Thursday, July 31, 2008

Customer Loyalty

A recent article at the blog Customers are Always pointed out the huge difference between a customers having loyalty cards and customers being loyal to stores. Just because a customer has a loyalty card doesn’t mean that they will continually be loyal to this store. To ensure that a customer does stay loyal to your store, you must give them customer service that they want to come back to your store for.

What do you think? Does great customer service automatically guarantee customer loyalty?

Enter with Caution

Before jumping blindly into your business, it’s very important to determine whether your product or service is a good one. Beliefs alone will not sell products; market research not only confirms your beliefs, but it might also help find a manufacturer interested in making your product. Stephen Key presents two out of five options for market research in the beginning phases in this post on All Business. Here are the first two:

  1. Pull-Through Marketing. Use your sales sheet as a basis to show to potential licensors. If they would license it, then you have a good idea of whether or not your product will sell.
  2. Focus Groups. Focus groups are generally for those with bigger budgets, but it can be modified to work for your budget. It consists of collecting the demographic the product intends to sell to, and posing questions such as: Would you buy this product? Be creative in selecting a target audience. Stephen gives an example of going to the mall if you are planning on targeting kids.

What other strategies have been useful for your organization in the initial stages of market research?

Is Facebook a Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

The largest social networking site, Facebook, maybe facing a lawsuit from another social network called Multiply. Multiply has accused Facebook of copying some of the design elements as well as features. Representatives from Multiply sent an e-mail to ReadWriteWeb, that was posted in this article, offering up their reasons for the accusations

"Multiply launched its proprietary newsfeed in August of 2004, when the site launched. Two years later, Facebook introduced a similar, yet more basic, news feed for its users. Blogging, one of Multiply's core features since launch, was introduced to Facebook more than 20 months later, and video sharing, a Multiply feature since June 2005, was introduced on Facebook nearly 16 months later. In September 2004, Multiply introduced photo printing services for its users, something that Facebook implemented two years later. In its most recent enhancement, "New Facebook" features several changes - both aesthetically and functionally - that make Facebook look and feel even more like Multiply."

Another interesting point is that currently Facebook is involved in a law suit against a German social networking site called StudiVZ over the same issues that Multiply has mentioned.

ReadWriteWeb has questioned whether or not Multiply is just using this as a publicity stunt to gain more users, or is just simply upset that they don’t have as many users and feel that they have a better site. What is your opinion, and do you think that Multiply has a valid argument?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plane Simple

We’d like to introduce you to our newest guest contributor, Joanna Brandi. She’ll be co-posting with the Customers 1st blog. Here is her most recent post from her Customer Care Goddess blog.

I’m headed for the airport. Again. I can’t say I love travel, but like many, I make the best of it. On the trip home from Indiana last week I was stuck – literally – in the window seat between a very large (and angry) man next to me and the one in front of me who reclined himself into my lap. I guess when Delta put in those few extra rows (and took away leg room) they forgot to change the pitch of the reclining seat. Oh the joy of travel! I thought I might have a glass of wine to celebrate the success of the workshop I’d just delivered, but I was pinned in so tightly I couldn’t get my arm to the floor to reach my purse. Cranberry juice please!

The man next to me vibed negativity. My guess he was mad because he was stuck in the middle and spread his unhappiness whether he opened his mouth or not.

The flight attendant wasn’t too pleasant and that made it worse, but what came first?

When he called her “toots” I chose to close my eyes and visualize how beautiful the beach would be at sunrise the next day. Breathe deeply.

I didn’t realize until I got off the plane that despite my best efforts, I’d been holding my breath. Getting off the plane never felt so good.

When stuck in situations like that I do think people should make every effort to be as pleasant as possible. No one likes flying any more, why make it worse?

The plane ride home was on my mind when I wrote my tip yesterday – rather than “how to” give great service I offer tips on how to get great service. We all need to practice what we teach. Take a look at my Customer Care Tip here

If you’d like to see more of Joanna Brandi’s blogs, visit JoAnna Brandi’s Blogs. You can also find out more by visiting her Customer Care Coach website. Joanna Brandi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management, and has already been profiled on our Customer 1st blog. Stay tuned for her posts on the Customers 1st blog!

Privacy Still Remains an Issue in Online Ad Targeting

Businesses are continuously facing the problem that comes along with online ad targeting and privacy. This article on eMarketer discusses how a recent Harris Poll indicates that 55% of 2,513 respondents are comfortable with websites that have privacy policies which allows targeted advertising content. Respondents aged 18-31 were more comfortable than others, 62% approved of such privacy policies.

Marketers still can not ignore the fact that more than 45% of respondents are not comfortable with policies that allow ad targeting. In the future, marketers looking to advertise in communities and networks will have to address privacy concerns, as it will not be going away anytime soon.

Online Customer Communities Tips

Web 2.0 is one of the latest trends in business and is changing the way companies, and consumers are interacting with one another. Rules that many thought set in stone have become unraveled and it is important for organizations to keep up with the changing times. It is especially important for organizations to understand the nature of online customer communities and how it affects the company and client relationship. This blog post from ZDNet highlights some of the best practices for online customer communities.

