Monday, June 30, 2008

New Study Details Slow in Restaurant Industry

Chain Leader took some time to look at the slowing industry of restaurants. Hitting its lowest point since 1992, the Consumer Confidence Index fell to 57.2% in May. Everyone is seeing the downturn in spending, including the restaurant industry.

The largest age group to reduce eating out was 45-54 year olds. This group has cut their spending at restaurants by 60% citing mortgages and college tuitions for the reason of decreased spending.

For those who lived in a household making more than $100,000 a year, the study showed that they ate out at lest one more time a week than any other income bracket at 2.3 visits to a restaurant a week.

Call Center Survey Shows Importance of Human Contact

A new Genesys Global Communication Survey, detailed here at The Perfect Customer Experience shows that customers make important decisions based on the interactions they have during customer service calls.

Some of the interesting statistics detailed were:

-38% of customers state that call centers have the biggest impact on their cusomter loyalty

-50% of customers have stopped using a service because of a poor customer service call

-84% of customers would like to hear about more of your products if they are products that can be beneficial to business

The Gender and Age Gaps in Social Media

John Todor recently looked at the different statistics consulting age and gender of those using social media. Since this is becoming an important way for businesses to create a value and connection with their audience, companies should realize who is online.


According to the article, females are the dominant users of certain social networks sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, as they are 63% of the users,. The majority of users of these sites are 18 to 25 years old.


On the contrary at LinkedIn, males are the majority of the active users at 61%. This group is also older with average users are between 26 to 35 years old.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Latest Research in College Media Use

In the recent study 2008 College Explorer Survey, by Alloy Media, they found that the attention of college students is turning both online and mobile. They found that 2/3 or college students watched or streamed television shows from sources including Veoh, Hulu, Joost and iTunes. Further promoting this fact is the degrees in ownership of televisions from 82% in 2007 to 79% in 2008. The percentage of those who owned laptops also increased from 63% of students in 2007 to 70% in 2008. MP3 ownership also increased among college students from 56% in 2007 67% in 2008.

Customer Service Social Media Strategy

When researching for products and services online, customers are beginning to stray away from looking at corporate websites and are increasingly turning to social media like blogs and discussion forums to share their opinions about what they like and dislike. This post from Marketing Roadmaps details that customers are now for different ways to communicate with other customers, and they want it do it fast. The post lists three things I believe companies can benefit from by adding a blog to their customer service strategy.

  • Content, or posts, presented in an article-like form, in reverse chronological order.
  • Ability for readers to leave public comments
  • Ability to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed or by email

One thing not mentioned though is the reduction of cost going towards customer service. Blogs are relatively cost-free to maintain, and so companies need not worry about budgeting money for it. Even though customer service agents will not be going away soon, consumers are starting to look to their peers for product recommendations, advice on technical support, and other issues.

New Developments in Online Social Platforms

Socializing on the web started with chat rooms, e-mail, and instant messaging, and then it morphed into social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Some have wondered, as this blog post indicates, about what the next step in the evolution of these sites will be. In the quest for an answer the post uncovered a new company, called RocketOn, that has a solution. They have created a program where each individual would have their own mini avatar that would be present with them at all times.


As described in this article from TechCrunch “Instead of integrating virtual worlds into webpages, it has actually placed one on top of them so that avatars can roam the web just as you currently surf it.” Avatars would have all the basic capabilities that similar programs have such as the ability to change outfits, and chat. As an added layer, however, consumers would have the option of paying for virtual goods through real money, or by earning points through completion of tasks, and simple use of the program. Below is a video with the demonstration of this product. .



Thursday, June 26, 2008

Latest Advertisements Capitalizing on Anger

An article found in NY Times, delves into the emotion that is present in many ads today. Anger. In one commercial from Southwest Airlines, in reference to the cost of other airlines, the company is quoted as saying “What have they been smoking? Apparently, your rolled-up $20s.” Southwest isn’t the only company utilizing this strategy. Harley Davidson is using the tag line “freedom and wind outlast hard times”, and Jackson Hewitt displays images of taxpayers who didn’t use their services “angrily smashing or throwing things”. As the NY Times said “The tone and attitude of the ads are part rant, part battle cry, part manifesto and part populist appeal.”

In 2006 a Newsweek Article titled “Unhappy Americans” they alleged that in a poll they conducted, 67% of Americans are unhappy. Are the advertisements based on marketing research accurately reflecting the mood of society today, or has this attitude changed?

Customer Service Spending

Andy Green, Global Managing Editor at Avaya, makes a great point in his latest post on the Avaya Blog in which he details that even though information technology spending will expand by less and less each year, companies should not reduce technology spending on customer service. What’s the reason for this?

Arguably, customers are the ones who will give your company money. Investing in advanced software and applications that will improve response quality for customer service agents is a bargain compared to the amount of revenue lost and the costs of acquiring new customers. After all, repeat customers will be more profitable than new customers will ever be.

Friends Make Better Marketers

Many companies have acknowledged the influence of social marketing. Confirming the influence of peer-to-peer marketing is Sephora, a retail beauty chain. As reported in this article in Internet Retailer last year, Sephora, after implementing an “online viral marketing campaign” where certain individuals were picked to test products and spread the word, the company reported that their online response rate from this campaign was three times higher than other forms of online marketing including banner ads, and links from company generated e-mails.


