. Advertise your solution. Extol its benefits. Announce the availability of new and upgraded features. Create a killer marketing plan, target the right people to know about it, and distribute the information.

Where are you with the use of email in your organization?  Are you an early and satisfied adopter? Or are you intrigued by the promise?

About the Author

Esteban Kolsky has over 20 years of customer service, market research, and technology experience. As Vice President and Practice Leader for KANA,  Mr. Kolsky delivers strategic consulting, systems integration and managed services programs designed to help KANA customers deliver exceptional service experiences. Prior to joining KANA Software Mr. Kolsky was with Gartner where he built and managed both the eService and Enterprise Feedback Management practices. He has been featured in television and radio, and quoted in over 400 publications around the globe as an industry watcher and commentator.

(Photo credit: © Yannis Ntousiopoulos | Dreamstime.com)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy, Guest bloggers | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Ikea Rocks with its Retail Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 9, 2008

In the current economy, consumers are holding on to their money more tightly and making hard choices about if, and where, to spend it.  Having a great customer experience greatly increases the chances that a) customers will come back to shop there again and b) they will tell their friends and family about how great it was!   Word of mouth is very powerful marketing; studies show that consumers trust friend recommendations more than information from vendors.

Ikea is one of those stores with a great shopping experience that evokes word of mouth.  In addition to the fun one can have by sitting on all those couches or envisioning how that bedroom would look in your own house, Ikea does things to make a difference even to the smallest customers.

Ikea has a play area for the littlest ones, where they can romp while their parents are enjoying the shopping.  However, Ikea actually encourages families to bring their children with them through the showroom experience, starting right from the entrance.  At our local Ikea store, a staircase leads shoppers up to the showroom floor.  I was very impressed when I noticed they had put in a hand rail at kid-level, just right for those youngsters to hold onto while navigating the steps (see photo).  The sign on the hand rail says the following:

“We care about the little ones, too.  Look for the hand rails mounted lower, specially for your children.”

This does two things for the customer.  One, the rail itself helps the kiddos feel like grown-ups (look, Mom, I can reach the hand rail!).  Two, it specifically tells customers that Ikea has thought about their experience in advance and has done something to make it better.

Understanding Customers

Whether your customers are consumers or businesses, having a solid understanding of them makes all the difference in the sales and marketing process.  How do your customers shop your business?  What would make it easier to buy from you?  Craft your own customer buying experience around the answers to those questions, and you will find an increase in not only sales, but also in new customers as the word spreads that you are a fabulous place to meet their needs.

For more great insight into the retail customer experience, see the these smart blogs: Doug Fleener’s Retail Contrarian, CB Whittemore’s Flooring the Consumer, Stephanie Weaver’s Experienceology.

(Photo credit top: rmarmion; photo credit bottom: bcarroll)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 15, 2008

Overheard the other day from a cashier at my local grocery store (a large chain, by the way): “Can I get a bagger over here?  You aren’t paying me enough to have me bag the groceries, too!”  I heard this as I was coming up to the check-out counter with my purchases (which were only a few items).

Wow, what does that do to the brand’s marketing messages?

The issue here is this: the customer doesn’t differentiate between what marketing is saying and what they hear from customer service personnel.  All messages, regardless of medium or origin, add up to communicate the brand’s image to the customer.  Yet too often, marketing and customer service are managed separately in a company or organization, they don’t speak to each other, and they don’t have common metrics (you know, those things that drive the behaviors?).

When we look at it from the company’s perspective, we see silo-thinking, each department focused on their own area.  When we look at it from the customer’s perspective, what do we see?  One brand, with everyone working together for a great customer experience?  Or many experiences, looking like many brands, with the experience differing based on how customer service personnel are asked to behave?

Customers Rock! was started to focus on highlighting companies that understand these concepts.  Customers Rock! doesn’t mean the customer is always right.  It means we should view our customers as one of the most important assets that we have; therefore, we should plan each step of how we are going to get, keep, and grow these assets.

Who is speaking more loudly to customers at your organization?  Do you need to bring those messages into alignment?  What do customers think about your brand, from all perspectives?  These are critical questions to answer as companies consider how to weather the current economic storms.