  1. Put the needs of the community first
  2. Community is mostly not a technology problem
  3. Active community management
  4. Measuring success with community requires new yardsticks
  5. Consumer social networks, grassroots customer communities, and business-initiated customer communities are closely related yet very different creatures
  6. Customer communities do work as a marketing channel, just not in the traditional way
  7. The more that business is integrated, the better the community will work
  8. Growth will come, but not until a community finds its identity
  9. Mutual ownership and control of communities enables trust and involvement
  10. Most communities are highly social entities, and the rules of social engagement apply
  11. Going to the community, instead of making it come to you, is a risky but increasingly viable strategy
  12. Connect the community with other CRM-related aspects of the organization

Are there any other points that you would highlight? Has your organization been implementing these tips?

Ethnography is powerful form of market research

In a recent article at the Jakarta Post, Amalia E. Maulana looks at what role he plays as a market research and an ethnographer. He states the goal for ethnographic research is to capture the telling moments that reveal what consumers actually do with products, rather than what they say they do.

Tasks for ethnographers when researching a certain subject should be:

  • consumers' lives in dealing with products; to look closely at their experiences with the products
  • to learn intensively about the product's role in its original setting
  • to reveal what is in the consumers' mind from the very beginning
  • when they first decide they need a product until when they finally buy and use the product.

The goal of the ethnographer should be to connect the lines between what researchers observed in a setting and what really goes on when customers are using products within their homes. According to Manulala, ethnography can be used to fill the gaps in between what customers are receiving from a product and what new uses would be of a value to them.

Do you use ethnography when conducting your market research? If so, what benefits have you seen that have helped you improve your products?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What’s the difference between social media and a community?

At The Social Organization, Rachel Happe takes a look at the difference between building a social media site and a social media community. Social media, such as allowing comments to limited conversation around the content, creates communication, but rarely leads to a community of people with the same interests.

Happe cites these as the characteristics for social community: they’re continuous, members gather around a common goal, communities take on various conversations lead by different leaders, and different leaders emerge over time.

Would you add any characteristics to this list?

Speaker Profile: JoAnna Brandi

With the North American Conference On Customer Service approaching, we would like to begin to introduce you to the speakers we will have this year at our event. This year, NACCM will take place from November 16 – 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. Today, we’d like to introduce you to JoAnna Brandi. JoAnna Brandi is currently the CEO & Publisher for Customer Care Coach.

JoAnna Brandi started her career with CPM Media, where she was responsible for helping to create a multi-million dollar Direct Market Services profit center, building the first database, and on-line customer care system. After leaving CPM in 1990, she opened her own business which has successfully built on the principles that she had learned. Some of the main insights that JoAnna shares through a bi-weekly online magazine “Customer Care Tip”, which she authors, are on the topics of positive psychology in business.

She has written three books: “Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal, and Keep 'em Coming Back”, “Building Customer Loyalty – 21 Essential Elements in ACTION”, and “54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World”. In addition she was a contributing author to “Inc. Guide to Superior Customer Service”, and “Best Practices in Customer Service”.

To learn more about JoAnna Brandi visit her blog and read more of her musings. Meanwhile click on this link to see a video found her company website depicting her in action. We invite you to come see JoAnna Brandi at NACCM as she presents her workshop on Sunday, November 16th, The Positive Leader. Be sure to look for another speaker’s profile next week.

New Marketing Research Tool

A new patent pending research tool has hit the market thanks to Synergy Research Group as mentioned in this press release from marketwire. It is called Synergy Interactive Analysis (SIA), and is a web 2.0 tool that will help users

“SIA leverages the wealth of market intelligence Synergy has developed over the last decade in the Networking and Telecom industries. SIA allows clients to instantly create any type of report or chart, using any unit of measure, for any company, anywhere in the world.”

SIA will cost users $499 per seat per service, and will provide consumers with 38 separate SIA Market Share, and Forecast services. In order for individuals to experience the value of their tool Synergy will be offering 2 SIA Market Share and Forecast services free, for a limited time.

The potential benefit to organizations is that this will allow them to efficiently gather and manipulate important market research. As Troy D. Jensen, from Piper Jaffray stated

"SIA is an incredible new tool which helps us quickly and intuitively access Synergy's highly regarded market research. Synergy's SIA research tool is a great example of what happens when entrepreneurship and technology come together. Synergy has created a powerful and easy to use Web-based research application that will enhance our research efforts and save us time."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Are retailers listening to customers needs?

In a recent post at Customers Rock! Becky Carroll raises a question every shopper has had at one time or another. Why aren’t items for season carried during the season in which they are needed? Becky and her son had to drive around 50 miles trying to find a bathing suit. It’s July, with at least one more month of swimming season. One of the commenters couldn’t find spring jackets in last spring, as they were sold out in December.

Retailers are failing to see what their customers need and at what times they need it. Becky thinks it’s important that these stores find a balance between the needs of stocking items that can benefit both the retailer and the customer. Yes, it’s important to create an online community and keep the dialog going, but if customers come into your store and you don’t have the products they need, part of the relationship is lost. What do you think?

What’s wrong with Market Segmentation?