More recently, as reported in this article at cnetnews.com, Internet start-up SocialMedia Networks is announcing that they have a new twist that will also help media buyers increase the success of their online advertisements. What they are offering is a new technology, called Social Banners that will incorporate consumers that are deemed influential among their peer group into their ads.


Social Banners would use a Friend Rank system, similar to that of Google’s Page Rank, where a specific algorithm would determine an individual’s influence on their peer group. As stated by Seth Goldstein, founder of SocialMedia Networks, "FriendRank basically helps us choose which friends to put in the ad." The data would be gathered from sources such as Facebook, and MySpace. But the question remains, will consumers respond to any overt marketing even through their social network.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Google Introduces New Service for Ad Buyers

The New York Times reported today that Google is introducing a new service called Ad Planner designed to help media buyers determine websites that their target audiences are interested in. This service will place Google in direct competition with Nielsen Online, and comScore. Google is touting that their main benefit to users will be that it is free. The screen shot for Ad Planner can be found below.

Shockwaves have already hit the market space with comScore reporting a drop in their stock price of 22.5% from $21.45 to $6.24. Both Nielsen Online, and comScore in response to the new Google Tool have released statements defining why their companies are still viable.

From Nielsen Online, Susan Hickey, head of marketing made this statement about Google Ad Planner, “We haven’t seen, in-depth, the tool, but the breadth and depth of our data, we feel that clients pay for that.”

Gian M. Fulgoni, chairman at comScore response was to say “If I were a competitor of Google, the last thing I would want to do is use their products.”

While Google has stated that the main difference between their service and competition, is that Ad Planner will be free, there is another competitor, Quantcast, who is questioning the validity of the findings of the aforementioned companies. This new start up, as announced in AdAge, stated that they will be offering a tracking tool that has people-based traffic counts, a cross between panel-based data, and cookie based measurements. Nielsen Online, and comScore currently use panel data, and Google has stated that their information will come from multiple data feeds and licensed information from sources including Nielsen Online.

Customer Service at Apple is Generating Sales

An article posted in AdAge.com highlights how Apple is changing the face of marketing to include customer service as a facet. Apple doesn’t wait for customers to have a problem, instead employees actively attempt to engage customers as soon as they enter the store. AdAge.com stated that Apple is showing, by example, the benefit of understanding these key points:

- Service is marketing: As marketers struggle to "engage" consumers, service may well be the easiest and most gratifying starting point -- and one with high sales conversion potential.

- Problems are opportunities: Tech support is an emotional experience -- so why not capitalize on that insight by openly and enthusiastically solving problems, giving reassurance and showing compassion for the pain and frustration. A satisfied consumer might just buy something else while making the trip.

- Employee authority and passion aids selling: When employees "walk the talk" in using the product they sell, credibility goes up -- and credibility drives persuasion. Passion and evangelism also move the needle.

Jane Buckingham, president of Intelligence group, a market research firm in Los Angeles, cited in an article in the NY Times that “Whenever we ask consumers to cite a great retail experience, the Apple store is the first store they mention.” CNNmoney.com also reported in an Apple 2.0 blog post earlier this year, that Apple retail stores were averaging sales of approximately $4500 per square foot. Competitors such as BestBuy only average $929 per square foot, and even luxury goods stores such as Tiffany’s only make about $2,800 per square foot. Both aforementioned sources provide confirmations for the findings in the AdAge.com article.

Facebook Challenges Traditional Media

As posted by B2B Magazine, Visa is launching the Visa Business Network on Facebook in order to connect businesses to this social forum and their potential customer base. According to a press release by Visa, the focus of this venture is to help small businesses “Connect with others, manage more efficiently, and grow business.” Visa also announced as an added incentive that the first 20,000 U.S. based businesses that join this new network will be awarded with a $100 Facebook Ads credit.


Controversy, however, has surrounded Facebook and the ability of companies to use this platform for advertising since Facebook’s difficulties with Beacon, including MoveOn.org’s online petition with over 50,000 members protesting the use of this tool. Despite this, the new program offered by Visa is one of over 24,000 applications created on Facebook in the past year in order to appeal to Facebook’s 80 million users. Many companies are still experimenting to find ways to effectively communicate with this market.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Study Reveal Still Too Much Alcohol on TV

A report from the Center for Alcohol and Youth at Georgetown University revealed that youth underage were being exposed to more alcohol. The study is detailed here at the New York Times TV Decoder blog. The study found that the number of alcoholic advertisements on television for youth age 12-21 increased to 301 in 2007. This is up from youth viewing 216 ads in 2001. This increase comes with the beverage marketers voluntarily reducing the amount of commercial space they bought on television. However, the youth are being exposed to the alcohol advertisements on cable TV. Of the advertisements youth saw, 41% were for distilled spirits and 53% came from advertisers for beer.

Track Your Order of Pizza

Personally, I find myself constantly tracking shipments of items I am expecting whether it be a package from UPS or the latest Puma sneakers I’ve ordered online. Searching the blogosphere I came across Becky Carroll’s latest post on Customers Rock where she highlights a great experience she recently had with Domino’s latest tracking tool Domino’s Pizza Tracker.