“The relationship that is formed when marketing and customer service meet is like saying that you’re making good on your promises.”  Meikah

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

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 »

Airline Customer Service Makes All the Difference

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 19, 2008

The Airline ExperienceThe airline industry is in quite a mess.  Extra fees being charged for bags have passengers feeling even more “nickle and dimed” than ever.  Fuel costs are driving more people to take their vacations at home.  Cut-backs at airlines mean fewer employees doing more work = grumpy people.  What is an airline to do?

Would you be surprised if I said “Improve the Customer Experience”!  Well, it is not just me saying it this time.  J.D. Power and Associates just released the results of their 2008 North American Airline Satisfaction Study.  Declining customer satisfaction is linked with the level of customer service provided by airline staff, even more than it is linked with concerns over extra fees and prices.  Per the press release:

The study finds that satisfaction with “people” factors—including knowledge, courtesy and helpfulness of reservation and gate agents, check-in staff and flight crew—has declined dramatically since 2007, and is the leading contributing factor to the overall decline in customer satisfaction with airlines in 2008. The decrease in satisfaction with people factors is more than twice as large as the decline in satisfaction with price factors.

The press release goes on to quote Sam Thanawalla, director of their global hospitality and travel practice, who urges airlines to invest in their employees in order to improve the customer experience.

Here is the Customers Rock! take on the situation:

In a tough economy like this one, customers will be very choosy about where they spend their hard-earned money.  If a customer has decided to take a trip, they want to it to be great!  Airlines need to get with the program and look at the experience from the customer’s perspective.  It won’t take much “mystery shopping” to figure out where to find the pain points.  It could be just a few simple things that make the difference, but airlines need to get into a conversation with their customers in order to figure this out.  Southwest Airlines has done an exceptionally good job of this with their Nuts About Southwest blog, even changing some of their policies as a result of customer feedback.  (Fun aside – Southwest just blogged about MyStarbucksIdea, and now their customers are starting to ask for MySouthwestIdea… think it will catch on?)

Yes, the customer experience really does matter to customers, and it matters more every day.  Marketing, customer service, HR, sales – all departments need to put their heads together and figure out how to create better customer relationships via the experience.  Quick – do it before your competition does! 

(Photo credit: egdigital)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer strategy, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Book Review and Author Interview: Taking Care of Employees

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 6, 2008

Book review Today I am reviewing the book Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most by Sybil Stershic.  The main premise of the book is this: take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers!  In seven easy-to-read chapters, Sybil describes how to do this using an “internal marketing” approach.  She helps companies see how to really engage employees so they become committed to the cause, not compliant (doing it because they have to).  Believe me, customers can tell the difference!

Here is a great quote from the first chapter:

“Think about it: most products and services can easily become commoditized, but competitors cannot duplicate the relationship an organization’s employees have with its customers.”

The book goes on to describe how to improve relationships, including employee-employee, employee-management, and employee-customer.  People will make the difference, and Sybil gives us a lot of great ideas on both why and how to make them a priority.  Coming from my customer-centric perspective, I especially liked Chapter 4 on strengthening the internal service culture.  It is so important for each employee to understand why they make a difference in the organization and how that is ultimately reflected out to customers.  A strong internal service culture, Sybil suggests, will help improve both employee and customer loyalty.  I wholeheartedly agree!

For those of skeptics out there, Sybil includes answers to some “tough questions” in Chapter 6, such as this one: “Do happy employees ensure happy customers?”  They are great for arming oneself before attempting to start an employee-loyalty initiative at a business.  The book also has several helpful worksheets and charts to assist in planning out the changes that need to be made within a company.  Thank you, Sybil, for making it easy to follow!

Q&A

Speaking of questions, Sybil was kind enough to answer a few of my own.  Here is the Q&A I had with her about the book. 

  •  Whose job is it to do “internal marketing”? How does it relate to those doing “external marketing”?