This article on highlights how most companies do not derive real value from implementing a major marketing-segmentation initiative. Why is that? A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review reveals that segmentation generally focuses in on different “types” of consumers. This practice makes it easier for advertisers to develop and tailor messages directed to specific segmentation groups, but it does not tell companies whether or not these consumers will actually buy the product or service.

Yankelovich and Meer from the Harvard Business School suggest tailoring your segmentation to a strategic decision. Define segments by consumer current consumer behavior and also their likely behavior. Over time, redefine segmentations as the market changes. They suggest these tactics in order to segment markets effectively:

· Identify a strategic decision that would benefit from information about different customer segments.

· Determine which customers drive profits.

· Analyze actual and potential purchasing behavior.

· Segment in ways that make sense to senior management.

· Revise your segmentation as market conditions change.

Read the full article here.

Predictions for Social Media

I was combing through the Internet in search of future trends for online communities when I came across this article. According to the author, Jim Tobin, social media is still in the early stages of development. While some may disagree with him, here are his views on where the evolution of social media could lead.

  1. Ratings will become an expectation
  2. Content aggregation will boom
  3. New tools will replace some of the first movers
  4. Social Networks become portable
  5. Virtual worlds gain traction

What are your opinions on which growth stage social media is in? Do you still believe that it is in its fledgling stage? Also what do you think are trends that will catch on for the future of this industry?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Social Media Revolutionizing Customer Service?

Recently we posted on our blog about customer service at Comcast. This week we decided to take a slightly different slant and discuss what some other companies are doing as well as find out if the next step in the evolution of customer services is being proactive instead of reactive by utilizing social media. In this NY Times article, and as previously mentioned on our blog, Comcast has created a new position in their company called “digital care manager”. This new role was taken over by Mr. Eliason, and has since expanded to a staff of seven expected to grow to ten. As Brian D. Solis, from FutureWorks a public relations firm, mentioned, Comcast is

“taking what used to be an inbound call center and turning it into an outbound form of customer relations”

When I checked another of the companies mentioned by the NY Times article, Southwest Air, I noticed that on their twitter page they have 2,088 followers. Apparently, they are also not only relying on people talking back to them, but also going out and actively seeking people who have twitterd about them. In fact this blog post recounts one individual’s account of how Southwest Air proactively responded to their twitter comments rather than simply relying on an inbound call center.

Whole Foods Market is going one step further and rewarding consumers who twitter about them by having a drawing where once a week one lucky individual will receive a $25 Whole Foods Market Card as announced in their company blog.

With more and more companies starting to use social media as not just a marketing tool, but as another step in the evolution of customer service it will be interesting to see how many other roles such as “digital care manager” will be created. Also, it will be interesting to see what percentage of companies migrate away from the use of call centers and begin instead to capitalize on the social media revolution.

Are your organizations taking these extra steps? Do you think that soon this will be the norm in customer service, and what the industry standard will become?

Using Online Tools to Communicate With Customers

The age of bloggers venting online and getting nothing in return has ended. I came across this article in the NY Times in which blogger Brandon Dilbeck received an email message in response to a blog post he wrote complaining about ads Comcast posted on its programming guide. What’s interesting here is that Comcast has switched its focus from being reactive and are now proactively attempting to communicate with consumers through social media.

In an attempt to revamp its online outreach, Comcast has even created a new position, Digital Care Manager, headed by Frank Eliason alongside a team of 10 other staff members who regularly monitors public comments on blogs, message boards and social networks for any mention of Comcast. Comcast though, is not the only company who has begun to utilize social communities to reach out to its customers. Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods Markets, Zappos, and Chipotle are among some of the businesses who have started to reinvent traditional online community communication.

Even though having someone always “watching” is considered creepy by some, the benefits seem to make up for it. Frank Eliason mentions how he can only remember seven instances in which a customer had called him creepy.

What’s your company doing in terms of searching through blogs, forums, discussion groups, social networks, and twitter for customer conversations regarding your business? It’s important that organizations begin to look at social media as a means of communication to consumers since the trend is moving away from call centers and becoming more online social media centric.

Speaker Profile: Kelley Styring

With the The Market Research Event quickly approaching, we would like to begin to introduce you to the keynote speakers we will have this year at our event. This year, The Market Research Event will take place from October 13 - 16, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. To start, we would like to introduce you to Kelley Styring. Well known for her “In Your Purse Study: Archaeology of the American Handbag,” Kelley has been involved with companies like Proctor and Gamble and Pepsi Co., managing their market research divisions.

In 2003, she founded Insight Farm, in Newberg, Oregon, a customer strategy and market research consultancy to help Fortune 100 companies improve their customer insight. Her well known study, “In Your Purse” had Kelley looking through 100 purses to see how the purse connected a woman’s home to the store she was shopping at. She was able to pinpoint a few innovations that companies could use to improve when trying to vie for room in a woman’s purse.

Kelley’s latest research project is researching what people carry in their car. Her new research study has been called In Your Car Roadtrip. She’s recently completed her road trip around the nation to find out what the people of the United States have in their car and what innovations can be made to lure in the American public. You can follow up on her blog and Flickr photos of the trip. She’ll be explaining her findings the first night of the Market Research Event.

We invite you to come see Kelley Styring at The Market Research Event as she presents his keynote speech on Tuesday, October 14th, Hitting the Road to Uncover Innovations.

