The über customer loyalty test

I blogged a while back about a post from Seth Godin about gauging the remarkableness of your customer’s experience by whether or not they wear your company’s t-shirt. Denise commented that “T-shirts are a great start. Then, once you’ve reached cult-like status, tattoos baby.”

Yesterday, I think I witnessed the uber-test of customer loyalty at the funeral of my wife’s grandma. She was buried with a can of Diet Coke. T-shirts may shrink and tatoos may fade, but the burial is the final life-defining act.

We’ll miss you Zenna!

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At least they’re honest…

I saw this picture over at This IS Broken and I had to share:

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How not to conduct customer feedback

My wife and I are considering purchasing a new home. My wife is particularly drawn to a certain neighborhood so we quickly devised a plan to scout out this area. While searching the neighborhood, we stumbled upon a builder that has a wonderful product with many features that you might pay extra for someplace else. It looked intriguing.

While researching the builder on the Internet, we discovered that the builder received poor customer service scores in years past. Being in the survey research industry, this particularly concerned me.

The sales associate for the homebuilder assured us that the company has been through a complete 180-degree turnaround and now entirely focuses on customer satisfaction. In fact, the pay for each employee is based on the satisfaction levels of their customers (a thumbs up from me!).

The sales associate said that the company sends each customer a survey to take after the home is complete (another thumbs up). But now for the downside. The sales associate in the same breath said, “and for those that come in and fill out the survey with me, I will give them a $50 gift certificate to the place of their choice.”

Has the company really made the change to focus more on the customer or has it just found a way to “game” the feedback system? This is similar to parent talking with their child’s teacher about preparing their child for the future only to have the teacher say, “We take standardized testing very seriously. In fact, we only teach the questions and answers to the tests in our classrooms thereby ensuring a high test score!” Higher test scores? –Probably. A real education? –Highly doubtful. In both scenarios, what we are truly looking for is a great experience, and not a great appearance!

If we do not allow our customers to feel free to speak their minds and to not have their answers immediately disputed, then what is the point of even asking for customer feedback? What are your thoughts?

5 steps to effectively handling abusive customer e-mail

After recently reading a few posts about dealing with abusive customer e-mails, I would like to add my two cents worth:

  1. Don’t take it personal. Sometimes people are much more abrasive via e-mail then they would ever be in person. If it helps, try to picture in your mind one of your worst days and then top it all off by having to write an e-mail to a company where you feel that you haven’t received the best service possible. This is not to say that the customer’s behavior is justifiable, but maybe a little more understandable. I think we have all said or written something that we latter regretted.
  2. Keep your cool. Like my mama always says, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” First gain your composure and then start to formulate your response.
  3. Keep it short and sweet. Customers who are abusive may be looking for fuel to add to the fire. At times, customers send e-mails that, given a different moment in time, they may not have ever sent. If you do not respond in the same “jerkiness” tone and you keep your response short and sweet, they may even apologize!
  4. Respond in a timely matter. Make sure that customer service agents have the authority to handle problems quickly and with as little red tape as possible.
  5. Ask for feedback (when appropriate). If no reason for the root cause of the angry e-mail was given, ask for addition information. After about 2 – 4 weeks, send an e-mail to the customer asking for feedback as to why the customer wanted to cancel, downgrade, etc. At times, these customers may have valuable ideas for improvement that simply cannot be conveyed during the heat of the moment. If the customer does give valuable advice for needed improvements, don’t forget to thank them and let them know how their feedback has been implemented. Other times, asking for feedback may only serve to rekindle the abuse. Whether to ask for feedback or not will have to be a judgment call based on the previous interactions.

Are there any other steps you would add?

Make ‘em smile

After a marathon couple of days at Disneyland, I was feeling a little run down. While trying something to find something that would breath new life back into my tired soul, I came across a bottle of Vitamin Water at the “cozy” Long Beach airport.

The product label is what really caught my eye:

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If you have a chance to make someone smile, do it! A smile is such a small but very powerful gesture. When you smile, you can’t help but feel good. Whether a customer smiles because of your product, your frontline employees, or from the overall experience they received, your customers will remember you (and maybe even blog about you!).

Advertising: Is it the way great brands get to be great brands?

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While perusing a magazine, I came across this ad about ads from the America Advertising Federation. The ad states:

“Enjoy Advertising”

“The secret formula, revealed.”

Advertising. The way great brands get to be great brands.”

Do you buy this? I think this is the equivalent of telling someone:

“Look. If you want to find your sole mate, pour all your efforts into the perfect MySpace page. Obsess about the right images and the ‘magical phrases’ that will set the hearts of the opposite sex on fire. Forget the fact that you may still live in your parent’s basement, you may be wanted in 3 counties, or your only claim to fame is the statue of Sponge Bob Square Pants you made of butter last year…a great MySpace page is how soul mates get to be soul mates.”

Images and words on a page or screen may support your brand, but it is not the straight and narrow path that leads to heavenly brands. Just like finding your soul mate, it’s the entire experience that counts.

Advertising is only the outward appearance while a brand is the inside-out experience. That is why it is called “the customer experience” and not “the customer appearance.”

The Persuaders

In light of the recent Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerrilla marketing effort gone wrong, now is a good time for all of us to watch the Frontline special called “The Persuaders”.

“In ‘The Persuaders,’ FRONTLINE explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them.”

We’ll worth the watch!