Within minutes of Becky ordering her pizza online, she was automatically rerouted to their pizza tracking tool and she immediately saw updates on her pizza progress. Updates are made constantly from the moment the pizza is prepared to the second that is leaves the store for delivery. What I’m more interested to find out is how this service tracking ability is made possible.

This is yet another example of how tracking systems set the bar for customer expectations. What are other examples of companies who have had successful and unsuccessful tracking experiences?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Virtual World Customer Service Testing

The main focus of this latest post on Virtual World News is that Kenexa, a workforce retention specialist, has launched SimSJT: Customer Service, which is an online 3D environment comparable to Second Life and The Sims in order to measure the abilities of customer service professionals.


Troy Kanter, COO of Kenexa, emphasizes that standardized judgment tests often make candidates read and interpret lengthy passages instead of putting them in a relevant environment. SimSJT allows for simulated interactions that the candidate watches and listens to instead of traditional tests. Through online simulations Kenexa has noticed that customer service behavior remains unchanged even through different regions.

What Motivates People to Take Surveys?

I came across this post from Business Week this morning which discusses how Sulake used Habbo, a nine-year old virtual world that has over 100 million avatars, to survey 58,000 teenagers on topics varying from cosmetics to mobile phones.

We’ve recently discussed the good and bad side of deploying online surveys, but what Sulake did was extremely clever. He utilized his online virtual world as a platform to question teens. Not only that, but he questioned teens on items that he knew would be of interest to them. The survey took roughly 31 minutes to complete, and the respondents were given an incentive to participate in the survey (complimentary credits to purchase virtual decorations and furniture for their virtual rooms). Sulake knew exactly what it would it take to get the millions of users who log-in everyday to their virtual worlds to take the survey.

What incentives/prizes has your company used to entice your customers to give feedback?

Facebook Officially Growing Faster than MySpace

As reported yesterday by Kevin Allison in the Financial Times, Facebook has, for the first time, grown faster than MySpace. According to the article, during the month of May, Facebook had 123 million unique visitors, which was 162% more than Facebook had in May of 2007. MySpace only grew 5%, with 114.6 million more unique visitors. These measurements were taken by ComScore.


This is the first time Facebook has taken a significant lead in growth, but it comes with shakeups in the management. Both Adam D’Angelo, the Chief Technology Officer and Matt Cohler, the person in charge of product development, departed from the company. However, when it comes to active users, MySpace still dominates with 110 million while Facebook only has 80m users.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Study on Brand Equity

A new study released from Harris Interactive releases the results of a study that has tracked brand equity for 28 years. It measured 1000 brand over 39 categories on the following categories: familiarity, quality, purchase consideration, brand expectations, distractive ness and trust. This study also had a built-in factor that could consider the importance of word of mouth when noting brand equity.

The top ten 2008 winners were:

Rank Brand

Brand

Overall Equity Score

1.

Heinz Ketchup

79.27

2.

M&M Plain Chocolate Candy

77.79

3.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars

77.51

4.

Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Candy

77.20

5.

Duracell Batteries

76.75

6.

Cheerios Cereal

76.53

7.

Discovery Channel

76.17

8.

Kraft Foods, Inc

75.93

9.

Kleenex Facial Tissues

75.57

10.

Neosporin Ointment

75.54

Twitter: Customer Service Media?

When looking for customer service agents one usually goes through the following media: phone, chat rooms, forums, blogs, and email. Brad Shorr gives an example on his latest post on World Sell, Inc. of how Twitter has made “customer service proactive rather than reactive”.

Brad’s colleague was having trouble logging on to MyBlogLog, so she put out a tweet asking if anyone was having the same problem. Brad tweeted back confirming that he was having the same problem. Hours later, he received a tweet reply from @mblsupport apologizing for the service outage and stating that the problem had been fixed.

Can we expect the same service from other companies out there? Instead of waiting for customers to call in and report their problems, agents are proactively searching for technical issues on social sites.

LinkedIn Valuation: Professionals are Valuable Social Networkers Too

In an article this week at the New York Times, they discussed where LinkedIn is going in the future, and how it got to its current position on the social networking market. On Wednesday, it was announced that LinkedIn is currently valued at $1 billion. On Wednesday, there was a $53 million investment from Bain Capitol Ventures. To put this in perspective, the NYT pointed out that when MySpace was purchased by NewsCorp, it was worth $580 million, and Facebook was valued $15 billion when Microsoft purchased a share of the social networking site. The corporation is currently private, and hopes to stay that way.


How does LinkedIn keep pulling in the money? Currently, only one-fourth of its projected $100 million is from ads. What are the other ways it keeps the revenue streaming in? It offers premium subscriptions where users have more flexibility with their actions, it offers premium subscriptions, and it also offers recruiting tools for businesses.


It also has a few plans for its future. It will soon offer a group company function. Everyone who works at a company will be automatically pulled into a group, therefore fostering an easier way for everyone to communicate with one another. They also plan to add a calendar function and allow independent developers to build programs that allow for collaboration.


Update: We have updated this post. Microsoft owns a share of the social networking site Facebook, which it's value was $15 billion at the time of valuation. LinkedIn is valued at $1 billion. We apologize for the errors.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Music Spending Habits of the UK Youth

It’s no secret that the record industry is in trouble: Businesses selling, layoffs and Virgin Megastore Closing just to name a few. File sharing is the way kids get their music these days. Ars Technia posted a story about this study done by the University of Hartfordshire. It found that 14 to 24 year olds are willing to pay for their music, but on certain terms. The survey found that 37% of 14 to 17 year olds have payed for 39% of music on their iPods, while 50% of 18 – 24 year olds payed for 50% of the music on their iPods. The survey also found that when budgeting for music, the majority of those surveyed budgeted 60% of their music money for live music, while only 40% was left for recordings.