Watch an interview with Kelley Styring from Good Morning Texas:

(Sources: Style Fix, Insight Farm, CNN)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tips for Google’s New Keyword Tool

Pertaining to market research, I agree with this article’s quote from Avinash Kaushik stating that “The goal is not to collect more data – it’s about extracting insight from this data.” It is especially important to remember at all times when going through data. To help accomplish this goal the article gave tips on how to better utilize Google’s new Keyword Tool. Specifically as the article states they are providing

“tips on how you can tailor Google Keyword Tool’s data to you needs (much like you would with Google Analytics), and how you can apply this research beyond your SEO and PPC campaign to other marketing activities.”

The tips cover these topics: Selecting countries, generating keywords, setting match type, adding and removing columns, jumping to data, and sorting data. Do you have any insights on marketing research tools that others may find useful?

Deloitte takes a look at mistakes when companies build communities

WSJ Business Technology recently took a look at Deloitte’s recent study published on why online communities fail. According to the Deloitte study, many businesses are focusing on what online communities can do for them and the technology to support it, not the members the online space is built for. Of the communities studied, 35% have less than 100 members. Less than 25% of the communities studied have 1,000 members. An astounding 6% of the companies studied spent over $1 million on their projects.

So why is it that so many of the online communities are failing?

1) Many of the companies are getting to involved on the technological perks spending their budget there instead of reaching out to potential community members and finding out what they want from a community2

2) Lack of experience with online communities’ leads to misguided decisions. Of the companies studied, 30% had one person who was working part time with the communities.

3) It’s very hard to measure the success of an online community. The primarily objectives of the business with communities was to create word of mouth and establish loyalty from their customers. This is very hard to judge when normal online measurements are judged by the click-tos.

Have you fallen into one of the pitfalls listed above? How would you work with your online community to resolve the issue?

Two Customer Service Approaches Your Company Should Avoid

Whether you’re talking to a company’s representative on the phone or online, there are two quick ways to alienate a customer. Laura Bergells details these two approaches that your company’s reps should watch out for when they communicate with customers in her latest post on Internet Marketing in the Midwest.

Laura gives an example of two companies that she has had a long customer relationship with which she will soon break off. One company apologizes constantly in person, on the phone, and in “canned letters’. The apologies seem scripted, and thus can frustrate customers even more when their problems are not being solved.

The next example involves a company who apologizes for none of its faults, and makes the customer feel like an idiot. The representatives for Company B treated Laura with absolutely no respect, and made no effort to go out of there way to provide superior service. Not only was the rep rude, but they did hold Laura’s scheduled appointment.

These are two examples of customer service approaches that your company should never follow. As Laura mentions, customer service is a huge part of marketing, and frustrated bloggers can spread word fast all over social media. Businesses should empower its representatives to use social skills and reasoning to solve problems and communicate effectively with customers, instead of following a script or being unapologetic.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Twitter Acting as Complementary Customer Service

Last night, on World News Tonight with Charles Gipson, a story about Twitter aired. Read the news report here. Tracey Louise Wallace worked from home, and woke up Monday morning to no cable, internet or phone. After speaking with customer service representatives at Comcast, she was informed they’d fix her services Thursday. After the experience, she twittered. Comcast has a team that sorts through social media sites looking for complaints. Frank Eliason, leader of that team, found her complaint and began to track her down. After finding her Twitter page, work webpage, and business partner, he was able to contact Tracey directly. Her services were back up by 5:00 Monday evening.

Customer care is growing as we see the internet grow in old ways. It’s no longer enough to expect customers to sit for thirty minutes on hold before they speak with a customer care representative. Comcast is just one of the many companies monitoring what’s being said about them on the internet. Is your company doing this? How are you seeing this affect your customer service?

LinkedIn and NY Times Become Partners

In what could be a move copied by other social networking sites, LinkedIn and NY Times have become partners in order to provide users with constantly updated news for their respective industries. It is not yet clear whether or not any money has exchanged hands. This review from ReadWriteWeb is supportive of the new team. As summarized by the article:

We're big on LinkedIn here at RWW and though a wide open developers platform has yet to emerge, moves like this are inspiring. The deal is an important step beyond the previous integration of sharing hooks on from other services.

LinkedIn has over 25 million registered users, while NY Times has over 17 million unique visitors a month, making this partnership seem very promising. What are your thoughts on this new alliance? Do you think other sites such as Facebook will start to pursue similar avenues? Click on this page to update your LinkedIn profile to include the NY Times.

Bio-Logical Insights: Sensory Emotive Effectiveness in Marketing

Just a quick reminder to register for the free webinar that Dan Hill, keynote speaker for The Market Research Event 2008 and president of Sensory Logic, will be presenting on Thursday, July 24th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm eastern standard time. Here’s a quick synopsis of what he will be presenting on and what you can expect to learn from it:

Too often, marketing materials suffer from an insider perspective. A company becomes so caught up in the messaging, for instance, that it fails to recognize what will and won’t catch people’s attention, and when too much is definitely too much. In turn, the advertising agency creatives run the risk of getting so close to their execution that how the visuals and lay-out will play for people gets lost. And sometimes, the agency understands better or differently from the target market what the client is trying to communicate.

