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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Influencers' New Target on Social Media

A recent article in DigitalNewsDaily pointed out that a growing number of social media influencers are addressing their followers with reviews/promotions for products and services on YouTube.  No surprise here, but what was interesting to us was the report that two different genres of vlogs have developed: unboxing videos and haul videos.

Haul..., What?

Haul videos, as we have discussed several times in the past, are composed of an influencer (often a tween or teenage girl) going on a shopping spree and showing off all the products they purchased. According to a study from Shorr Packaging, haul videos are dominated by the clothing category, discount stores and beauty.

Unboxing videos, as the name suggests, record an influencer opening a manufacturer’s packaging to access a new product (often a surprise), then showing off the product, going through the directions, turning the product on, etc..  Shorr reports that with unboxing videos “the most popular category by far is toys, with 29% of the videos. That is followed by tech-driven categories like phones and accessories, computers and tablets, gaming consoles, and cameras”.

But Before There Were 'Out of the Box' Vlogs...

The article brought to mind work we did 20+ years ago for a large computer company.  In an effort to encourage our client to look at their marketing efforts from their customers’ point of view, we purchased one of their laptops online.  We then proceeded to open the package in front of a conference room full of the client’s senior executives.  Suffice it to say it was a new experience for all those folks who, of course, used their company’s computers but had never actually gone out to buy one nor had they had the experience of opening a box or attempting to plug in the product and boot it up. (They had internal IT support staff to handle all of that.  So, they were totally isolated from experiencing their product as their customers did!)

While they likely weren’t able to put themselves in the place of their average customer, there was a lot of surprise regarding how their product was packaged and plenty of questions about all the printed material that accompanied the product.  These questions included concerns about who was responsible for each element and the degree the separate components actually worked together.  In several cases, the materials failed to display a uniform brand identity.
Following that initial session, “out of box experiences” - with actual customers and prospects - became a standard component of the customer listening groups we conducted for that client.  'Customer listening groups' was our adaptation of the focus group format, modified to maximally illuminate a client’s understanding of the total customer experience they were delivering.

What's Our Point?

Customer retention and customer advocacy (positive word of mouth generation) are influenced by the total customer experience.  It’s all about the customer’s sensations and interaction with a product as representative of the brand. There are so many cues presented in the out-of-box experience; way the product is boxed; the graphic design; the quality of the paper/cardboard used; how instructions or promotional materials are printed; even the outer box and the mailing label are part of the experience.

Some companies excel in reinforcing their customer's purchase.  How about the last time you opened a product from Apple?  They get it.  They make things simple for the customer and show the customer that they have made a quality purchase.  Many upscale retailers for some time have wrapped and bagged shoppers' purchases in very substantial bags and boxes denoting the quality of their merchandise.  What it all means is that something as seemingly only functional as a shipping box or product container can be quite significant in the customer's total experience with a brand. 
10:11 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Keeping Good Customers; In Spite of Fraudulent Ones

A traditional way to show customers that an organization values them and appreciates their loyalty is through a loud and clear money-back guarantee policy – “If you don’t love a product you buy from us, simply return it and we’ll give you your money back.”  Some companies have endeavored to be even more customer-committed by promising to allow for the return of any product, any time, for any reason.

That’s certainly the kind of policy that has been employed by two companies that have enjoyed great business success and high levels of customer loyalty: LL Bean and Costco.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!

But unfortunately, in today’s less-principled world, some unethical consumers see such policies as opportunities to take advantage of the sponsoring companies.  They test the commitment and fraudulently abuse the implied promise by asking for money back on items that have been worn well beyond normal ‘try-in periods’, items damaged by abuse, even items purchased at yard sales!  For LL Bean the breaking point is said to have come last year when a senior executive with the company found among the company’s returned items (for which LL Bean had returned money) his own old monogrammed shirt that he had given away in a clothing drive.

For Costco the essence of the company has always been to “strive to ensure members have an easy, efficient and pleasant shopping experience… [with a] generous return policy and 100% satisfaction guarantee [allowing us] to provide excellent member service”.  But again, immoral customers have been known to abuse the policy asking for (and receiving) money back for items such as soiled mattresses, decade-old boomboxes, empty bottles of wine (the customer returning the bottle, apparently complaining that the wine had given him/her a headache), half-eaten cake, a bare Christmas tree in mid-January, and a ten-year-old pair of Kirkland (Costco’s house brand) sneakers. And, in each case store personnel stood behind the policy,

Is it a necessary ‘cost of doing business’ to tolerate such abuses by fraudulent customers to try to do right by one’s honest and reasonable customers?

Some Customers Are Simply Not            Some Are Not Worth Keeping!

We strongly advocate treating good customers properly, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because retaining high-value customers is profitable and makes good business sense.  But we also advise clients that while valuable customers should be recognized and given the highest level of care and service, those customers who offer little potential, should be treated much differently.  Sometimes the best thing to do with low-potential/unprofitable customers is to find a way to “escort” them to a competitor.  (We are reluctant to advise “firing” customers.  Sometimes customers can change significantly, becoming much more profitable.  Rude treatment will prevent them from ever returning.  And, “firing” can create a bad confrontation, generating plenty of negative word of mouth).

So, What to Do?

As much as it must have pained senior management to walk away from the return policy that played an important role in its company growth since it was initiated by its founder back in 1912, L.L. Bean announced earlier this year that it has changed its famous return policy. From now on, items will only be guaranteed for one-year, unless proven defective.  (Items that were bought before the change-over will still be able to be returned after one-year, as long as customers can produce a proof of purchase.)

An Even Better Option from Costco

When a Costco customer recently tried returning a printer purchased in 2010, the return was declined. The customer objected, but the store manager took the position that this return was an abuse and that it wasn’t the first time this particular customer had taken advantage of the return policy. After a bit of back and forth between this customer and Costco’s corporate offices, the company did return the customer’s money.

But Costco has an advantage that LL Bean doesn’t.  Yes, Costco did return the customer’s money but at the same time they also applied another part of their policy which states that “memberships may be canceled due to abuse of the Member Privileges and Conditions.”  The individual’s Costco membership was revoked so the company is rid of that costly customer.

Good return policies and good customer care are critically important to a business, but the belief that a company must strive to retain every customer is both misguided and wrong. Businesses are not democracies. Low-value and abusive customers damage employee morale, lower the bar on treatment of high-value customers, and cost a company on the bottom line.



8:53 am est          Comments

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Customer Experience Partners, LLC
Measurement, Management, Optimization
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