Tag Archives: Customer

Unkept Promises, Ungathered Feedback

Last week I wrote about how a company with which I did business became a source of annoyance. I realize that the odds are slim that they read the piece, especially since they, through a surrogate, managed to do something even more annoying than spam a good customer.

A few days ago, I got an email from a company who was acting on behalf of the golf ball reseller with whom I had done business. The email lead with “We want to hear your opinion. It will take less than 15 seconds” and featured the logo of the reseller. It further stated that the company:

asked us to contact you to hear about your experience regarding your recent order. Your ratings and comments, whether positive or negative, will help improve their customer service. Your review is also valuable information for new customers who are considering shopping with this company. All feedback will be made public, we will not publish your name.

Scrolling down through the mail, I just had to award 1 to 5 stars, which I did. When I hit the link to enter, I was taken to a website which asked me to write a few words of feedback about my transaction. No problem, at least not until I tried to submit my review. You see, the page wouldn’t submit until I had also written a review of each of the three brands of balls I had ordered, leaving stars for each one as well as several words of text. The 15 seconds (actually quite a few more) being up, I closed the browser tab, feedback, rating, and review unsubmitted.

Yet another thing we can’t do in marketing. We can’t make promises that we know won’t be kept. Asking for “15 seconds” of my time is fine. Requiring many more seconds (minutes, actually) under a false pretense isn’t. The feedback I left initially was my opinion (positive, by the way) of the transaction as well as the quality of what I had received. It would have served to encourage people to do business with this company since they deliver what they promise at an excellent value. Instead, they got nothing, because a vendor they had hired put a gun to my head and demanded I write multiple reviews and wouldn’t take what I had written for them until I did so.

It’s a customer-centric world, folks. You can’t turn a happy customer into one that is left with a bad taste in their mouth because of something you want, not the customer. And for goodness sake, don’t promise anything that you won’t deliver, OK?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Huh?

Marketing, Not Annoying

As the weather warms up (despite a blizzard rearing its ugly head), I start to get ready for the upcoming golf season. For me, that means ordering a supply of balls. I’m too cheap to pay full retail price for the high-end balls that I prefer so I usually order from one or more sites that feature “recycled” golf balls. These are often “one-hit wonders” that some hacker dumped in a pond or the woods and have been reclaimed for sale. High-quality, low-cost = great value, especially for someone like me, who is only going to donate them back to the golf gods in short order.

English: Golf balls.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I placed an order last week for 100 balls. It was an easy transaction with good email communication throughout. It’s what happened over the next few days that is our topic today. You see, I’ve received an email from the site every couple of days, informing me about sales, coupons and other inducements to place an order. The issue in my mind is that I just did buy from them, and even I can’t go through 100 balls in a couple of days. This is symptomatic of a big problem for many brands. We try to use the very effective email channel to communicate and instead we use it to annoy.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with trying to sell via email. Like other channels of communication, however, we can’t use it exclusively for that purpose. If customers are going to enjoy hearing from you, it can’t all be about “ME ME ME!” Providing information that’s helpful from the customer’s point of view is not announcing a sale on items the customer just bought a week ago. That is annoying.

What happened here is that one system – the sales system – wasn’t taking to another system – the marketing system. That might have been acceptable several years ago but today it isn’t. Even Amazon, whose systems are about as cutting edge as anyone’s, will show you remarketing ads for products you just bought. For example, I bought my daughter a snow blower in December through Amazon and yet I was seeing ads from Amazon for the same one I bought on Facebook. That’s not marketing – it’s annoying.

Put yourself in the customer’s position. You hate spam and you probably don’t like a constant barrage of “BUY THIS” emails either. Provide content of value – useful information that helps the customer. Doing so gives you permission to do the hard sell every so often. Don’t silo the various departments – make them communicate and integrate. And for goodness sakes, don’t be annoying!

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

There’s A Little Cafe…

Foodie Friday and we’re heading overseas this morning. To Vienna, specifically, where, as The Boss wrote about San Diego, “there’s a little cafe.” Now I don’t know if they “play guitars all night and all day” but I do know one thing they do. They charge customers who plug in their phones or laptops to recharge them. As the Reuters article on this quoted the owner:

Austria, Vienna, Hundertwasserhaus

Hundertwasserhaus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Tourists – always electricity, electricity, electricity. Sorry but who is going to pay me for it?” said Pokorny, owner of the Terrassencafe in Hundertwasserhaus – located inside a colorful patchwork of apartments designed by artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Customers who charge up during a 15-minute coffee can still do so for free, she said. An hour, however, is beyond the pale.