This webinar tries to help both parties out. It seeks to back up and take consumers’ point of view. What will they notice? What’s the window of opportunity and the guidelines for getting attention? What kind of underlying emotional benefits are key to address? Learn about these key insights and more in this presentation.

What you will learn:
- What are 3 keys to making gaze activity work in your favor?
- How fast does the eye move in connecting the dots of a given layout?
- What visual, layout design principles help in making advertising more effective?
- What are the core motivations that draw people in?

Register for this webinar, and don’t forget to hear Dan Hill, the recipient of the Speaker of the Year award for 2007 by Minnesota Meetings, speak at The Market Research Event 2008 on October 13 – 16, 2008 in Anaheim, California.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Enterprise Feedback Management finds way to track customer sentiment

In a recent article at Manufacturing Business Technology, they discuss how enterprise feedback management can measure customer attitudes overtime. Through users reporting and survey tools, they can solicit input from employees and customers. Then, by using customer surveys and market research, they can put together a compete picture to determine customer attitudes. By tracking direct responses, companies are able to see how customers attitudes about their business change over time. This allows companies to determine why things happen with their customers, giving them insight behind what’s happening.

Blog Advertising: Is it Really Worth It?

Many companies choose to advertise on their blogs once the community reaches a considerable size, and when it has a decent amount of pageviews a month. I came across this post from the Inquisitr which highlights how most ads are paying less than the benchmark $1 CPM, let alone the spammy ads which deliver 20-30c CPM.

There is a lot to choose from when searching for an online advertising broker, but not a lot pay well. Searching through comments and recommendations from peers, we’ve come across at least one company which seems to be a winner, Project Wonderful. Project Wonderful uses an auction system to figure out what ads go up on your page, and of course, ultimately the user has final word on what goes up. What are some other examples of ad companies that you have used in the past? What’s your take on advertising on blogs?

Speaker Profile: Joe Torre

With the North American Conference On Customer Service approaching, we would like to begin to introduce you to the speakers we will have this year at our event. This year, NACCM will take place from November 16 – 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Joe Torre. Joe Torre is currently the manager of the LA Dodgers, and is also one of the winningest coaches in baseball history.

Joe knows the importance of managing people. Torre began his baseball career in 1960 as an amateur free agent with the Boston Braves. His 1971 National League MVP award is overshadowed by the remarkable time he spent with the New York Yankees, going to twelve consecutive post seasons with them, winning his first championship in 1996. The team also won seven World Series and ten pennants during his time. Torre won the manager of the year award in 1998 for his outstanding season with the Yankees.

Torre has created the Safe at Home Foundation in 2002 with his wife, their goal being to educating to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives. The foundation now focuses on educating children in school about domestic violence. The organization has ten funded programs; all called Margaret’s Place throughout New York City and Westchester County in New York State.

Joe has co-authored two books: Chasing My Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series and Joe Torre’s Ground Rules for Winners: Twelve Keys to Managing Team Players.

Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It's about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result.

Joe Torre contributed this quote to an article he wrote for Business Week. He also insists that as a member of any competitive team, whether it be baseball or your customer service division, you must be ready to play at all times. We invite you to come see Joe Torre at NACCM as he presents his keynote speech on Tuesday, November 18th, Ground rules for winners: Effectively managing teams, setbacks and success both in business and in life.

(Sources: Business Life, Business Week, LA Times, Safe at Home Foundation, and Sports Business News)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting through with social media

Social media is still a relatively new concept, and most people have no idea what it actually does and what the benefits can be when using these tools for your business. Beth Dunn at Small Dots wrote recently about adopting social media for a non-profit business. Read the article here. She brought up four very important points about jumping into social media.

-Tackle something with social media that old methods can’t seem to touch
Ask yourself who you want to come to your page, and then find out what they’re already doing on the web.

-Put your policies on paper first
Things change on the web, so be prepared. A company should plan out your procedures before you jump head first into social media.

-Remember you’re on the same team
Many people working in companies don’t understand the concepts of social media. Work with them and don’t be discouraged when they aren’t jumping for social media ideas.

Marketing Academia Needs to Change Market Research Teachings

There was an interesting article regarding how marketing academia is needs to change the principles of what is taught. In today’s organizations, more and more, the focus of marketing research is centered on consumers and the idea of customer insight. It’s about finding out what current customers are saying, and finding ways to improve and incorporate these suggestions into final products, rather than surveying a random sampling of a predicted target audience. Based on this articles research, schools that teach marketing need to move away from just teaching “classical marketing.” Instead they need to consult more with companies, and find out the actual marketing practices in place in order to keep up with changing face of market research. As the article states:

“Commercial market researchers and applied academics share a requirement to make their research accessible, engaging and even actionable. There is little overt acknowledgement of this at present, and until this changes, the current academic cultural norms may erect barriers to our messages getting across.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Give your customers confidence

In a blog post at Service Untitled, they discussed the importance of your customers feeling satisfied with their customer service representatives when on phone calls. Most often, customers feel they’re going to call the call center and the representative is not going to know what their problem is. Customers are more likely to have a pleasant experience if they feel that when on a phone call, the customer service representative knows their problem and can fix it.

