Tuesday, October 17, 2017
A Million $ Idea: Create an Officer of the Day!
9:39 pm edt
We once had a client
who developed a novel approach to connecting senior-level management with customers; bringing the ‘customer experience’
being delivered directly into the C-suite. This organization required each senior executive a to spend a minimum of
2 hours each month listening in on calls being handled by their customer service team. Even more outrageously innovative,
each senior manager was required to be “on call” one day each month as the “Officer of the Day”.
Their purpose? To become involved and to resolve any issues that arose from customers who required an escalated response.
Now we should immediately explain that this client was in a hi-tech B2B environment and that each customer
account therefore represented hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in sales and service. But even in industries with
a lower spend, customer lifetime values will still generally justify this sort of attention. The concept of listening
and participating in customer interactions is one that is a valuable experience to senior executives in virtually any major
corporation. After all, when was the last time most senior executives really spent time truly understanding what it
was like to be their customer; using their brands, products or services? How is it interacting with the procedures,
processes, and people of their organization?
Senior Team Is Just Too Busy!"
Some might say that the time of their most senior executives is much too valuable to be “wasted”
listening to customers on the phone or riding along with a sales person as they meet face-to-face with customers. But
just think about that.
As part of consulting assignments, on several occasions we provided senior managers
with what we called “the out of box experience”. We literally ordered their product online, and brought
the package in to open-up before their eyes in a conference room. We found some surprise at how the product was packaged,
but we witnessed heated discussion and finger-pointing as the assortment of documents that accompanied the product were reviewed.
“Who authorized THAT to be in the package?” “Who approved that copy?” “Couldn’t
we find better quality paper or cardboard on which to print an enclosure that carries our brand name?” “If
a customer responds to this, who handles it, and where do we capture those responses?”
So, Maybe It Wouldn't Be a Waste of Time!
Executives at many big companies have become far too removed
from the everyday experience of their customers. What little they do hear is often filtered by through several levels
within their organization and no doubt has lost most of its ‘punch’ along the line. After all, even if their
immediate reports learn about weaknesses in the structure, raising questions and being the bearer of bad news is often not
a great career choice.
But spending time listening to customers or riding along with a sales rep could:
- Reveal internal impediments – those being faced both by customers and by internal customer service and sales staff
as they attempt to better serve customers
- Provide an unfiltered view of the reality of the customer experience - that typically
doesn’t reach senior management.
- Strengthen executive credibility and humanize them as business leaders – (assuming
the listening is positioned and executed as joint learning and not as a threat to staff).
- Build empathy
for customers and staff - rather than considering them only as assets and liabilities.
As logical and as simple as instituting an Officer of Day
program is, we're constantly amazed at the rigid and provincial thinking that often stymies such progress. On a personal
note, we once had a friend who was having terrible problems with a new American-made automobile. Neither the local dealership
nor the manufacturer's regional zone office were showing any empathy or willingness to assist. We encouraged our friend
to escalate the issue to Detroit and the C-Suite. Reaching a senior executive's office, our friend was told by the gate-keeping
admin, "Don't you know, Presidents of American companies have far more important things to tend to,
than talking to customers!"
Let's hope they see the light, and begin to understand who keeps
their companies in business!
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
How to Stimulate 'Organic' Word of Mouth
8:43 am edt
Econsultancy ran a blog post recently titled “Five examples of brands that succeed with word-of-mouth marketing”. They reviewed
five examples of how companies large and small have driven their business growth through word of mouth. We certainly believe
strongly in the power of word of mouth as a means to retain current customers and produce new ones, so we were interested.
First, their examples, then our recommendations.
Basic Examples of Creative Campaigns
Here are the five
companies Econsultancy cites for providing outstanding examples of how to use word-of-mouth as a primary marketing tool:
- Chipotle was recognized for its highly
popular YouTube video (The Scarecrow, 2013) that happened to be a trailer for an accompanying iOS app that allowed
players to earn codes for free Chipotle menu items. The video was designed to encourage sharing (5.5 million
views); the app to boost viewer involvement with the brand (650,000 downloads).
The sustainable-farming message of the video and app is reinforced by positive customer experiences with employees - typically
jovial and friendly, and helps to foster the brand’s unique ‘food culture’. (A great example of past
success though apparently not impactful enough to overcome the company’s multiple food safety scandals that have happened
- Netflix is acknowledged for building
word of mouth by delivering the kind of original content that people naturally want to talk about. Additionally “Netflix
boosts its customer experience by tapping into user data and sentiment – and delivering exactly what people
want on the back of it”. It well understood the audience’s love of binge-viewing and has scheduled
the release of new series to promote such viewer behavior and the resulting 'water cooler conversations'.
- Lush, a cosmetics retailer, largely relies on its brand values in order to raise
awareness and engage consumers instead of making use of traditional advertising. “Its values are centered
around social and environmental causes such as animal welfare, fair trade and ethical buying.”
The brand is committed to a zero-spend advertising budget so it relies on social networking to promote itself –
largely as the sponsor of issues its target customer is passionate about
- CrossFit, the
branded fitness regimen, uses customer testimonials as the focus of its marketing strategy with “members sharing
how and why Crossfit has not only transformed their bodies but multiple aspects of their lives”. Another tactic
used is the workout of the day (WOD) which is posted on social media daily. People come back daily for the WOD and are
encouraged to share their own results.
- Slack, the
workplace messenger application, uses a ‘freemium’ model, meaning an unlimited number of people can
use it for free before deciding to pay for the upgraded package so it’s the word of mouth of the initial teams
advocating the brand that are counted on to push the wider business to invest in its service.
To achieve its goal Slack understands that it must provide a great customer experience
and to that end is quick to point out
that it has about four times as many support staff as sales staff. Slack also works to keep customers in the
know about product updates, and what is going on within the
company in terms
of culture and progression.
What You Can Do to Grow Word of Mouth
We’re not sure any of these are examples of the best way to produce word of mouth.
Many of them feel like fairly conventional marketing with only bits of strategy focused specifically on generating more positive
word of mouth through current customers. However, they are all very creative and obviously the result of thinking ‘out
of the box’. But, as you will no doubt agree, gimmicks and tricks cannot be trusted to stimulate supportive word
To really generate strong and ongoing word of mouth we believe brands must become more active and:
- Provide customers with quality products (the very most basic requirement).
- Give clear and trustworthy
after-sales support (another basic requirement).
- Educate, entertain and inform those customers who are loyal so
they have 'content' (stories) to share with others. (Otherwise only customers with negative experiences will
have stories to share.
- Introduce customers to sites and other
opportunities where they can pass along their stories, experiences, and feelings about the brand.
- Arm the best potential advocates (our unique approach for identifying those customers who
are emotionally and behaviorally loyal and who are the best communicators) with 'props' (affinity merchandise: caps,
t-shirts, etc.) that signal to others they have experience with the brand and are willing to talk about it.