On the surface, a reasonable business practice, right? Electricity costs money, and if each of the outlets is in use most of the day incurring costs that aren’t built into the charge for the coffee, it seems reasonable to pass those costs on to the customers who incur them, right? Maybe, except for a couple of things.

First, someone figured out that it costs about $.84 (that’s 84 cents) to charge a smartphone for a year. That’s using an overnight charge but one can assume timewise that’s comparable to an outlet being in use for a full day. This cafe is charging customers 1 Euro (which is about $1.06 at the moment) if they plug in for more than 15 minutes. In other words, this is more of a profit center than the owner is letting on.

Put that aside. It not customer friendly. Cafe culture in Europe is about sitting and enjoying, not about grabbing a coffee to go. This owner knows that – she offers free wifi. Is it not part of the same welcoming, customer-centric mindset to offer free electricity as well? If your customers are sitting and enjoying, is it unreasonable for them to plug in and charge up while using the free wifi you offer?

I wrote earlier this week about misleading statements in marketing materials. Offering free wifi and charging for electricity feels as if it’s the same type of insult to your customer. Unless this cafe’s coffee is a cut above anything else nearby (and there is almost always decent coffee nearby in Europe), they’re being extremely short-sighted. If the coffee is that good, raise the price a few pennies to cover the cost of whatever electricity seems to be used. Don’t insult your customers by sending mixed messages or by nickel and diming them.

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Filed under food, Huh?

We’re All Termites

This Foodie Friday, let’s talk about eating wood.  There have been a whole host of articles written about it.  We all do it,  unknowingly most of the time.  Oh, you’ll not find “wood” on any label, but you will for sure find “cellulose” or some variant thereof.  As The Street explained it:

Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured to different lengths for functionality, though the use of it and its variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.) is deemed safe for human consumption, according to the FDA.

Don’t we all need a little more fiber in our diets?  It’s in shredded cheeses, ice cream, and pretty much any “low fat” version of your favorite food.  To my knowledge, it doesn’t lead to an insatiable urge to gnaw on a table leg.  I think the real issue is one from which all of us can learn, and it’s our old friend transparency.
Sure, it says cellulose on the label, but when it also says “natural” or even “organic”, I think that there is an expectation that the product is made from the same sort of stuff that you might find laying around your kitchen.  It’s disappointing (or worse) when people hear that wood fiber is being used as a filler to make the product cheaper to produce among other things. Of course, that’s one of the trade-offs that consumers never think about.  Do you want a less expensive, potentially better for you product or do you want it to cost more but be made from the same ingredients you’d buy at the market to make it yourself?

There are tradeoffs like that one in a number of areas.  Do you want a secure phone, safe from hackers, or do you want terrorists to be able to plot without governmental monitoring? Any trade-off involves a sacrifice that must be made to get a certain product or experience. To me, it isn’t so much about what’s being sacrificed as much as consumers aren’t helped to understand how these conscious choices affect them. I think we can all do better in helping them to do so.

I don’t suspect any of us is going to sit down with a nice bowl of wood fiber anytime soon, but I bet you might read the label a little more carefully on your next bowl of whatever.

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

Retention And Acquisition

Where do you come out on the retention vs. acquisition question? What I mean is do you think it’s more of an imperative to keep your current customers happy (retention) or to keep filling the revenue pipeline with new customers (acquisition)? A study from the Forbes Insights folks says that: 

42% of respondents said that expanding their customer base was an important strategic priority for their company. And, nearly one-third of executives worldwide said that retaining their existing customer base was a priority.

This is from a study called “Mastering Revenue Lifecycle Management: Customer Engagement Leads to Competitive Advantage,” which talks about a systemic approach to maximizing revenue throughout the lifetime of the customer relationship. On the surface, this struck me as strange since I’ve always felt it was more cost effective and easier to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The Ipsos folks say that I’m off base – the whole “it costs 5x more to find a new customer” is a myth.