So how do you give your customers confidence in your CSRs? The representatives should tell the customer calling that they can help them resolve the problem today. Letting a customer know that the representative is happy to be there and willing to help solve the problem makes all the difference in a satisfied customer at the end of a call.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sears reaches youth market with social media

In a recent post at Social Media Today, Jennifer A. Jones discusses Sears’ new social media campaign to appeal to the youth market. They introduce their brand to the teens in quite a few ways, making a great marketing campaign that focuses on the youth from several angles.

In an effort to reach 8 to 14 year olds, Sears is spreading their name throughout the Internet on sites that teens use. They’ve gotten sponsorships with Facebook, MySpace, Seventeen, CosmoGirl, Nickelodeon and Disney. Sears has also posted games on different sites including Addicting Games, Fun Brain, and NeoPets. They’ve also introduced virtual Sears’ boutiques, fashion shows and other games at places like Zwinky, Meez, The N. In total, Sears has partnered with thirteen websites according to DMNews.

In further efforts, they’ve connected with High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens with their digital campaign. At the Arrive Lounge, teens are encouraged by the star to go back to school in style wearing Sears’ clothing. There, they can also find behind the scenes video with Hudgens, sweepstakes to enter and a variety of things to download. Sears also sets the stage in MTV’s new movie The American Mall, as the movie was filmed in a Sears location and the actors wore Sears brand clothing.

Nature and Characteristics of Market Research

I stumbled upon this document posted by Richard Cataman on .docstoc in which the author provides a clear understanding of the difference between pragmatic, applied market research and the much more common academic theory of market research. Cataman does a particular good job in explaining how although statistical analysis is important to market research, it is not the only factor needed to be an effective market research manager. Take some time out to read this article.

Thank Your Customers

Do you thank your customers after every customer service call, or after any interaction? Today’s post on The Customer Service Helper discusses how although companies should be thanking customers after every interaction whether it be in person, on the phone, or online, it isn’t necessarily doing it. Also, being thankful for a customer’s business and interest in the company should be automatic. Agents, employees, and managers should not feel forced to utter the words “thank you”; it should be genuine.

Employees shouldn’t be taught to say thank you, it should come as second nature. Is your business thanking its customers?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Recent Study shows Consumers are Most likely to buy more if distracted

A recent study performed by Bryan Gipson, a psychology professor at Central Michigan University, found that customers who are distracted are more likely to make an impulse decision that involves choosing one brand over another.

Newswire had this to say of the study:

Results of Gibson's study found that implicit attitudes, or those that people may not be conscious of and able to verbally express, predicted product choice only when participants were presented with a cognitive task, suggesting that implicit product attitudes may play a greater role in product choice when the consumer is distracted or making an impulse purchase.

Customer Loyalty Programs

This article in Advertising Age discusses the role of loyalty during economic downturns. Hilton Hotel’s senior VP of customer loyalty discussed how the members of the Hilton Honors program are responsible for the current success of Hilton and the chains ability to maintain business. While many view customer loyalty programs an important part of business during economic hardships, some corporations think about cultivating these loyal customers only during troubled times. This blog post raises the interesting point, that there is never a “best” time to encourage engagement in loyalty programs, instead it is important for companies to be constantly conscious of this need. The author of the post made this statement

Let’s consider a simple loyalty lifecycle: (1) Engage customers, (2) build loyalty, (3) reinforce loyal activities. Downturns are the worst time for (1) and (2) because there are fewer customers. It’s the time to really hone in on (3). So if you just start thinking about loyalty during a downturn, it’s too late.

What is your view on customer loyalty programs? Do you think that corporations have not been responsible enough in terms of cultivating consumer loyalty when they don’t have a pressing need for it?

Too Many Facebook Apps

There was a huge buzz around the Facebook platform when it was initially launched last year. Companies were now able to integrate their own personal applications on the Facebook platform. It has been over a year since it’s initial launch, and since then several fundamental issues have come up. This post on ReadWriteWeb lists the following:

  1. Technical: Should the app be just a teaser that leads users to their site or should it be a duplicate and have full functionality?
  2. Business: If e.g. New York Times builds a Facebook app, will it be economic for them (since there's little revenue in Facebook)?
  3. Provider costs: Does it pay for Facebook to maintain the platform? As a business with a huge valuation, Facebook needs to maximise profit.

On the Technical End, creating Teaser apps confuses the general public. It also creates a bad experience for them since they are jumping between Facebook and different sites. On the other hand, native apps are a marketing and engineering nightmare since maintaining these duplicate base codes are very costly.

On the Business End, Facebook does not have an infrastructure for paid applications. So, if companies want to include ads on their apps, readers will be seeing two types of ads on their page, and that might prove to be unbearable.

With the abundance of applications made available on Facebook, Provider Costs have risen to new heights. Facebook must change the user experience by minimizing the amount of applications allowed within their interface.

The future of the Facebook platform is still a mystery. Mark Zuckerberg has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants the platform to advance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What is social media?

The (e)Grommet blog pointed me in the direction of this slide show. It does a great job of what social media is today, who is/will be using social media, and why companies should care about how they invest in social media.