On the upside, the study found that 80% of P2P users said they wouldn’t mind paying for a legal file sharing service, as long as they pay a single monthly fee for unlimited amounts of music. This study demonstrated that the next generation of music buyers will spend money on music and still have the same passion, they just have a certain way they want to pay for it.

Airline Service: Go the Extra Mile

In the airline industry, customer service is crucial to a person’s overall experience of the flight since customer satisfaction is on the decline. Whether someone is asking for peanuts or an extra pillow, flight attendants must be ready to deal with any sort of requests, and be able to deliver superior service with a smile. I came across this post on The Window Seat where Holly Burns writes about her recent positive experience she had on her flight with Air Berlin.

Holly’s connecting flight to Dusseldorf was delayed, and so there was no way that she would make it. Air Berlin delivered excellent service by rebooking every passenger who had a connecting flight, announced it loudly on the speaker, and lastly gave everyone on the delayed flight a voucher for 8 Euros so that they could by refreshments while they wait.

Treating people like human beings instead of warm bodies on a plane can really make a difference from an ok airline to a great airline. In this case, Air Berlin realized the problem and exceeded the customers’ expectations of the solution.

New Study Shows Small Businesses adopting Social Media

According to this article here at Customer Think, social networks are using social media to enhance the world of mouth of their business. Warrilow and Company reported that 28% of small businesses have at least one profile on a social networking site, most likely to be Facebook or LinkedIn. Another statistic was that fast-growing companies, those with 20% or more annual growth, mare more likely to be participants in social media. However, there weren’t to many details released beyond those numbers. John I. Todder, Ph.D., the author of this article, believes that most small businesses believe that visibility on the internet is very important, and realizing the power that social media tools can harness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Balancing Customer Service and Efficiency

How does one keep customer service calls as short as possible, while still maintaining superior service at the same time? This latest post on callcentrehelper.com details a list of things to do in order to balance customer service with efficiency compiled by Carolyn Blunt, training consultant with the Training Consultancy Real Results.

Here’s the list:

1. BE READY


Don’t wrap up previous call notes while taking on a new phone call. The next customer deserves undivided attention so you must be completely ready before taking it on.


2. ACTIVELY LISTEN


Listening to the customer during the first couple of seconds are crucial. You must understand the customer’s needs and their mood, and then tailor your approach accordingly.

3. LIKE THE CALLER


Establish rapport with your customers. Think about callers in a positive way so that rapport will develop naturally.


4. ACTION THEIR NEED


Make sure that their needs are taken care of. Many companies have different teams working on different problem areas, but the best customer experience happens when the front line is able to solve their conflict.


5. NOW WHAT HAPPENS?


Be clear on the next steps that are to come. If a technical engineer will get back to them, give them a specified timeframe in which that is expected to happen. Most of all, make sure your engineers or whomever follows up with them actually stick to that timeframe that was mentioned.


6. CONTROL THE CALL


Always stay calm no matter how frustrated the caller might sound. Customers might also stray away from the problem onto other conversations, stay focused and address the problem at hand.


7. END ON A GOOD NOTE


Do not apologize at the end for the customer’s experience as this should be only done in the beginning. Ending the call should remind the customer of positive thoughts, so thank the customer for calling and wish them a happy day.

Traditional Advertising Still Has Positive Effects

In a new study released today by Yankelovich with the Sequent Partners, summed up here at TV Decoder, a New York Times Blog, states that traditional media advertising still has more of an effect on consumers than digital media advertising.

Of the people surveyed, 56% found that they left traditional media advertising with a positive feeling. In this study, traditional media advertising encompassed billboards, TV commercials, magazines, newspapers, radios, and movie theater advertising.

In contrast, only 31% of those surveyed left digital media ads with a positive impression. Digital media advertising was defined as email messages, internet banner ads, social networking websites, video games and advertising on social networking websites. Other surveyors, 21%, left digital media with negative impression while 48% felt neutral, or had no impression from digital media.

The survey looked at some of the variations why this could be, and found that when people were on the internet, they had a mission. They were less susceptible to noticing advertisements, while consumers who were watching TV were relaxed and more open to advertisements.

Build Your Own Community

An abundance of “build your own” social network platforms has recently surfaced due to massive success gained by Ning. Wackwall is another free social-network creator that allows you to easily customize your network in easy steps. It even allows you to use CSS coding to give it a great visual feel and to map your domain name instead of having something along the lines of “mynetwork.wackwall.com”. Although customization of advertisements on your page will require a premium package from Wackwall.


It’s a startup now, but I expect a lot of upcoming traffic on Wackwall as people build more niche communities tailored to their specific interests.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008 North American Airlines Satisfaction Survey out today

As we all know, America’s satisfaction with airlines is on the decline. Read this article here at the Baltimore Sun for a better understanding of what is just the tip of the iceberg. The 2008 North American Airlines Satisfaction Survey, which can be found here at JD Power and Associates, was discussed in an article at CNN Money.

