Tag Archives: Customer voice

Does good advertising matter?

Driving around metro Atlanta with my kids is always entertaining, and their observations could be educational for advertisers as well.

Take, for example, a campaign that recently ran for a local company called Superior Plumbing.  My daughter gets irate every time she sees one of their outdoor boards, proclaiming loudly that she would never do business with someone who produced such stupid ads.  Such as,

“Talking about poo in your ads is just not right, Mom,” she says.  “Yes it is.  It’s awesome!” says my son.

Another is Fidelity Bank, a local Atlanta bank with a lion in their logo.  Apparently, they decided that they were going to be “the lion bank” because I guess they couldn’t figure out anything else to say that was differentiating.  So after seeing this board…

…the conversation goes like this:

Daughter:  “’Hunting for a loan?’ Is that really the best they could come up with, Mom? You’re in advertising – do you like it?”    Son:  “Cool lion.”

Me:  “Yes, it’s a nice-looking lion, but no, I don’t like it.  You see, marketers are supposed to be able to say what makes them unique and give people a reason to want to do business with them.  It’s called differentiation, and…”

Daughter, interrupting:  “Yeah yeah, I got it.  When can we go to H&M to use my gift card?”

Son, shouting:  “Punchbuggy!!!!”  Then, “Oh look, another Mustang. Mom, you should totally buy one of those.  They’re really awesome cars.  I like red.”

Moral of the story?  Kids may have short attention spans, but they are paying attention, whether your brand is relevant to them now or not.  And today’s kids are tomorrow’s jaded consumers.  They’re smarter than you think, and they have long memories.  Work hard at creating something that makes you worthy of their future earnings.  It’s your doody.

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Putting the Human Back into Customer Service

Long gone are the days of a disgruntled customer sharing his or her bad experience with only a handful of people.  Today, poor customer service can be broadcast to hundreds or even thousands of people.  Take, for example, Catherine Brooks, a Florida woman who is suing SunTrust Bank over the way it paid out a construction loan to her builder.  The home is only 65 percent complete, and the $1.6 million loan has dried up.  Brooks has enlisted Twitter to tell her story and has amassed 4,400 followers in the process.

The actions of Brooks are representative of most consumers today.  A recent survey of New York state residents revealed that a whopping 97 percent of respondents are likely to share poor customer service with friends, and approximately half of them will vent on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.

The instantaneous nature of social media makes it easy for people to vent their frustrations in the heat of the moment. And, it’s generally not the initial posts that do the damage; it’s the exponential potential of “retweeting” that can catapult a complaint to the point of showing up on highly trafficked news sites and blogs.

Savvy companies, such as Southwest Airlines (@SouthWestAir), Best Buy (@Twelpforce) and GM (@GMCustomerSvc) have recognized how to turn this potentially negative situation into a positive one.  Their customer service teams answer questions online in real time and have the authority to be problem solvers, not just policy implementers.  They also put customers first, addressing, with compassion, customers’ problems and issues.

What these companies, and others like them, are doing is not revolutionary – it’s common sense, actually.  Valeria Maltoni, a top social media influencer with nearly 20,000 followers, recently stated, “Companies are starting to see the wisdom of putting the human back into customer service.  Along with the additional promotional opportunity opened up with social media, many are walking the walk and actually listening to customers.”

At the end of the day, isn’t that what successful companies do?  Listen to their customers and address their needs?  How does your company measure up?

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Disconnects between online and brick and mortar stores

A recent shopping experience brought home to me the dangers of retailers quickly adding Web store capabilities. In the rush to make their products available online, they often don’t pay enough attention to the customer experience and its impact on the brand.

Last fall was the end of the summer selling season. I decided it was time to replace my aging gas grill and now was a great time to buy a new one on sale. I ventured down to my local big box store, and sure enough, all their gas grills were on sale.

As I perused the army of stainless steel grills before me, I found the one I wanted — six burners, a rotisserie, a side cooker, and seriously discounted to move, including free delivery. There was only one slight problem, the floor model was an LP, and I wanted natural gas (but the sales ticket said “available in natural gas”). Flagging down a salesperson, I asked if I could get an NG model. He said he would check in the back and see if they had one. He returned a few minutes later and told me that they were out of the NG model but that I could get one on their fancy new Web site. I asked, “But will I get the sale price and free delivery over the internet?” “Yes,” he confidently replied.

