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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) connects physical things to a network. It’s the fusion of the digital and physical worlds.

Soon, consumers will want everyday objects connected to support their hyper-connected lifestyle. That’s why so many manufacturers are inventing ways to add value to physical products by connecting them to the web.

There’s evidence of rapid adoption all around us. Nike’s Fuel Band proves that consumers are ready for it. As is interest in wearable media like Google Glass. In addition, tech giants like Cisco and Salesforce have put their best and brightest talent on IoT. And nearly every buzzworthy digital marketing campaign of the past year featured a “physical to digital” connection.

Internet of Things represents a third significant shift in the digital landscape for which marketers MUST prepare. First everything was social. Today it’s all going mobile. And soon, everything will be connected.

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gorillaRecently, someone at our agency did a Google search for “atlanta ad agencies”, and in his words:

“..right there amongst all us creative wizards, a prominent listing for an ad agency offering the latest breakthrough in marketing today.  Taa daa…sign spinners.  Just contact them and they’ll send out a guy in a gorilla suit to stand in front of your store and spin your message on a propeller-esque sign while occasionally lunging at passing cars.”

That raises the question, how is most advertising different than a guy in a gorilla suit holding a spinning sign that says “Buy Stuff at Main Street Mattress Warehouse?”

It isn’t.

Well, superficially it is. Yes, the gorilla might actually be Danica Patrick and the spinning sign may be the $100k 3D graphic of your logo that dances on the screen 25 seconds into your 30-second TV spot. But it is still lunging at passing traffic, trying to attract attention, just like the guy in the gorilla suit. Which is not very encouraging, when you think about it.

So I say, let’s stop spending so much effort lunging at passing traffic.

Let’s stop jumping up and down on the sidelines, waving our arms, trying to be noticed. Let’s stop spending so much time trying to interrupt people with things that, with very few exceptions, they really don’t care about.

Instead, let’s, as an industry of both brands and their agencies, be more like Bob, the helpful guy who works in Main Street Mattress Warehouse. The one who walks up and politely introduces himself when he sees a chance, not when you are talking to your husband. The guy who takes the time to explain the REAL differences between your product and the others. The one who tells you a bit about himself and the asks you about your needs, what would work best for you. The one who will listen to your complaints when there is a problem, and then work hard to fix them. And the one who gives you some valuable extra advice about getting a good night sleep, along with a free mattress-fluffer.

Will you know about Bob, the helpful, likable salesman in the Main Street Mattress Warehouse when you are driving down the road, chatting with friends in the car on your way to Starbucks? No. But you won’t care then anyway - you’re doing something else and thinking about something else.

Instead, you’ll hear about Main Street Mattress Warehouse when your friends who have been there and met Bob, or who have friends who have met Bob, tweet about the experience and talk about their great new mattress on Facebook, as well as in person. You’ll know that people who you know will be shopping there when you see it on Foursquare. Google searches will not only tell you where the store is, but, more importantly will show you all the people like you who have reviewed their great experience there talking to Bob and how much they love their new mattress, which they bought because Bob was such a genuine, helpful guy. And of course, they’ll tell you about the great, free mattress fluffer that they got just for stopping by, no sale required.

Yes, Main Street Mattress Warehouse still needs a sign out front, ads to tell people where they are, etc. But, given the choice, would you rather be the guy in the gorilla suit lunging at traffic as it tries to avoid him, or do you want to be Bob, who forms even a brief relationship with the people who visit the store?

The world needs both, I guess. But what type of brand do you want to be? What type of agency do you want to be?

download2Each weekend in August, I cross the Chesapeake from Washington, D.C. to Delaware’s beaches.  And on the Sunday return, usually hit up a farm stand to gather produce for Sunday dinner.

It’s rural. Really rural.  No phone service. Just cornfields and cicadas.

This past Sunday, I stopped at Mason Farms to collect loot for this delightful  salsa verde  recipe.

Boy did they have their act together. Upon checkout, the farmer whipped out an iPad2  and ran my card to complete the sale. I used my finger to authorize the transaction with a signature.

Seamless. It felt like an Apple store. Only the product was tomatoes and snap peas instead of tablets and smartphones.

The lesson here? Even if  you’re selling to (or from) C&D counties–there’s still an opportunity to surprise and delight your consumer through technology.

Is your retail business keeping up with rural Delaware?

Photo courtesy of William Stadler and stock.xchngThis past weekend, a few of the kids in my neighborhood came over to our house to play with my daughter. The group, ranging in ages from 5 to 9, went off to the family room for a while, and for about within 15 minutes things were pretty quiet.