Customer Service and Social Media

Researching the web I came across a list of Five reasons customer service is better on social media posted by David Griner on The Social Path. Here’s a quick recap of these reasons:

  1. Because, for the first time ever, you can stop fires before they start. Companies have long been investing a lot of money in PR firms to investigate buzz around their products and/or services. Now, buzz can be instantly tracked on the web through forums, blogs, and other social sites.
  2. It's easy. David mentions Google Alerts, which is extremely easy to use. Google Reader and other readers of this sort can easily be customized to bring you up-to-date information on your favorite blogs.
  3. It's flattering. It feels good to have a company write or express opinions on your product. Even if there is negative feedback, just respond politely and you’ll be surprised at the reaction you’ll get.
  4. It's a better use of your money than PR or advertising. While you shouldn’t altogether eliminate PR and advertising on the web, social media can replace many of those advertising dollars.
  5. A little goes a long way. Instead of the traditional one-on-one outreach, responding to a blog post or forum thread for example can touch many people who view it.

Has your business adopted new methods in its customer service approach to adapt to the changing demographic?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Listen to Community Conversations

Searching the blogosphere, I came across this post from Warner on Adventures in Internet Marketing. In this post, he details many conventional and FREE ways to find out what people are talking about and what they are searching for.

Amazon top selling products, eBay pulse, and eBay keywords are some of the best ways to check out the new buzz. Sites like technorati and are great because you can view different sites that people have been saving and analyze interested keywords. Marketers are beginning to look at social media as a great way to analyze information. The shift from traditional focus groups and surveys are changing as people are making information readily accessible on the web.

LL Bean Gives Customers a Voice

According to this article at Market Watch, LL Bean has given customers a way to rate their products and write their opinions thanks to Bazaar Voice. The NRF Foundation/American Express Customer Service Survey rated LL Bean #1 for customer service recently, and the company has shown that they are loyal to their customers. To make customers aware of this feature, they feature a section on their front page encouraging customers to share their opinions. This feature has been available since April 2008, and LL Bean has plans in the future to send emails out to customers who have purchased products to they can remind customers to write a review for the website. They also plan to begin including reviews in their catalogs.

The system is working; as LL Bean saw their loyal customers write over 13,000 reviews in five days after an email was sent out. Their eager, loyal customers are ready to give opinions on their products. Bazaar Voice will continue to help LL Bean use these customer reviews in order to capitalize the information derived from the user generated content.

Allvoices: Collaborative News Reporting

Say goodbye to traditional journalism and news reporting. This post on The Inquisitr discusses the latest launch of Allvoices, a news service that aggregates content from visitor submissions and ranks them, sort of like Digg and Technorati.

The idea behind this newly built community it that the CEO, Amra Tareen, wanted to enrich traditional news with alternative viewpoints. News reporting is too often censored by global media organizations, and so its users can submit its own coverage. The ranking system and its filters ensure correct placement of valid submissions. Tareen mentions her ideal model:

“Our model of merging user-generated content and professional news sources into one community will create the first true people’s media”

It’ll be surely interesting to see how the community reports on controversial topics like political issues and global conflicts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blogging: Understand Where Other People are Coming From

So your company has decided to launch a blog to communicate with its customers, so the rest should be a piece of cake right? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Blogging on controversial topics can very often stir up emotions and comments. Looking through my reader this afternoon I came across this post from Marshall Kirkpatrick in which he explains how simply understanding where people are coming from can help make you a more effective communicator.

This idea doesn’t just stop with blogging though. Communities, social networks, forums, discussion boards, and any other forms of social media that render conversations should be treated the same way. Let’s face it. Different viewpoints exist in the world, and so companies must learn to treat responses fairly in order to communicate more effectively online.

Market Research is Changing

Martin Edic points out in his latest post that market research is currently transitioning from acquired research to observed research. Acquired research involves creating a structured environment and forcing participation. Examples of these are focus groups and surveys. Responses from participants to both of these strategies are many times forced and not genuine.

These findings are turning many marketers to start using observed research to gather their data. People are most genuine with their responses when they feel as if no one is watching. The explosion of web 2.0 technology has transformed social media into a great resource to track trends, listen to conversations, and to define demographics. Does your company currently use social networks, blogs, and other forms of social media to collect information about your customers?

Regaining Customer’s Trust

What does it take for a consumer to regain trust in a business even after the worst has happened? The answer is exceptional customer service. In the service industry, the way you treat your customers are crucial. Researching the web, I came across this post on The Customer Service Helper which lists 7 things you must do to restore customer confidence after things go wrong. Here’s a recap:

  1. Courtesy. Whether on the phone or in person, politeness goes a long way. Make sure that all customer service representatives interact with customers with the utmost respect so that customers will experience more satisfaction.
  2. Apology. After a bad experience or service failure for example, always apologize to the customer. Apologizing conveys politeness and empathy which will restore customer confidence.
  3. Justification. Provide an explanation of why things went wrong. Even when problems are solved, most customers want to know why the problem existed in the first place. This process helps re-establish trust.
  4. Resolution. Resolve the customer’s issue. When problems aren’t fixed, customers are left hanging, and so they begin to lose trust in the organization.
  5. Immediateness. The time it takes to resolve the problem also impacts customer loyalty. Improve on speedy responses and recoveries, and you’ll see an increase in customer satisfaction.
  6. Compensation. After a bad experience or service failure, giving discounts, refunds, free merchandise, and coupons is a good way to restore the balance in customer experience.
  7. Surprise & Delight. Go beyond the problem resolution and provide personalized service. Customers will always remember a good customer service experience.

