Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, January 30, 2012

Starbucks - 3 Twitter Best Practices

Twitter can help your business get closer to its customers ... create better word of mouth and greater brand advocacy ... and generate great ideas from engaged fans. How? Start by learning from the best practices used by companies that have been successful with Twitter.

Starbucks on InstagramStart by learning from Starbucks. When a national brand accumulates nearly two million followers on Twitter, its social media strategies are worth examining. The Seattle-based coffee giant is currently ranked as the fourth most popular corporate brand in this space. (By way of comparison, General Motors has 44,000 Twitter followers.)

The Starbucks tweetstream is impressive. Check out these three easy-to-emulate Twitter best practices. Each can be adapted to any industry, and each is modeled consistently via the company's Twitter account, @Starbucks -- which I found to be deeply personalized to individual questions, complaints, and suggestions from customers.

Best Practice #1: Do Something You Know Your Customer Believes In. Starbucks uses Twitter to promote cause-driven promotions that resonate powerfully with its user base. One particularly successful example was a “promotion where customers received free coffee if they brought in a reusable mug. This promotion grew their online fan base by 21% outside of the U.S. and by 6% overall. It not only drove sales, it changed how people purchased and consumed their coffee." (Source: Smartblogs.) What causes do your customers believe in?

Starbucks on InstagramBest Practice #2: Ask for Pictures. Starbucks uses Twitter to post plenty of interesting, user-generated images of its followers drinking from, displaying, or generally having fun with something that bears the familiar green company logo. Circulating these images means more engagement, greater advocacy, and broader brand awareness. How easy is it for a customer to take and forward a picture of your brand image? What would happen if you tweeted those images?

Best Practice #3: Let Customers Know That You Are Using Their Ideas. Starbucks uses Twitter to update individual customers on the status of individual ideas they have submitted via @MyStarbucksIdea. Wouldn’t you follow a company that kept you up to date about that?

If you haven’t given your company’s Twitter account regular attention (as in, original posts at least once a day, and prompt personal responses to each customer post), take a closer look at the infographic above.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Positive Customer Experience: What's the Return on Investment?

The Challenge: How do you build a business case for potentially costly changes to improve the overall customer experience? Disappointing Stay
The Reality: Marketers can expect reluctance to support new customer experience initiatives without proof that the investments will actually pay off. Sentiments like "If it ain't broke, don't spend money to fix it" may combine with old-fashioned organizational inertia and make changes difficult.
Three Marketing Lessons
To prove the value of improving the customer experience:
Lesson #1: The truth is out there. Today’s consumer has the power to cause your enterprise pain, or, through "evangelism”, raise it to new heights. Among the numerous points of contact with your company, you will find many mishandled "moments of truth", i.e., missed opportunities to improve both the customer experience and your organization's return on investment (ROI). The challenge is to identify these moments ... and then quantify how much fixing it is likely to be worth to your organization.
Customers are eager to tell “someone” what those moments are, how to fix them, and what will motivate repeat purchases and advocacy. But they need a responsive and caring department with whom to share this critical business intelligence. The question is, which people and teams in your organization have "listening to customers" across all channels, as a core part of their job description?
Once you know what needs to be improved, what part of the customer experience could turn borderline or dissatisfied customers into motivated advocates, you will know what to measure and, the revenue implications.
Lesson #2: Compare repeat purchasers with other customers. What trends show up? This kind of information often costs little or nothing to track down. As this thoughtful paper from Forrester Research points out, correlating purchase data with other information (such as survey results) can yield some compelling bottom-line conclusions.
"Analysts at Adobe combined historical purchase and upgrade data with survey data and found that customers with the highest feedback scores also had the greatest lifetime values. Differences in lifetime value between customers with the lowest and highest feedback scores ranged from 43% among retail customers to a whopping 288% among key business accounts."
Lesson #3: Patiently target the right prospective allies. Building coalitions for organizational change takes persistence, particularly if you work in a large organization. Once you identify a customer touch point that has a dramatic effect on the overall customer experience, keep collecting all the evidence you can that connects, directly or indirectly, to that touch point ... and then keep sharing that evidence with the internal stakeholders most likely to be affected by it. Remember that video and audio clips of customers and prospective customers discussing their problems can be particularly powerful motivators for senior executives.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Damaging Your Customer’s Loyalty