So I returned home and went to the store Web site and found my grill. However, it was at the list price and not the sale price. So, I had to hit the “contact us” button and submit my problem. A few days later I received a response telling me to purchase it off the Web and they would credit me the difference. I proceeded to make my Web purchase.

Soon after that, I got an e-mail that my product had been shipped and the delivery person would be contacting me. A few days later, I got a call from the delivery company asking if I could be home on a certain afternoon to accept delivery. I was thinking this internet thing is going pretty smoothly, until she hit me with the next question — “Would you be able to lift 500 lb.?”  I said, “No, but I could move the grill by pieces to my deck and assemble it, if need be.”

On the appointed afternoon, I looked out my window to find a ginormous tractor-trailer blasting its airhorn in front of my house. I went up to the street, and the driver told me that he wasn’t supposed to be in a neighborhood, as his truck was set up for loading-dock deliveries. I replied, “You and Bigbox.com have made all the shipping arrangements, I just want my grill.” He told me he could lower the pallet to the street, but that was as far as he could deliver it. I figured I would just have to carry my grill a little farther than I originally thought.

As the tractor-trailer drove off, I opened the box, only to find the grill assembled (except for some optional wheels). Conscripting my neighbor, I got him to lean the grill up as I inserted the wheels. I proceeded to wheel the grill to my front door, only to encounter a door stoop not level with the sidewalk. My neighbor and I then had to fashion a ramp out of some wood. (I was beginning to think this free delivery was not exactly what I had in mind.) Finally, after wheeling this grill through my house I made it out to the deck.

End of story, right? Wrong. The next thing I knew I got an e-mail telling me that my credit card had been debited by bigbox.com for several hundred dollars in order to pay for shipping my grill across the country. After several e-mails and phone calls, I finally got them to credit the charge back.

Moral of this story?  When you build your Web model, remember, “It’s the customer experience, stupid.” Building a Web order entry and delivery system is only half the battle.  What is the customer experience? Are you asking them to lift 500 lb.? Are you dropping a pallet on their street and driving off?  Are you requiring them to hit “Contact us” a million times, only to have to follow it up with a phone call just to get the advertised price in your brick and mortar location?

Until you can answer “no” to all the above, you have some more beta testing to do.

– Michael Reineck – Principal

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Three techniques for using your customer’s voice to give you a competitive edge

With the products and services the agency supports, we often recommend bringing in the voice of the consumer to the conversation. It’s a gut check to ensure a client is really hearing what its customers are saying. While we spend time gathering the inside point of view from the client and their teams, there is no substitute for uncovering the true opinions and perceptions of the marketer’s customers, prospects and even its competition’s customers.

Are customers passionate about the brand? And why? Do they have negative feelings about the brand or a product? Have they had a good or bad experience recently? This is insight that can be used to bring in new customers, improve products and address misconceptions. Or even better, get your existing customers to buy more and tell their friends about the product.

Unfortunately, there are businesses that just don’t embrace this point of view. Sometimes, it’s not because they don’t value their customers’ and prospects’ opinions. More often, it has to do with corporate objectives and strategies that don’t necessarily line-up with outside points of view. And, in this economic environment, the importance of marketing communications falls to the bottom of the priority pile.

During these times, it’s getting even more difficult for a company with a deaf ear to succeed. Because no matter how much money they spend talking to the consumer, they will have never addressed what the consumer has asked for. And with consumers, using social media to talk about their experience, word will spread quickly if a brand doesn’t listen to its customers.

The good news is that it is easy to begin listening. Here are three ways you can start today.
1) Regularly conduct independent research and track your results. This is even more important in a tough economy.
2) Use social media tools to track opinion and reach out to consumers in real time.
3) Finally, make sure you are working with PR and marketing partners that will tell you the truth and help you effectively communicate it to your customers.

No matter what’s going on internally – and this recession has changed that even more – discovering the outside view of your product or service is critical to success.

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