Following these 7 golden rules and you will surely see an increase in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and confidence!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Economic Concerns are Changing Spending Habits

With ever-growing prices at the gas pump, consumers are looking to save money in other way besides automobile expenses. One of those ways includes weekly visits to the local grocery store. A study conducted by the National Consumer Agency shows us that Irish consumers are thinking twice before picking up conventional items at supermarkets. Here are some of the findings from the research:

  • 30% of grocery shoppers have changed grocery shopping behaviour since the start of the year
  • 26% spreading their spend over different supermarkets
  • Lidl and Aldi are main beneficiaries of the spend spreading to different stores
  • 32% of groceries bought are the supermarkets' own brand items
  • 26% buying cheaper versions of products

What does this mean for marketers? Trends in consumer shopping and spending habits are changing, and so we must carefully analyze research to ensure that we are stepping in the right direction to effectively promote products and services.

Google Labs Latest Offering

Google has entered into a new domain, virtual reality, despite what some would say is heavy competition already in place. Lively is the latest offering in Google Labs. It is a product of Niniane Wang’s, an engineering manager, 20% time project. Her reason for this latest creation, as citied in this article from, is:

"A while ago, I looked around the social Web and wished that it could be less static. Sure, you can leave a comment on a blog or write a text blurb on your social networking profile. But what if you want to express yourself in a more fun way, with 3D graphics and real-time avatar interactions?"

Features of the new app are that it runs solely through a browser using a Google account. Similar to other apps of its type, users create their own avatars, and the rooms can be customized to feature TV’s displaying YouTube clips, and photos on the wall. Another article, from ReadWriteWeb, noted that that a difference between Lively and Second Life is that:

Google's idea seems to be less to create one large virtual world, but to give publishers an opportunity to create their own small virtual world for their readers and visitors.

While Google does have an impressive track record with their product launches from Google Labs, as Brad Stone from the New York Times pointed out in his review of Lively,

Google’s success is not assured, of course. Other test products it has introduced have languished, like Product Search, originally known as Froogle.

Despite heavy competition already in place from heavyweights such as Second Life, do you think that Google and the strength of the brand will prevail?

Thou Shall Listen to Thy Customer

One of the best ways to improve customer service as a whole is to listen to what stories customers are telling about your company, whether it be good or bad. Becky Carroll reminds us in this post on Customers Rock! that a satisfied customer will recommend a company’s product or service to 3 people, while an unhappy customer will tell 3000 people (clearly exaggerating, but you get the drift). Customer reviews are crucial to the survival of businesses. When was the last time you checked out forums, blogs, discussion boards, and other social media to see what customers are saying about your company? We’ve discussed in a previous post how the use of the social media site Twitter could be used to make customer service proactive instead of reactive, but I’d like to see other examples of how companies have improved their services by scouring the web for consumer insights, complaints, and recommendations.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Decrease in Media Budgets

Advertising Age had this informative article about a study conducted by Advertising Perceptions, a market-research firm. According to the research study, media buyers are pessimistic about Broadcast TV, magazines, newspapers, radio, and outdoor, and have plans to decrease their advertising budgets for these mediums. Broadcast TV, and newspapers are the hardest hit, with 30% of the respondents citing a decrease in their expected spending over the next six months.

On a positive note, online, cable TV, and mobile are not experiencing the same downturn. For online media spending, 72% of study participants are anticipating an increase in their spending, and for cable and mobile the percentages were 28% and 53% respectively.

Audrey Siegel, a VP Director of Client Services for TargetCast, believes that,

The decline indicates that marketers need their dollars to be flexible during times of economic uncertainty so they have the opportunity to pull back on spending if necessary.

On a contradictory note, as reported in the NY Times in this article, Mr. Coen senior VP and forecasting director at Magna, is optimistic citing the Olympics, and the political campaign as a reason why advertising will not be as hard hit as the Advertising Age article suggests. Coen was quoted as saying,

“It will get better in the second half of the year. I think the worst is over in terms of the slowdowns.”

In summary his belief is that while the economy has played a huge role in the hesitance of media buyers to spend their advertising budgets, the decrease may not be as noticeable while the Olympics, and Political campaign remain a hot topic in the media. His predictions also have him quoting that 2009 will be better than this year with advertising spending up 3.1%. It will be interesting to see which perception will prevail.

John Mayer using Web 2.0 to connect to his fans

John Mayer’s touring this summer, and you can keep up with him through the interactive community on his website. After reading about this on David Allen’s Social Media Today post, I took a chance to check it out. The summer tour is being promoted by Blackberry, who is already deep into interactivity with their phones. Mayer has a blog he regularly updates. In addition, after each show has taken place, a webpage is updated with the set list, comments on the show, and photos, for example, the Milwaukee show.

Web 2.0 and communities are all about interaction. Mayer’s given fans a reason to keep coming back to his site, one being that fans are able to vote on a song in the encore for each concert.