 Let me start by explaining marketing in both contexts. You can use it to basically communicate with, educate, and motivate employees, just like it’s used to communicate with, educate and motivate consumers. But while external marketing is usually the responsibility of marketing and/or communications staff, internal marketing is an intrinsic part of management’s job – taking care of the employees so they can take care of the customers. So it’s not really a pure marketing function, which is why I tell people you don’t have to be a marketer to apply internal marketing.

  • Disney has “cast members”. Starbucks has “partners”. Does what we call our employees really matter? Why would customers care?

Interesting question, Becky.  The reality is regardless of how you refer to employees – be it “Associates” … “Team members” … or some other company or brand-relevant name – it doesn’t matter to customers. (And customers will likely call them “employees” anyway.) However, it DOES matter to employees as it sets expectations about the organization’s culture and values. Employees, as well as customers, are quick to see through the rhetoric of employee labels that are merely window dressing.

  • It has been said you should inspect what you expect. How do you measure the success of internal marketing – both from the employee as well as from the customer perspective?

Since internal marketing involves engaging employees and customers, you can evaluate it with the same metrics that measure overall satisfaction and retention for both groups. You can also measure specific internal marketing activities (such as recognition programs, new staff orientation, special events, etc.) through quantitative and qualitative means; i.e., who/how many participated, how did it impact their perceptions and/or behavior?

For companies just getting started with internal marketing, it may be the first time the folks from HR and Marketing Research get together to discuss what benchmarks are available from employee and customer surveys. (Note: For companies that have not done any such surveys, please know there are research providers who measure employee engagement and those who also do “linkage research” which looks at operational practices and employee perceptions and links this information to drivers of customer satisfaction.)

  • How can a strong service culture help grow customer loyalty and improve the customer experience?

Internal service drives external service – when employees take care of each other’s business needs, everyone is better prepared to take care of the external customer.

Here’s another way to look at it – since customers’ perceptions and intentions are affected by what employees experience on-the-job, the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

  • For my final question… what is the best customer experience you have ever had?

I was accompanying my husband on a business trip when I suddenly became ill on the plane – a situation that required emergency surgery. When our plane landed in Boston, we were met by ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital. In between the admissions process and surgery, my husband and I looked at each other and wondered what had happened to our luggage. Since we had gone from the plane to the ambulance, we hadn’t time to get to baggage claim.

While I was undergoing surgery, my husband checked into our hotel and explained the situation. The hotel staff immediately called the airport to find our luggage and have it set aside for us. They had a hotel limo drive my husband back to the airport to get our luggage, after which my husband was dropped off at the hospital to wait for me after surgery, and our luggage was placed in our hotel room prior to my husband’s return that evening. We experienced truly extraordinary service provided by the hotel in a situation that had nothing to do with the hotel.

Here’s what I learned from that experience: customers expect a company to be responsive and “recover” any problems created by service delivery failure … but we can’t always expect the same when the problem is out of the company’s control. Nonetheless, hotel staff went out of their way to help their guests who found themselves in a difficult situation.

The hotel was the Marriott at Boston’s Copley Plaza, and it provided one of my most memorable customer experiences. I’ve shared this story in countless presentations since this experience happened more than 20 years ago! (How’s that for word-of-mouth? Amazing how customers have long memories for positive and negative experiences.)

Thanks for asking, Becky.  And thanks for a great interview.

  • Thank you, Sybil, for your time!

Blog Book Tour Continues 

Sybil’s book tour has already had a few stops this week and finishes up the beginning of next week.  Here is her full itinerary; be sure to linger at each stop, since each blog author is coming from a different perspective!

 

Posted in Book reviews, Customer service, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

When Things Don’t Work: Tolerate or Leave?

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 28, 2008

Stay or go? All of us have days when things don’t go the way they should.  Companies have those days, too.  Service goes down.  Planes don’t take off when they should.  A chef doesn’t show up for work.  Someone slams a product on a blog. 

When things get tough, the company’s response to the problem can make or break their reputation – and their customer base.

The outcome often depends on what kind of relationships have already been built with customers before the problem occurs.  Has the company had a history of listening to customers and reaching out to them in their own language?  Does the company empower employees to take care of things when they go wrong?  Does the company respond to blog posts and other social media conversations?  Does the company build customer loyalty by understanding their customers, then communicating with them the way they want to be communicated with?  These are all part of a strong customer strategy which will help organizations weather the storms which inevitably come.