The survey found that most passengers are dispirited by the poor customer services by airlines across the board. Satisfaction is at its lowest level in three years. The sentiment was fueled by poor treatement of passengers by flight staff, gate agents, and the crew.

The survey was measured by rating: cost, crew, in flight services, aircraft, check in, the boarding and deplaning, the baggage claim process, reservations, and the check in process.

JetBlue, Continental, and Alaska Airlines were the top rated carriers when it came to customer service. Alaska Airlines and Air Canada were the only to carriers to see an increase in their customer service ratings.

More Dangerous Storms, More Web 2.0 Used to Communicate

Yesterday, we reported that weather enthusiast now have a place to congregate on the web. In the past, we’ve also reported about how Web 2.0 tools were used to spread word of natural disasters (Post is Here). With the intense weather gripping the Iowa, the Red Cross has adapted Web 2.0 tools to the fullest to communicate what’s going on with the resident of Iowa. As reported here at Read Write Web, the Red Cross has started a blog on Wordpress to issues the latest press releases, media and information about shelters to those affected in Iowa.


Through the use of Utterz (where reports are filed from the field), Flicker and YouTube, to Slide powered by User Generated Content, as well as mashups provided by Google Maps to show the affected areas, the Red Cross is spreading the information people need to know, as well as getting those affected by the flood to communicate where and how they are affected.

Take Customer Photos

This post on Customers Rock gives an example of how Lighthouse Ice Cream and Yogurt in Ocean Beach, CA is taking a new approach to ever so common “customer wall of fame” that many restaurants adopt. The shop is full of white poster boards hanging from ribbons, filled with photos. When the lady behind the counter was asked what the photos were, she explained that they have been taking pictures of customers for the past 10 years!

This is a cheap and effective way to show customer recognition, but there is more that can be done for no cost at all. With the growing shift of Web 2.0 and social networks, businesses might want to turn to the internet to create communities. Becky Carroll gives a great example of how Facebook groups and a Flickr account full of fans might be an easier way for people to interact and to raise awareness.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Studies show Locally Grown Produce Is Most Important to Consumers

In a recent BBMG Consumer Census Report, detailed here at CSR Wire, they state that most consumers will choose locally grown products at the grocery store more often than organic produce. When it came to strongly favorable responses, 48% of consumers were favorable to biodegradable labels, 46% were favorable to cruelty free labels, 45% were strongly favorable to locally grown products, and a with a significant drop off, 26% of consumers were most favorable to organic goods.

The report also showcased that that 10% of adults who purchased from companies that showed that they were socially responsible were also most likely to be early adopters. Also in the report, quality is a more important factor when purchasing than price, as 66% of consumers ranked quality as most important while 55% ranked price as more important.

Good Customer Service is Needed to Maintain Trust

Disgruntled customers just want to know that their complaints are being heard, and that the company is doing something to try and rectify the situation. This post on CRM Daily mentions that the results of a survey conducted by the Better Business Bureau show that 1 out of 5 people cite that customer service is a prerequisite for building trust in a business.

Angry customers are generally not a lost cause. Another study conducted by Harvard shows that an unhappy customer can become a repeat customer almost 80% of the time. The business must take appropriate steps and action to provide phenomenal customer service to exceed the consumer’s expectations.

Since customer service representatives are your first line of defense from losing a customer, very well trained, courteous, and knowledgeable staff is needed to solve disputes. Every business should work on improving customer service and its retention ratio. After all, it costs a lot more money to gain a new customer than to maintain an existing customer.

Weather Enthusiasts Now Have a Social Community

Recently, it looks as if almost everyone has jumped on the social networking bandwagon. Fox Interactive has launched Fox Weather, which allows its users to create profiles, write blog entries, participate in discussion forums, and upload photos. It will be interesting to see the kind of activity this site will generate when huge storms, severe warnings, and unusual weather conditions appear.


Steve O’Hear mentions that this is another example of “social networking as a feature rather than a product in itself”. Organizations are beginning to see the benefits that come from deploying a social community can bring to the table. It allows consumers to voice their opinions and concerns with a community that shares the same interests. We’ve recently seen how communities have helped Obama clinch the Democratic Presidential Nominee spot and how restaurants like Chipotle have created blogs to reach out to its customers. I’d like to see what other avenues of social networking we can expect to be opened in the upcoming months.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Positive Customer Experiences

It’s important that your customers have a great experience at every touch point when they are doing business with you. Colleen Frances recently posted her tips for creating the best customer service at all the touch points throughout your customer experience.

1. Love what you sell, the company you work for and the customers you serve. If you show the customer you truly love what you do and what you’re selling, they’ll have a good experience buying the product from you.

2. Be empathetic and compassionate. Know and believe exactly what you’re telling them. Take an interest in the people asking the questions.

3. Add value and give first. Give them something before they buy from you. Show them that they can trust you, and you’re worth more to them than the profit. It may be a dentist or a new business contact, but they’ll see your purpose.

4. Make eye contact. It’s difficult to do, and many other sales people fall short. But if confidence is shown through making eye contact, you’ll truly set yourself apart from your competition.

5. Express your true intent. Don’t fake it, tell your customers your true intentions. Let them know that this might not be the right solution for them, but you’re going to try to show them how your product can fit your needs.