“Dad, you have to come eat at our restaurant,” called my daughter.

When I walked into the family room the scene was abuzz with activity. Kids were rushing around everywhere with toy food, plates, utensils and cookware. Each was wearing a few articles of dress-up clothes and busily handling different jobs in what appeared to be a pretend restaurant.

The Brand Concept

“Welcome to Fasty’s, where our specialty is super fast service!” said the eight-year-old as I was lead to a small table set for dinner. I sat down and within seconds had toy bread, cookies and a drink cup set in front of me. “Can I take your order?”

These kids didn’t just imagine a pretend restaurant, but they named it, branded it and gave it a very specific niche: super fast service. They were wearing uniforms to show that they were part of a team and from the amount of running back and forth that we going on they were certainly being true to the brand image that they had created.

The Brand Experience

I was impressed, so I gave them my order. The two kids rushed around gathering up the toy food that I had requested and delivered it at almost a sprint to my table. Meanwhile a third brought over a new drinking cup “in case I wanted something else to drink”, and a fourth brought over some wooden cupcakes which were “on the house”. I was told that it was to make sure that I had a wonderful time here at Fasty’s.

So these elementary school aged kids had not only created a differentiated brand, but everything that they were doing was contributing to that brand experience. And they threw in a few premiums to ensure that my experience with that brand was a positive one. Good thinking.

Customer Relationships, Two-Way Dialogue and the Web

Finally, after I had pretended to eat all the food that had been placed in front of me, the 9-year-old came over to the table.

“Hi, I’m the manager,” she shook my hand. “We’re so glad that you came in to eat at Fasty’s. I hope that you had a wonderful time here. Please leave us some feedback on our website. It’s at www.fastys.com. We would really appreciate it.”

Wow. My first thought was ‘This kid eats out too much.’ But then it occurred to me that, not only did these kids understand the importance of developing great customer relationships with a personal touch and the need to create a two-way dialogue with customers, but they understood a bit about the web as a marketing tool. I was impressed. They probably don’t know that they understand these things, of course. To them, that’s just the way things are when you have a business.

A clearly differentiated brand with a strong concept behind it. A consistent experience that support that brand position. Great customer service and extra touches to ensure it. Two-way dialogue with the consumer. And digital taking an integral role. These are all essential elements for building most brands these days, but how often do we as marketers cut corners when it comes to these things, or ignore them altogether? Too often. Perhaps we can learn - or at least be reminded of - a thing or two about brand building from a bunch of kids playing restaurant.

So the next time that you take a look at your own brand, ask yourself: “what would a kid do?”

Maintaining your brand in social networks like Facebook or Twitter takes time.

Maintaining your brand in social networks takes time.

Social media is inexpensive, right? Maintaining a company blog, keeping your brand active on Twitter and Facebook, and participating in online forums and discussions - it all seems like it would be cheap, doesn’t it? There are relatively low production costs; usually nothing approaching the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to produce a typical TV Spot or web site, or even the tens of thousands it often takes to create a print ad. And there is no large mass media buy, which is often the largest expense in a brand’s marketing budget. So if building and maintaining relationships for your brand through social media doesn’t take a ton of money, what is the cost?

The cost is time. A lot of time.

Establishing a presence in the social media space isn’t quick, and it’s certainly not something that you do once and then allow to run on its own. Just like any relationship, you need to put in the time and effort to listen, respond and offer something of interest on a regular basis. Monitoring online conversations, responding when necessary and generating a steady stream of content to keep people interested generally requires dedicated effort on a daily, if not hourly, basis. And once you start, you’re committed: if you stop communicating regularly then the relationship fades.

This sounds like a lot of work, and to be honest, it is. But if the alternative is that your brand isn’t present where millions of people are spending their time, or if you’re present but largely silent, then doing what it takes to for you brand to live - and prosper - in the social sphere is well worth it. It’s where the people are, and to be noticed you need to visible and active. So commit part of your brand team to maintaining a social presence. Hire people dedicated to social media or enlist the help of an agency that knows what it’s doing in the social space. Your brand will thank you, even if you need to spend some extra time to get results.

Here’s why I like Nordstrom’s online Customer Service. One simple line. ‘please don’t hesitate to reply to this email’

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How often do you see that on a computer generated response? Ummm…. Never? But isn’t clicking ‘Reply’ a natural response when you have a comment, question or concern? I think so. Additionally you’re not spending annoying time tracking down the correct support or contact us email, the right 1-800 number, deciding on the correct menu choice in the complicated phone tree, or locating the most efficient department to handle your issue — they’ll do that for you.

Smart, simple and doing something small but effective to make it easier for the customer rather than the company.