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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