6. Don't go for the big decision all at once. Don’t try to land the big deal on the first try. Gradually move there through a series of conversations, agree on a second or third meeting.

7. Use friendly, warm words. Speak on a friendly level. Limit your syllables and use simple words.

8. Use people's names. Use their names, however, be aware of their comfort level with the name you’re calling them. Do you use their first name, or their title and last name? With the correct name, it’ll make a memorable experience for the customer.

9. Ask the right questions. The right questions can lead to positive relationships. They can also reveal the problem that needs to be solved and build trust between the company and the client.

What’s Driving Users Away From Social Networking Sites?

How many unwanted, unsolicited friend requests/invitations do you receive on a monthly basis from your networking site of choice? I came across this report in eMarketer which explains that nearly two thirds of respondents said that they would consider switching social networking sites if spamming became excessive. The problem with these unwanted requests is that it often includes links that lead them to a malware site or phishing site.


Spamming is not the only factor that’s driving away users from social networking sites. Privacy is the number one issue why users over 40 are most hesitant to use social networking sites. Here’s the results provided by a survey from eMarketer.



Facebook was even quick to re-work its Beacon targeting system to not create a privacy backlash within its users. As advertising becomes more and more popular on social networking sites, marketers must be weary of their methods. Spamming and breaking privacy barriers will not get you far.

Beverage Choices decreasing across Fast Food Chains

A recent study by Technomic, detailed here at QSR Web, has found that limited services restaurants have trimmed down their drink menus, getting rid of many of the customizable drinks, including teas, coffees and smoothies. They wish to focus on their regular beverages, such as soft drinks, because they see them as being more profitable in the long run. On the contrary, they found that full service restaurants have slightly increased the total number of drinks on their menu, to include more mocktails (typically drinks including lemonade and fruit flavors).

On the consumer side of beverages, the study found that 38% of consumers are more likely to buy a drink on the menu if they see it’s made of 100% juice, and 32% are more likely to buy a drink if they see the drink has all natural ingredients. Consumers also think it’s important to order water while eating out, 35% believe they should add more bottled water to their diet while 31% believe they should add more tap water to their diet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yahoo! Lands NetLog Advertising

According to this article at CNet, Yahoo will begin advertising on Netlog, a German social networking site, and begin the display advertising immediately. With 1.3 million users a month, advertisers will be able to reach ½ of the German population who uses the internet. The users spend an average of 177 minutes on the site. It is also a very global site, as it’s available in 17 different languages. Yahoo will also be able to give advertisers the guarantee that they will be able to reach a high level of 15 to 24 year old. Global growth for Netlog is expected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2007 to $8.2 billion in 2011, according to this article at IT News.


Andreas Ludwig, Director of Business Development of Yahoo! Deutschland, had this to say about the partnership:


"This agreement with Netlog is yet another decisive step on our path to establishing the largest, most efficient online marketing network worldwide, and provides the perfect compliment for our strong network with partners like ebay in the USA or Bebo in Great Britain."

Word of Mouth Marketing: So How was it?

Searching the blogosphere, I came across this post from one of NACCM’s keynotes speakers, Joanna Brandi. A couple of colleagues talked to Joanna about the recent experience they had at a stay at the Ritz Carlton hotel. Her friend later went on to describe the behavior of the employees there as “It was as if they were anticipating what I needed.”

The conversation quickly led to similar experiences (both good and bad) that they had in local restaurants. Before Joanna knew it, she had a long list of places not to go. When it comes down to recommending places based on customer experience, word of mouth marketing is crucial. Word of good customer service and bad customer service will somehow find its way spreading like a viral disease. Make sure your customers are taking care of, before they spread the word!

Be sure not to miss Joanna’s Brandi’s session “The Positive Leader” at NACCM where she’ll shed some more insight on customer management.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

360º IMC Measurement Boasts Validated ROI

Published in Research Business Report by Bob Lederer

Today’s unabating new media explosion has created a marketing diaspora, and researchers have had to scramble to cover emerging information voids through holistic, 360º solutions that promise to measure effectiveness within each medium–old and new–and accurately portray each medium’s impact on the other. RBR cannot speak to the efficacy of any particular tool, but the latest entrant in this space appears to bring something new to the party.

ARSgroup (Evansville, IN) launched its “Impact” suite of integrated marketing campaign testing and optimization tools just a year ago, but according to the firm’s President of Innovation, Ashley Grace, the measurement system already accounts for 20% of annual company revenues and some of the world’s biggest advertisers are hooked on it.

“In the first year, we fielded roughly 25 projects across 10 advertisers,” Grace told RBR. “Marketing dollars are migrating away from traditional media as new channels emerge. And as marketing spend gets spread more thinly across more and newer touchpoints, not only is it critical to match the right strategic message to the right vehicle, but also to get the right combination of vehicles to achieve creative synergy across the whole campaign. There are so many moving parts these days, but none of them exist in a vacuum.”

Like other 360º measurement tools, ARS uses factorial design, but Grace claimed “our competitors’ former clients who are now working with us say Impact is the only solution with information that means something from an ROI, awareness or brand building perspective. Impact’s ‘performance ratings’ are comparable across and within campaigns, which simplifies an ROI discussion. And that’s key, because CFOs want justification when their business puts marketing dollars into unproven channels.”