For nearly two decades, my family and I have been repeat guests at a beautiful inn on the Chesapeake Bay. Disappointing Stay We were very loyal fans, until our recent stay during the holidays.
I can no longer recommend this inn to others, which is something I've been doing enthusiastically since 1996... and we are not sure we will return.
How could the customer experience have been so bad?
On a personal note: based on our previous 18+ visits, my family has many great memories, (our kids describe it as their “second home”) so I will not identify the inn by name. But I do want to provide marketers of all industries with this cautionary tale.
Our difficulties began with the room cleaning staff's decision to take a box full of our holiday gifts-- which did not look remotely like garbage, and was left at least twenty feet away from the nearest garbage can-- and throw it out!

For an example of a company which managed the customer experience beautifully, read this story:
Build Positive Emotional Equity with Customer Care
A Culture Problem
The initial error of trashing our family gifts was serious, but on its own, it was evidence only of a serious training problem with the housekeeping staff. But the failure to respond with proactive care and concern for a valued repeat customer who received less than their very best is evidence of something far more serious, and of concern to every marketer: a culture problem.
We saw an early glimpse of the very different culture during the first few moments at the property. Contrary to our 18+ previous visits, our repeat guest history was never acknowledged when we checked in.
As we came to learn, the cultural changes permeated our guest experience. I am sharing this story because these types of cultural issues apply to all marketers, not just those in the hospitality industry.
Damaging Our Loyalty
The problems we experienced were many, but included:
It took numerous calls and visits to the front desk by my wife and daughter, to create a sense of urgency about looking for our valuable missing gifts. Finally, the manager was good enough to get into the garbage dumpster and begin to search.
However, in spite of my wife’s repeated requests to the front office staff that the manager search for multiple missing items, this message was not communicated. As a result only one of the missing gifts was found.
An inability to apologize. Some front-line staff acted put upon, and as if they were doing us a favor by resolving a troublesome problem we had created.
A manager's disrespectful attitude the next day, when my wife reminded him that additional items were still missing. When my wife explained that we were not sure which, and how many, gifts were missing, as our 6 family members had exchanged many gifts, but would try to find receipts when we returned home, he snapped: “You should know what the other gifts were; I certainly would!”
Failure of the General Manager to return our phone calls about the problem, or indeed to reach out to us in any way. As of the posting of this blog, 3 weeks after our visit, I still have not heard from the General Manager, (who was on property during our stay).
We left feeling betrayed. While we received monetary compensation for our problems in the form of five nights of free lodging, and reimbursement for $160 of missing jewelry, there was no recognition or acknowledgement of the upset or inconvenience this caused us. We left feeling that we were viewed as bothersome guests who should have labeled the gift boxes in our room more clearly.
We don't know if we will return ... because the culture of the place we loved has dramatically changed.

Marketing Takeaways: Four Critical Points:
For any industry, identify the points of weakness that might allow your team to:
    1.     Develop an attitude that “the customer is probably wrong”.
    2.    Not recognize and acknowledge a very loyal, repeat customer -- and treat him or her accordingly.
    3.    Allow management to be so removed from customers that they do not feel the need to quickly and proactively seek them out to offer assistance and apologies.
    4.    Have no process for follow-up contact with a customer after a serious mistake.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Three Voice of Customer Innovators to Watch in 2012

