Festivus on Marketing (Part 3): Feats of Strength


This is Part 3 of a small series called Festivus on Marketing (ending tomorrow of course!). You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

A couple of days ago we talked about the Festivus ritual of “Airing of Grievances.” Today we’ll talk about another ritual called “Feats of Strength.” Festivus tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in some sort of a wrestling match. As Frank Costanza is undoubtedly v-e-r-y strong, the almost insurmountable feat of pinning him must have taken a great deal of strength, courage and stamina.

But in business it’s great to know that in order to win the hearts of your customers, it usually takes a far less grandiose deed. Instead, it’s usually some small acts of humanness that we remember.

Zappos surprised someone who lost a loved one with flowers. DoubleTree delights arriving hotels guests with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Southwest Airlines spreads fun and humanness with their standup flight instruction that resemble comedy routines.

Surprise. Delight. Humanness. Repeat. Try it out – it really works!

By the way, a B-I-G thanks goes out to the refrigerator repairmen who not only fixed our refrigerator but also went out of their way to fix our garage door that had just broke. Pure awesomeness.

Have a very Merry Festivus Eve everyone!

[Photo Credit: M-J Milloy]


Festivus on Marketing (Part 2): Airing of Grievances

Airing of Grievances

This is Part 2 of a small series called Festivus on Marketing (ending on December 23rd, of course!). You can read Part 1 here.

Festivus is a holiday that Frank Costanza of the TV show Seinfeld created because he “hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday.”

One of Festivus’ (say that 3 times fast) main events is called “Airing of Grievances.” It takes place during the traditional Festivus dinner and is a time to “gather your family around, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year.”

So what do you do if a customer wants you to know all they ways you have disappointed her over the past year? Here’s some advice on dealing with angry customers:

  1. Listen. You might gain some valuable insights if can you quiet these automatic “yabut” rebuttals formulating loudly in your head and give your full, undivided attention to your customer.
  2. Say “thank you.” Sincerely thank the customer for giving you the feedback.
  3. Apologize and show empathy. Nothing diffuses a laundry list of grievances like an apology and a small dose of empathy. Be quick to apologize that your service did not meet their expectations.
  4. Follow up. Many complaints helpful suggestions seem as if they won’t make it past the first layer of bureaucracy at the customer service counter. Tell the upset customer what you are going to do to resolve the issue and when they will hear back from you.

What else would you say helps to calm a customer with a list of grievances? Has anything worked for you?

Just 3 days until Festivus. I can feel it in the air!

[Photo Credit: gerardniemira]

Forget your competition

Tough economic times can have us scrambling around trying this or that. Sometimes, companies will look to their marketplace for direction. But in business, focusing on the competition is way over used and very stupid.

Here’s how it oftentimes plays out. One toy store lowers its prices and so the other toy stores respond in like manner. Or one customer service center outsources its calls to cut costs so others do the same. Of course, this behavior is not limited to toy stores and customer service centers– we see it in almost every market from online retailers to gas stations.

But this is plain stupid. Why? Because we stop focusing on our customers and we focus on our competition.

And when we stop focusing on our customers and start focusing on the competition, we tend to gravitate toward price. Why is that? Seth Godin said it best when he said, “cheaper is the last refuge of the person who’s not a very good marketer.” Cheaper means you are out of ideas. You have nothing else to offer the customer so you turn your focus off of them and instead focus on the lowest common market denominator of price.

But what I have learned is that customers most often only concern themselves with a cheaper price if you have completely drained the pool of value. Add more value before you mess around with price (especially in these economic times).

Being aware of your competition is one thing but focusing on them is death by customer neglect.

Happy Wednesday all!

When customer rituals become trite


So the other day I had to get a new prescription for my glasses (my eyes ain’t what they used to be folks). The optometrist’s assistant led me into a small room to do some of the routine exams (I completely hate that blast of air in the eye test – that’s right, I’m a baby!)

Right away you could tell that the assistant had performed many, many of these tests and basically memorized a script. “Now stand up, pick up your chair and place it over here by this machine.” It all seemed very mechanical with no personality at all. Which is too bad. It could have easily been a time to inject some humanity into a sterile exam – at no extra cost to the company.

Think of the routine interactions you may have with customers. Have they become trite? Without feeling? Could a robot do what you do just as well or better than you? If so, it’s time to put the “person” back into personality.

What robot interactions have you had as of late? What can we do to make them more meaningful?

Flickr photo: by Dirty Bunny

Is this your Employee of the Month?

[Click to Enlarge]

Don’t let Company Policy work overtime at your company, use principles instead.

We need your help! Company Policy Man is seeking to destroy the lives of decent customers everywhere and he must be stopped! Please do your part by:

  • Posting this on your blog.
  • Printing the picture and hanging it next to your desk.
  • Discussing it in your next meeting.

Hurry! Before it’s too late.

Happy Wednesday!

You’re gonna have to…

So there I was minding my own business in my local video store when it happened. I wasn’t trying to cause any trouble or disrupt the status quo. I had (or so I thought was) a simple question for the clerk. But after waiting my turn in line, she said:

“You’re gonna have to talk to her (pointing to someone else in a totally different line). She’s the manager on duty.”

Yep. I got the “you’re gonna have to..” line. Sometimes we don’t even notice it because we hear it all the time:

  • “You’re gonna have to call back later when someone is here to help you.”
  • “You’re gonna have to stand in that line (pointing to the longest line).”
  • “You’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love.” (I couldn’t resist)
  • “You’re gonna have to fill out these forms before I can process that for you.”

And why does the “you’re gonna have to…” line always mean extra work for the customer? You never hear:

“You’re gonna have to sit down right here in this comfy chair, have a nice tall glass of lemonade and listen to the soothing sounds of Kenny G while I take care of that for you.”

(Okay, maybe the “Kenny G.” part ruined it for you but you get my point, don’t you?)

What’s your best “you’re gonna have to…” line? What is the craziest one that you’ve heard? What should we use instead of this line? Should someone be fired for using this line on a customer?

What say ye?

Seinfeld on Marketing: Changing the default of customer service

It’s that time again. I think I may have used this video to prove some other point, but I’d like to use it again for something else. In this video, Jerry and Elaine are at Worthy Rent-A-Car (what a great name!) to pick up a car reservation:

How many times have you seen the “supervisor” gimmick? “I’ll have to speak with my supervisor” are nearly the first words out of some company’s mouths. Sadly, these companies use the supervisor role as a barrier – a barrier from the hassle of dealing with customers.

You see, dealing with customers can be a messy job. So these companies think it best to simply sprinkle in some non-sympathetic supervisors and handful of half-baked policies to mange the customer experience.

This practice is so common in retail stores to used car lots to calling customer service, that we can’t help but laugh at this example because we’ve all been there. Like a new DVD player constantly flashing 12 o’clock, bad customer service seems to be the default setting of business out there. But we can change it!:

Make promises. Over-deliver. Stop gossiping on the sales floor. Say, “I’m sorry.” Talk and act like a human. Connect with other’s emotions. Return phone calls. Listen more, talk less. Spread happiness. Delight someone. Give a hand-written note. Smile. Solve a problem. Act. Reciprocate trust. Above all…do no harm.

Happy Friday!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.