If a company does have strong relationships with its customers and has built a loyal customer base, customers may cry foul but will most likely tolerate the issues.  They may be very forgiving, even sticking up for the company when others are trying to pull them down.  The customer base will remain with the company – critical in slow economic times!

On the flip side, if a company is only focused on trying to squelch negative comments, if they only talk about themselves, if they forget to take the customer’s perspective – then any falter or trip can result in disaster.  Grumpy customers and their comments come raining down.  Customers spray their problems all over the place, then leave – and take others with them.

Which kind of company do you want to work for? 

If you work for the first type of company, kudos to you!  Let’s hear some of your great stories!

If you work for the second type of company, I know a good customer strategy consultant that can help you… ;)

(Thank you to Brian Solis for the inspiration on this post!  Photo credit: ccaetano)

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

Defining “Customer-Focused Strategy”

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 14, 2008

Focus on the customer My blogging friend Glenn Ross has put forth the following challenge to some of his fellow Customer Service bloggers (including me): How do you define “Customer-Focused Strategy?”  Great question, Glenn!  Glenn has posted his definition of a customer-focused strategy, and has included ideas and definitions from other excellent customer service bloggers, including ServiceUntitled, CustomersAreAlways, and CustServ.  There are many good ideas there, and I encourage you to check them out.

Customer strategy is the main focus of this blog as well as what I do (and have been doing) for a living.  I still like the paragraph I wrote on customer strategy last year at about this time; here is the excerpt from the post Rockin’ Our Customer’s Experience Online:

Customer Strategy

Does your organization have a customer strategy?  Most companies have a product strategy and a marketing strategy.  Customer-centric organizations also have a customer strategy.  Put simply, a customer strategy is a proactive plan for how we want to acquire, retain, and grow our customers!  Too many organizations leave it to chance when it comes to retention and growth of customers, focusing most of their resources on customer acquisition.  Why would we want to leave the management of our most valuable asset, our customers, to chance?

In order to align our customer experience with our customer strategy, we need to consider how we have created that strategy.  A strong customer strategy is built around the interactions we have with our customers, and we are able to maximize the value of every customer touch.  In other words,  we make each impression with the customer count.  Customer service and support may have several opportunities to make customer impressions, and it is often where the rubber meets the road.  How do we handle our customers when there is a problem or a question?  The goal of all these interactions is to increase customer retention and loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business and referrals.  Done right, a customer strategy will also build customer trust, strengthen the relationship, and add value to both the customer and the company.

In other words, a customer-focused strategy is a planned approach to how we handle our customers at every touch point.  It is more than just giving great customer service.  It is more than marketing with certain customer buzzwords.  It is more than a great customer experience.  It requires a strategic plan to be put in place to address all of those areas, plus the metrics to ensure the success of the strategy. 

I have been part of creating a customer-focused strategy for several clients, and this is no small undertaking.  It requires agreement and consistency across all functional areas in order to be most effective.  No silos allowed!  The customer doesn’t look at a company as individual departments, so we need to be “one brand” to the customer.  The customer-focused strategy helps make that happen.

Great Examples

Glenn also asked for examples of companies who do this well.  There are a few competitions out there for this type of award; a great one is coming up from the team at Peppers and Rogers Group and Gartner.  Called the Gartner and 1to1 Customer Excellence Awards, it will be showcasing those companies that “get” customer strategy – and how to execute it.  (By the way, the contest is open until May 23, so if you are reading this and want to submit your company, you can go here and enter.)

At this blog, I have listed several examples of companies that are doing customer strategy well.  They include FreshBooks and their customer roadtrip, Bungie and the way they are fans of their customers, Element Fusion and their web concierge, Disney and customer delight, and Xerox and their dedication to customer experience, among others.  I don’t think any one of them is perfect, but each of them do many things well across several areas. 

OK, out to you, readers!  How would you define “customer-focused strategy”?  Do you agree with me or am I missing something?  Who is doing it well?

(Photo credit: redbaron)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

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 »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers