Monday, March 31, 2008

The Customer is NOT Always Right? Duh.

The customer is not always right?: or siding with your employees more might actually result in better customer service. Interestingly, this post drew over 250 comments after it was mentioned in the NYT. Alexander Kjerulf, of PositiveSharing Again, the question to ask might be "what's reasonable here"? and "how can this be made exceptional?" The example given in the piece is that one customer of southwest airlines complained about everything. When bumped up to the CEO, he said "Goodbye, we shall miss you". Perhaps, "I've called my friend over at Virgin Airlines, and they would be delighted to take your business, and as a parting gesture, we have transferred all your travel miles to Virgin so you can get off to a flying start". Might seem counter-intuitive, but I bet that word would have went around.

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So What's The Big Idea? Be Meaningful.

I had caught this post by Francois at Emergence Marketing, basically saying that how a customer interacts with your brand or service is your "UI" (user interface). Its an idea picked up by Piaras Kelly this morning as well, as he explicates his experience at Dublin airport. He also connects to a great slideshow on the new approaches to marketing that is worth checking out here. If your product is really great, it will be remarkable. People will want to talk to others about it. Fortunately, the internet is a great way to share these experiences. Some friend on his myspace/ facebook presence line says "hey, about to go out and buy new sneakers", another friend emails/sms's/calls and recommends a new asics/ nike/ adidas. Some of the examples given in the slides I think are a bit "old school" in that they are really examples of conspicuous or public consumption (i.e. products that you consume in public and have a brand messaging element). See someone using a cool new iPhone, they are a "tech person", an "apple lover", a "tech hipster". The TRULY great examples of products that are their own marketing, are the products that significantly make your life better. Umair makes this point over and over again. Do something that is culturally and socially important, that removes an unbalance, a barrier, an injustice, and you will be rewarded. Weirdly, when I go to think what's an example here Paul, the idea that looms largest for me is the use of Technology and Communications in the Obama campaign. The ability to connect, communicate, and mobilise using community, technology, and meaning, could actually re-engineer how our leaders get elected, and from there, perhaps how our public service relates to its public. That could be a pretty big structural change in the years ahead. If anyone has any other big ideas, please, let me know, I'd be happy to post them here, and give you the citation! update 1: just remembered, these guys are bring enterprise 2.0 to the NHS (UK Health Service). Here is a great slideshire from them on bringing 2.0 tools to one of the biggest public service blocks. Update 2: Via Venterprisey (enterprise 2.0 blog) the use of mashup's to bring citizen based reporting on exit poles, intimidation attempts, murders surrounding the Zimbabwe elections. This inability to control the media message, may actually free a nation.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Personality Not Included.

The Book Personality Not Included: I think there there is a strong trend towards Customer Interaction as Brand Experience. You might have noticed over the history of postings on this blog, that we think of customer interaction, and the management of customer interaction, will become more transparent, will be capturable, and publishable. Rohit Bhargava has been looking at these issues from the perspective of the advertising agency, and he extended the invitation to his readers to post in questions in relation to this topic, which in in turn would respond to in person. A great way of building engagement, and of course, gaining initial attention for te books release. Here are a few questions that he kindly undertook to answer for me an an email exchange. (1) Companies are short term in their outlook (lets face it) How Can companies overcome the initial "slump" in performance and motivation when they open up to transparency? Well, I'm not sure that there always needs to be a slump associated with opening up. For example, there was an online retailer I remember reading about that decided to add customer reviews to their site. Almost immediately after they added this feature, they saw a sales spike and that spike was sustained over a long period of time. Here's a link I managed to find about that story: The point is, personality and transparency can be the best ways to add to the bottom line ... and the best part is that often they don't require the huge types of capital expenditures that can kill short term profits and be very unappealing to the many companies that operate focused from quarter to quarter. (2) Opening up will make you very dominant in the "commentsphere" and you will take a resultant leap in Google ranking. But now all the new prospects are seeing a lot of noise about "poor performance". Could this be actually damaging given the competition is presenting a "nothing wrong here" image? I think the idea that you can still present a "nothing wrong here" image is probably fading fast with the easy with which consumers can share negative opinions whether you provide a forum for them to do it or not ... which gets to the heart of your question. When it is so easy for people to talk about negative experiences with your brand, you have two options. You can either decide to open up, have a forum to address complaints and do it on your terms, or just let conversations happen online without being part of them. My argument is that it is far better to be part of the conversation and have your own platform than to be a spectator only reacting when a situation gets close to a crisis mode. (3) It seems to me that how employees respond to the commentsphere and the new community based support approaches are going to lean heavily on the individuals capacity to engage and solve, coupled with old fashioned great technology for content management etc. Have you seen anyone address this particularly well? You are very right to point out the importance of the team in building a personality for your brand. This is absolutely true. A few brands that do this particularly well are Google and Sun from the tech industry. Both have a relatively strong point of view on what their employees stand for and how they are able to speak on behalf of the company. The other example I would point to is Zappos, the online shoe retailer famous for their customer service. Thanks for taking the time to answer those questions: My final points here arethat where, when and how companies engage with their customers is completely changing. The conversation is not only occuring with your customer service representative, but also with on your customers blog, their myspace, their twitter stream. Granted, not everyone is "net native", but when they go to find out more about your companies, the places where these conversations are occuring, will have authority, and search ranking preference.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nice Use of Recruitment Site Data

Investing In Customers, Listening, and Loyalty.

Umair (no need for a second name, you know, a bit like Madonna), brings our attention back to the topic of brands, and brand building. The key question, IMHO, is "how can we meaningfully invest in our customers"? This is a very deep question. This question, in turn, is framed by the Purpose question, what are we about as a company? Umair gives the example of Google, and talks about how it is driven to "make the world a better place". I think that this goes fundamentally to the issue of developing products and services that address real substantive societal issues, not corporate ones. A key take away from the posting for me was that Nike was moving from advertising spend, to investing in customers services like work out advice, sports events, local sports competitions, communities etc. In another post, Bruce Tempkin of Customer Experience Matters points out some metrics relating to customer loyalty and great customer experience. It's worth a look over just to re-iterate that Great experience has a much higher impact on loyalty that Good experience. Perhaps Great Experience will morph into Authentic experience, i.e. a sense that you are interacting with real people, that can be like your best neighbour, you know, the one that offers to cut your lawn when you are on holiday, so your house doesn't look neglected. At VoiceSage we had our own mantra's that were based on "being fair" and "being different". We wanted to only charge for real, measurable benefits, that you could get quickly, and with no upfront investment. We didn't want integration costs, we didn't want hidden charges. We wanted simplicity, ease of use, flexibility. I think we've demonstrated this capability to our client base now. But I wonder what lessons we could draw from Umair's comments about Apple and Google? Its worth thinking about.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Plastic Revolution

Paul Kedrosky points us towards an article on the global growth of credit cards. Last week, another newspaper pointed out that UK indebtedness is actually higher than US indebtedness on the level of the individual.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sometimes you have to take functionality away to get breakthrough ideas....

Take away Garfield from the frames and you get the story of a really disturbed young man. This is going to be a huge hit on the web, but (and without forcing the point), it shows that by focusing on simplicity, and taking functionality, roles, etc. you can make a service that is so easy to use that it is hyper-simple. Also one of the trends.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

bear sterns .

Bear sterns go into receivership ? Need to be bailed out ? Asset backed securities a huge risk factor in overall env. What to do ? No joking , get in control of your credit process, and steamline cash and payments so you don't get credit crunched. Be in no doubt, this is serious stuff.

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James Whatley On Customer Expectations of GREAT Customer Service.

Oh dear. Mr. James Whatley, esteemed mobile technology blogger, goes drops his Vodafone Nokia N95, which he loves, dearly, and calls Vodafone to get his fix (literally, the man loves his N95). So rather than replay the incident, why don't you just drop over here and have a read. Back? I didn't think so, but I will go on with a little Friday Quiz anyway: - James was transferred to another agent because it was felt that his claim was insurance related: was this good practice? (Yes, I know they are another company, but think about it, was it good practice?) - James was so infuriated with the Insurance Agent giggling (I jest not) at him when introducting herself and the company, that he hung up, and rang back (Given that the company deals with Insurance claims, I think it's pretty obvious that a lot of people are going to be wound up a bit emotionally when they ring); so, how can an agent "Get Away" with this? (cheat sheet: culture) - James Rang back to get a different agent. Had to give all his information again. Are their ways around this (cheat sheet: his phone number)Oh and to save time, in other calls, nobody knew what phone he had, his status as a customer, or pretty much anything else about him. - James said he dropped the phone, and this might have something to do with why its not working now. The Agent asked "Did it stop right after you dropped it"? To which he replied, No, but I think it probably has something to do with it. Stunningly, she says that "If the accident can't be directly linked to the phone not working, there and then, it becomes a warrantee issue". This is it. UNFAIR. You've just told me the expensive insurance I've taken out is useless, and that I have to go back to Telecom service provider, where the "device" warrantee is applicable. WOW. Probably will never take out a financial product with a Telecom provider again, hey James? - While "transferring him back to the Vodafone customer service", they dropped him. - So James re-phones the Telecoms company (call 4 or 5 now). They say, great fine. Bring it in to the store. JAMES IS TELEPHONE AND INTERNET GUY he never goes to the store (oops, didn't keep tabs of his channel interaction patterns?) Actually, he hates going to the store, it fills him with feelings of dread. - James is utterly utterly angry. You've made him feel fraudulent, betrayed, and now very very angry. UNREASONABLY SO. (after all, Vodafone are not the insurer, they didn't expect James to go throwing his phone around, they've been good to him before). BUT: he Admits that he got great great service from Vodafone before, he LOVES his N95, probably spends a packet on his packets. SO: one truly awful experience, fuelled by a mixture of bad practice and lack of customer experience focus, leads to one heavy user leaving, and one major online publication carrying the story, and probably hundreds of bloggers commenting. I am not saying "things like this don't happen all the time in companies". What I am saying is that how you deal with them is now part of your customer service because it will be broadcast. Peak Experience: James remembers the trough of his disappointment and the peak of his anger. It is his overwhelming memory of his entire relationship, over a few years, with Vodafone. Now compare that with yesterday's post about Russell's experience with returning an iPhone. The Difference is CULTURE in the Service Providers: The Difference is THE EXPECTATION of GREAT, not Good Service: The Difference is APPLE Want You To JOIN, Vodafone Wanted You To BUY: -

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Russell Drops iPhone, Then Adopts iPhone !

Russell Beattie has a problem with iPhone, because he dropped it. Goes to the store, the lovely lady says "no problem, I'll replace that". Russell dumb struck. Great Support for what, maximum cost of $200. Russell's impact on the mobile developer community, $2m, I'd say. I must say I am seriously looking at an iPhone, but 3G is kind of essential to me.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Proactive and Personal

DestinationCRM's Editor has a good post this morning. The upshot is the assertion that even as people and companies move online, the interaction with the call centre will become even more important in developing your real brand identity. Quoting Genesys (a call centre solution provider), they propose 4 key components of delivering great customer experience in the contact centre: Convenience, Competency, Personalization, and Proactivity. He explain that there are nine ways to fulfil these requirements: * conduct real-time satisfaction surveys; * implement a customer front door; * increase first-contact resolution; * provide a consistent multichannel experience; * maximize resource availability; * communicate proactively; * manage callbacks effectively; * provide personalized services; and * apply innovative communication. The article goes on to say that "While many of these strategies may seem like common sense for the contact centre, two in particular -- communicating proactively and providing personalized services are often overlooked because of poor implementation". Proactivity in the context of the article refers to "popping information" so that the customer doesn't have to volunteer it, or repeat it. But there is no reason at all why it would not also apply to "outbound Interactive Voice Messaging". The additional wisdom I would look for in this kind of an article is to give practitioners some kind of a "map of concerns" beginning with short sharp interventions, while at the same time, developing a view on how to progress to more strategic approaches such as "building a data strategy", "actionable information", and "customer interaction context". The number one concern of CEO's to IT directors is "fast implementation" of the projects. Hosted players enable you to get quick, sharp projects going, prove the value and then fine tune or integrate.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Stop Mortgage Payment Defaults

From NYTimes Default rates are going up. Interestingly, the rate is higher for those moving from a fixed rate to a variable rate, one would suppose that people are moving from that early "promotional rate", to the "adjusted rate". This is what we call a context trigger. I know your postal code, I know you are on this threshold, you should get a call, and offers should be made to adjust payment schedules to stop defaulting before it begins.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

If Interactions Were Free...

If interactions with, and between customers were free (and frictionless) what effect would this have on the value of brands? Looks like we may find out soon. Umair (now over on the HBS blog), is taking the fact that brands are "heuristics", i.e. short cuts, to evaluation. Brands, and prices, indicate value, belonging and a range of other elements. People can very quickly see, and share, if brands (information) lives up to its promise. This happily coincides with Conversations over on VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) with Doc Searls around the role of pricing in communicating within markets. In commercial B2B markets, price is also an "indicator of value". But is it a good one? Customers that buy your product promise, will test it, video it, and publish it to their friends. If your not thinking about how you can build "conversations, and experiences" into your "product or service", you have little chance of giving a customer a brand experience. A price is just a message around the value encapsulated. Not understanding how the customer got here, by what route, and with what context, is a sure way to lose them on price. By understanding what the customer truly values you have to understand the process by which they come to make a decision, and thus what they are seeking to value. You may actually end up being able to charge more for your service. Final Point: an old McKinsey paper said that if your marketing guy calls your product a commodity, fire them. No product is a commodity to ALL its customers. Even for rolled steel, some customers will value consistency in product or delivery, others in pricing, others in speed of cycle time. The challenge is to capture more and more data so you can generate the opportunity for insights around what customers actually value in their interaction with your company. So, if Interaction was free, what would people actually value, what is actually scarce? ah-hum. Yes. Attention.

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