Three Voice of Customer (VoC) innovators -- Pitney Bowes, JetBlue, and Intel -- implemented important best practices in 2011. Watch them closely in 2012.
What is VoC?
Voice of Customer (VoC) is a marketing process that values, and is guided by, the insights of customers and prospects. The VoC process is made up of three core steps.
STEP 1. Voice of Customer Relationship Research. Research with customers or prospects helps marketers understand consumer’s product or service needs, decision making processes, and expectations of the optimal multichannel experience via web, social media/community, email, offline media, and customer service call centers.
Pitney BowesVoC Innovator: Pitney Bowes. The mail stream giant routes new alerts about potential service problems direct to its front-line managers. The source: Pitney Bowes' own customers. Managers coach their teams closely on these customer-identified "improvement areas”. Managers also dole out praise to the team based on customer feedback related to the specific problems solved.
For more on what Pitney Bowes is doing right based on VoC insights, check out their "Voice of the Customer Radio".
The Takeaway: Treat customer complaints as opportunities to gather and share critical VoC feedback ... and improve internal response systems.
STEP 2. Preference-driven Engagement. By engaging customers and prospects to Opt-In and self-profile their preferences, some companies create exceptionally accurate and high response Opt-In databases.
Pitney BowesPreference-driven Engagement Innovator: JetBlue. The airline's database development includes extensive opt-in and self-profiling initiatives. These include a Facebook Places campaign that gives passengers offers and reward points for checking in at specific airports, and an extremely sophisticated social media monitoring campaign. JetBlue actively monitors online conversations using hashtags, keywords and the like, engaging with customers and prospective customers at critical touch points. For more on JetBlue's preference-driven engagement, click here.
The Takeaway: Create opt-in and self-profiling initiatives that deliver clear value to both customers and prospects.
STEP 3. Preference-Driven Multichannel Marketing. This is the go-to-market component, where the VoC research-based strategies drive deployment of the social and traditional multichannel media mix, per individual preferences. Elements of a preference-driven integrated mix include online, social, direct mail, print, broadcast, narrowcast, and all the possible person to person "touch points”.... including phone and face to face interactions.
Pitney BowesPreference-driven Multichannel Marketing Innovator: Intel. Innovating in the area of creating preference-driven marketing channels, the semiconductor chip manufacturer Intel used feedback from customers and business partners to expand its marketing strategy. That strategy now includes festival-like events as part of a multichannel experience that appeals to a much younger target demographic: the 19-to-24-year-old end users of the computers that use its chips.
Innovate in 2012!

The Takeaway: Blend social media, traditional media, and live events to create a multichannel marketing mix that reflects the preferences of your target market.
Some enterprises rode the VoC wave much more adeptly than others in the year just past. These three in particular, each of which was cited in a thoughtful white paper from Forrester Research, stood out as role models.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Broken Promises

Were you missing something you ordered this Christmas?
Pitney BowesMy daughter was. She complained about a number of late-arriving packages ... packages that were supposed to have arrived before the 25th, but didn't. Curious, I did some research on the web to see just how widespread the late-delivery problem was ... and what retailers were doing to make amends with inconvenienced customers expecting last-minute Christmas gifts. I learned my daughter was not alone.
THE CHALLENGE: It was a disappointing Christmas for many shoppers, particularly those who placed orders after mid-December. In part, this was because of record levels of on-line orders during the final week of the holiday shopping season, and in part it was because of bad weather and logistical problems. The poor attitude of many front-line service people also played a role. It all added up to a huge holiday mess. Consider the following.
» A big Colorado snowstorm led to late arrivals of approximately 50,000 packages that UPS had committed to deliver in time for holiday gift-giving. After publicly promising refunds, UPS then unwisely changed its mind, earning itself both bad press and enduring consumer anger. As one fed-up consumer put it, "This makes no sense. They get paid. It snows in Colorado. That's what it does here. So how are you in the business that you can't deliver what you say?"
» FedEx had major lapses in on-time delivery and customer satisfaction. FedEx is still reeling from the damage inflicted on its brand by this real-life footage of a delivery employee carelessly lobbing a customer's computer monitor over a fence -- thus destroying the monitor. Seven million people have now seen the video.
» The US Postal Service finally delivered one very patient Arkansas customer's holiday package. The package arrived on December 16, 2011. It had been postmarked on December 10 ... of the previous year!
THE MARKETING TAKEAWAYS: Following are three lessons for marketers based on the holiday problems that too many consumers experienced.
Lesson #1: Late delivery and poor service are not "Operations problems." If an internal problem affects consumers, that's a marketing issue -- as both FedEx and UPS learned the hard way this year. Acknowledge the problem, be accountable for it publicly, and say exactly what you are doing to fix it.
Lesson #2: Attitude matters. Interestingly, most of the on-line complaints I read centered more on the poor communication skills of front-line service people than on the actual delays. This means there is a serious hiring and training gap. That should be fixed, too.
Lesson #3: When you break a brand promise, make amends. Although FedEx and UPS have issued limited "apologies" for the most outrageous breaches of their commitments to consumers this December, neither industry giant seems to have grasped the magnitude of what just happened. Each broke critical brand promises. Consumers who trusted them and were let down deserve restitution.