Grace noted that independent parties have validated the strong correlation between Impact numbers and market performance. “We encourage our clients to use market mix modeling firms to conduct these audits.They prove the superior accuracy of our offering; from an ROI measurement perspective, no one else even comes close.”

The Impact suite is equipped for a wide variety of touchpoints likely to be found in many integrated marketing campaigns––TV, online viral video, online direct response, outdoor, in-store, print, radio, PR, etc. It enables marketers to go through the continuum from strategic
message identification and optimization, to creative sorting, campaign optimization and post hoc tracking.

Impact was developed over three years, and was tested for a year with major clients, including a giant CPG and leading retailer (with whom ARS partnered on the in-store component). “We believed it would only be a matter of time before copy testing was replaced by campaign testing,” Grace related. “And we wanted to be in this space first, but we had to be sure the system had the necessary research empiricism and rigor.

“We conducted exhaustive parallel testing,” he informed. “We ran through the consumer modeling, and tested long-established programs and the corresponding databases, and drew connections between the new testing mechanisms and the old. We parallel tested 1,000 ads with
our behavioral method and built a bridge from standard industry measures of persuasion and recall, to our ability to deliver those measures in a more comprehensive diagnostic fashion.”

The system is currently best suited for campaigns with four media touchpoints; the key is being sure each client understands the specific objective for each medium selected. “TV might be used to build awareness, with an in-store tactic used to generate immediate action. What you need to have when testing them holistically is the flexibility to decompose and understand the varying objectives of each touchpoint in addition to the collective impact,” Grace outlined.

Impact is fielded entirely online, with average turnaround of one week. Grace estimates a standard four-piece campaign test would require 1,000 to 1,250 people, broken out across a design akin to adaptive conjoint. “For the monadic leg in a three-media campaign, we might show 125 subjects the TV spot; another 125 see the print; another 125 see the mobile piece,” he detailed. “Then 50 see a combination of TV and print; 50 see print and mobile; 50 see TV and
mobile. Another 250 see all three executions. The remaining sample would comprise a control cell who don’t see anything.”

Despite its success to date, Grace admits to hurdles that need to be overcome in holistic communication optimization. “Obtaining reliable reach and frequency numbers for some touchpoints is the leading issue. We provide the quality measure, and our validation work has shown quality is on average four times more important than reach alone. But as a metric for optimizing your marketing spend, adding reach and frequency would improve sales forecasting. You could have a billboard that is more effective than your TV spot, but is it a good investment if no one sees it? The industry needs to continue innovating in the area of cross-media exposure.”

For more information, contact: agrace@ars-group.com

Encyclopedia Britannica Opens Up

It was announced earlier this week that Encyclopedia Britannica will switch to a wiki model, details are located here at Wired. The Encyclopedia has fallen from it’s previous pedestal, and is now allowing contributors to edit it’s material. In doing so, they’re wishing to create an open community for scholars, experts and lay contributors.


There will now be three categories of content: content from the existing community of experts (via the new wiki model), content provided by Encyclopedia Britannica, and the combination of the two once facts have been checked and verified.

Online Surveys: A Few Things to Look at Before Adapting

There are many market research companies that offer online surveys. Some companies even offer money, prizes, and drawings just to collect your opinions. With all this in mind, how do you know which company to choose? Here’s a recent post from The M Society that lists the good and the bad on taking online surveys.

Good

  1. Most online surveys can be taken under 15 minutes; it really depends on the amount of interruptions, your patience, and other factors that might prolong your experience.
  2. There is usually no writing involved unless there are questions that require an additional comment.
  3. Easy to navigate, usually through a simple click of a button.
  4. There is money to be made by taking surveys; many companies offer $1 to $5 by taking an online survey.
  5. There is software that people can download that will automatically fill out registration pages, making it much simpler for the consumer.

Bad

  1. The money offered by market research companies is very little, not enough to make a living.
  2. Higher paying surveys are generally longer than an hour, and so consumers might get impatient and frustrated.
  3. Surveys might tailor to one specific gender, age, or other demographic. Consumers might not even qualify to take it.
  4. Surveys might be problematic for people who can not stare at a computer screen for minutes at a time.
  5. Many survey companies are not legitimate. They make very outlandish offers for free laptops and iPod, only to discover that consumers must register for many different services before getting anything.

These are just a few points that were made in the post. Take a quick look before you decide to launch any online surveys.

The Thing about Call Centers

In a recent article at the New York Times, Alina Tugend discusses the current state of call centers within in the United States. The worst customer service we’ve all seen usually comes from an automated phone system when trying to call into a company. In the 1980s, with the invention of IVRs, companies lost the desire to deal with customers, and chose to save money and use the automated phone systems instead of having people talk with customers live. As a result, their desire to keep customers was outweighed by how much cheaper it was to use the IVRs.

Today, Tugend points out that companies are changing that. Contrary to what people think, only 10% of customer call centers are located outside the United States. Companies have also discovered two things about the way customers perceive their call centers. They’ve noticed that it’s cheaper to keep customers in the first place, rather than constantly find new ones to replace the old ones they loose as a result of poor customer service over the phone. They’ve also had to deal with the technology of today’s world spreading word about 1) customers are spreading word about their poor customer service and 2) websites that tell customer show to get past the automated system and communicate with a human.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seven Important Parts of Social Media

In a recent post by Harry Gold at ClickZ, he lists seven components of your social media strategy that are critical for you to understand and use throughout your social media strategy.