Maybe it has to do with how “old” a company is.  The study found that more than 70 percent of respondents from mature companies believe that enhancing customer loyalty is their organization’s primary goal, as opposed 39 percent of less mature companies.  That would make sense since one would expect that the longer a company has been in business, the larger a customer base it has.

Maybe I’m just partial to the “fewer but deeper” relationships thinking, but I fall into the retention school with respect to priorities.  Let me repeat the question with which we began: where do you come out on the retention vs. acquisition question?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

Engaged With Engagement

Many of us who hang around in marketing circles often mention the word “engagement.”  It’s a term that expresses a connection between a consumer and a brand and is a highly sought after end result of our marketing activities.  There isn’t any question that we need it to happen but there does seem to be some question with respect to how it should be measured.  That was the topic covered but a survey from the CMO Council and reported by eMarketer

The survey asked marketers about the primary metric they used to measure engagement.  As you might expect, many of the marketers (more than a third) focused on revenue metrics.  That’s not a bad idea since there is not a heck of a lot of interpretation needed.  Either someone bought, and revenue went up, or they didn’t. Customer lifetime value, revenues per customer and overall revenue increases were the primary type of metric they used.  Then there were those who focused on things such as clicks, conversions, shares, traffic and web analytics.  These are campaign metrics, and another  30% of respondents said that these were the primary type of metrics they used.  Lead generation metrics, finance metrics, and service metrics had far fewer choices as a primary metric for measuring engagement.

Here is the thing.  As the eMarketer piece said:

Though not the most popular way to gauge successful engagement, customer service is important—and many consumers feel that good service makes them feel more positive about brands. In fact, nine in 10 internet users worldwide said so.

That gets me asking if we are trying to grow our businesses by aligning ourselves with our customers’ concerns and needs, should we not be measuring success using metrics that reflect those concerns and needs?  The above data suggests that many of us aren’t.  Sure, I get that if revenues are growing we’re probably doing something right, but maybe that’s a short-term gain based on a promotional offer or a single new product.  Have revenues grown because you’re keeping customers happy or despite the fact that they’re unhappy?  Today’s food for thought!

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

A Snap Of A Dilemma

Are you on Snapchat? I am, although I don’t pretend to understand it as well as some of my younger friends. What I do understand about it, however, is that they are facing the sort of dilemma that torments a lot of businesses. I don’t have any real answers today but maybe you do. Let’s see. 

Snapchat began as a way for users to send disappearing content – photos, videos – to other users. Of course, as with everything on the internet, the content never really disappears (screengrabs, anyone?), but let’s put that aside. The app became very successful and now has over 100 million daily active users. That’s the sort of scale that becomes incredibly appealing to marketers, and it also makes other revenue options such as commerce and data mining more viable.

Now the dilemma. Snapchat’s business has been built to a great extent on the premise of privacy. If you’ve ever tried to locate someone on the platform, good luck. If you don’t have the email address they’re using or their exact Snapchat name, it’s very hard. That may be great if you’re a user trying to avoid stalkers, but if you’re a brand trying to get users it means you need to do a lot of external marketing of your Snapchat presence.  This quote from a recent Digiday piece says it nicely:

One of Snapchat’s main selling points with users entails its combination of anonymous users and disappearing messages. The company has been strident about not building profiles on users to creepily advertise to them. As the reality sinks in about the need for a viable business, more targeting and data capabilities follow. Technology partners are able to bring their own data to an API — email lists and other customer information — to serve ads against.

Therein lies the dilemma.  Until now, Snapchat has tried to make money by selling “lenses”, overlays that will let you alter your snaps so that, say, you can be vomiting rainbows (and who doesn’t want to do that!).  While $300,000 a month in lens sales is nothing to sneeze at, it’s not nearly the kind of monetization that a platform with this kind of user base can command. They also tried to sell ads embedded in some of the “stories” that are a part of the service (they’re a series of snaps linked together around a theme).  Apparently they don’t have enough user data or metrics about engagement to satisfy big spending.  So what do they do?  What is the business?

The balance between staying true to the reasons customers engaged with you in the first place and making money is tricky.  Better metrics and targeting might mean less privacy.  More ads in content mean less user enjoyment (no one likes being interrupted). Less enjoyment and decreased privacy might mean a decline in the user base.  But it is a business, and investors want to see a return.

So what’s the answer?

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Filed under digital media, Thinking Aloud