Customers Rock!

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

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

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 »

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 »

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 »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 4 – Little Things

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 16, 2008

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

Seven Bold Moves 

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

1.      Be the undisputed coffee authority

2.      Re-engage and inspire our partners

3.      Re-ignite our emotional attachment with customers

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

5.      Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact

6.      Create innovative growth platforms worthy of our coffee

7.      Deliver a sustainable economic model

Emotional Attachment

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

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

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

See the Difference

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

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

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

New eBook on Social Media

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

PDF version

Word version

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

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

Customer Service – The Face of the Company

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 6, 2008

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

What Not To Do 

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

What To Do

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

A Quick Analysis

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

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

A Third Example

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

Little Things

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

(Photo credit: www.stockxpert.com)

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

How do I Love Thee?

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 14, 2008

hearts-and-hands.jpg Let me count the ways…

Love is in the air today as it is Valentine’s Day in the USA.  Here at Customers Rock!, we think about the ways we let our customers know we care about and appreciate them.  Some of us are not very good at that (or so you have told me), and we need reminders to make it happen.  Consider this your reminder – go out and let your best customers know you appreciate them and their business!

Of course, this act of recognition should be part of your larger customer strategy – you know, the one which outlines how you want to strengthen your customer relationships.  If you are a little short on ideas, go check out today’s post by Toby Bloomberg at Diva Marketing Blog.  Toby has enlisted many of her friends (me included – thanks, Toby!) to share how they build relationships with vendors/clients.  Some common threads seem to be the following:

  • Communicate openly, honestly, and frequently
  • Seek out the needs of the other person – then listen closely and take action!
  • Look for the win-win at all times
  • Build a personal relationship where possible
  • Be willing to give more than you receive; don’t always look for something in return
  • Shut up and listen!
  • Exceed expectations

I would add one more to the list – follow up with customers/clients at times when you aren’t trying to sell anything… like today.

Now go do it!

(Photo credit: Drx)

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

Speaker Tips

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 28, 2007

speech.jpg Many of us are often called upon to give speeches.  I do it on a regular basis and find it quite fun.  Others of us are not too keen to get up in front of an audience, whether at a conference, a customer presentation, or at an end-of-year employee gathering. 

C. B. Whittemore, blogger extraordinaire at Flooring the Consumer, came up with 10 Tips to Not Trip Up a Speech.  I especially like her first one (also applies if you are doing any singing!):

1. Never eat a banana immediately before a speech. For that matter, avoid dairy products, too. Both contribute to a distracting need to clear one’s throat during a presentation.

Here are my tips to add to her list.

  1. Find a friendly face in the audience.  You should “work the room”, of course, but in so doing you might find a face or two that are frowning.  Don’t take it personally!  Find a friendly face and keep coming back to that person for encouragement.
  2. Always keep a mint or hard candy with you at the podium.  Sometimes a sip of water doesn’t clear the “frog” in your throat!
  3. Minimize the number of bullets on each slide.  No one can read a slide with too many words on it!  Three bullets of short phrases are all that is necessary.
  4. Include something humorous at strategic points during your speech. A light laugh is always good to keep people focused!
  5. If you are comfortable in front of the crowd, get out from behind the podium lecturn!  A bit of wandering makes your presentation more visually interesting. (I know, C. B. had this one, too, but I think it is worth mentioning again.)
  6. Turn off your lavaliere microphone if you go to the bathroom before your speech.  ‘Nuff said.

All you public speakers out there, what are your top tips for a successful speech?  Add them to the comments or to C.B.’s post, and let us know what makes you shine!

(Photo: tomml)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Staying Top of Mind with Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 26, 2007

remember.jpg Chris Brown over at Branding and Marketing is challenging us to come up with some tips for staying top of mind with customers.  My blog post this past Friday on creating a customer communication plan is an integral part of staying top of mind.  Chris gave three very specific suggestions for keeping in touch with customers to help them remember you, as well as these ideas for how to communicate:

  • It shouldn’t take a lot of time to execute
  • It shouldn’t feel too much like an ad or in your face
  • It should help your customers or potential customers think of your services

Here are my three tips.

  • Quarterly “How are things going?” contact.  This is a good reason to let a continuing customer know you are thinking about them, and it will also prompt thinking about you.  Additionally, if there are any concerns, you will most likely hear about them.   Use phone, email, or in-person communications depending on the customer preference.
  • Send a newsletter with interesting, relevant information.  You can do this via a newsletter, if that is a way your customers want to hear from you.  We had a realtor who sent this type of newsletter monthly (in the mail), and I always stopped to read about the seasonal ideas, interesting stats, and of course, their latest customer testimonials! 
  • Send pertinent industry information.  This method is easy.  Just send along a link to a blog post or industry story you read that you think will be interesting for them.  You can do this while you are reviewing newsletters, blogs, or top news stories online.  If it is a blog post, and your customer doesn’t normally read blogs, you might also want to share why you read that particular blog.

What are your top three tips for staying top of mind?  Add them to the comments here or on Chris’s post, and let’s see what we can put into action for 2008!

(Photo: bsilvia)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

 
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