  1. Paid media – You advertise through social media sites. You buy your way into the sight of your customer.
  2. Profiles – Create a profile for your company on one or all of these big social networking sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace – then keep your profile up to date constantly adding information to show your customers that you’re an active member of the site.
  3. Channels – If you have a lot of media, put it out there. Create a page on YouTube, or upload your photos up to a Flickr account. Once your videos and photos are out there, people can begin posting them to their site, and your information can freely flow, spreading the awareness of your company.
  4. Gadgets/Wigets – These are useful applications for your site. If they’re catchy, and people like them, they’ll post them on different sites, letting your gadget spread the word about your company through other people.
  5. Chicklets – The buttons on your webpages that spread the word. This is your RSS feed button, your bookmark on del.icio.us button, and all those other things that will spread the word about your site.
  6. Blogging and blog outreach – Start a blog. Continue writing the blog, and also find others that blog about what you’re writing about. Keep up with their blogs, and make comments, and they’ll read your blog
  7. Crowd Sourcing – Through all the sources you now have, ask your readers a question. Let them know you care about their opinion, and even give a prize or to out so they know you’re listening to them.

Converse Takes Customer Management Seriously

I came across this news story from CIOL which highlights Converse’s latest launch of its Converse One Billing and Active Customer Management solution. This new approach will help organizers manage all subscriber orders, regardless of the payment types, as well as accelerate new promotions and offers.

This functionality will help the overall customer experience, since it is making it a lot simpler to handle many different subscriber accounts. Some of the benefits of this solution include real-time credit control and precise order management data which can be presented ultimately to the end-consumer. Capabilities can even be added due to ever-changing business needs and transformations.

This solution is paving the way for more customer management applications to be released. What I’d like to know is what other companies out there are planning to implement something similar within their customer service operations.

Online Video Watching Habits

In a recent study by Neilson Online, discussed here at CNet, 4.1 million children ages 2 – 11 watched videos on YouTube. The Disney Channel website came in second place, with 1.3 million viewers. The average child viewed 2 hours of videos from home.


Of the 75 million adults who streamed videos, they streamed 44 videos in the month of April, and spent an hour and forty minutes. Their favorite sites for videos were ESPN and CNN.

Teens, 12-17, spent the most time online at an average of more than two hours.

However, the study prevailed that YouTube is still dominantly the leader when watching streaming videos off the internet. Over 73 million people watched 4 billion videos. These numbers are more than all of the other competitors combined.

I think the biggest impact of this survey is how many children are watching videos online. This could impact the television watching industry and change it as we know it. We’ve already seen the CW try to cope with the success of the television show Gossip Girl online, by pulling the options for free streaming video from their website. How will this study affect the future of television watching?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Despite Recession, Most Women still spending on Clothes

In today’s Brandweek, they have an article that will be released in Elle this week that states most women are still spending money on clothes despite the recession. This research was collected in Fall 2007. The average age of the women surveyed was 29, and 52% of them were full time employees.

According to the survey, 57% of these women spent more than $2000 on clothes, and 40% of these women spent more than $750 on shoes and accessories. Of the 1,534 women surveyed in retail stores, 53% of the women said the would probably spend just as much as they did in 2007 or more. The study concluded that 8% of women shoppers are recession proof.

The Unseen Side of Social Networking

There are still many individuals who are yet to be convinced that social networking is a dominate part of lives today, and will be for years to come. In a recent article at the Washington Post, they discuss some new research that has surfaced that indicates that social networks are proving to be beneficial to today’s health: by helping smokers networking with other smokers who are quitting. The research found that those who networked together were more likely to quit all together.


If this is the case, pointed out by the Harvard research group, then social networking could be put to use for other needs in society that are ill-addressed, such as fighting crime, safe sex and exercise. If social networking has proven to help networks of people quit smoking, the influence is evident. What other positive things can social networking be used for?

Providing Customer Service Through Email

When was the last time your customer service agents had email response training? Chances are that they have formed bad habits in answering emails. Luckily, this latest post on TipAdept Dot Com lays out some basic groundwork on serving customers through emails.

Always notify customers on how long they can expect to wait for a response. In addition to that, try to adhere to the schedule provided in the response. Customers will be highly satisfied if you can take care of their needs within the specified timeframe mentioned in the previous email. Never types in all caps, include a relevant subject line, and personalize the email to the customer by mentioning their name. Even though this was not on the list, always spell check your responses. You would be surprised how many agents send out emails that contain many simple grammatical errors.

Friday, June 6, 2008

MySpace Community Connects Fan to Band

In a recent news story at CNet, they tell the story of how Boston found their new lead singer.


Tommy DeCarlo had always listened to the band Boston, so when their original lead singer committed suicide last year, he posted songs he’d sung on MySpace as a tribute. After encouragement from friends, he sent his MySpace page to the Boston camp, and was contacted and told that Boston had no intention to replace their lead singer.


Tom Schultz’s (the founder or the band) wife was listening to Tommy on MySpace, he reconsidered because he believed it to be Brad Delp, the deceased lead singer. He then contacted Tommy, and Boston, in addition to their new lead singer, will start their summer tour this month in Ontario.