Category Archives: Customer Service

Marketing Technology: Mobile People & Portable Brands

The idea of mobile communications is not something new, it’s just that things have progressed immensely since the days prior to the Internet and PDA devices.

What lies ahead is a huge opportunity for brands to get closer to their customers daily lives by  becoming integral to their cutomers’ processes. For me, the idea orignated when I was at IBM where self-serve technologies, such as the ATM and airline check-in kiosk were beginning to take hold. One of my colleagues quipped “Yes, it’s really about the customer saying to the brand ‘come into my process’ but I will remain in control of the transaction”.

This was compelling as it freed the customer not only from delays (lineups at the airport) but it suggested that the customer could transact when and where they pleased – on their own terms.

With mobile devices – PDA’s if you will, customer (and brands) can enjoy more freedom than ever before. No longer encumbered by a fixed location to transact, bank customers can now do their banking from wherever and whenever they choose. The same goes for those who travel by air, say, using Air Canada or Virgin Airways.

Mobile applications can and are being developed for many brand categories. Pharmaceutical apps can help patients with prescription continuance and information on disease states; automotive dealerships send service alerts so that maintenance schedules are adhered to; transit systems can notify passengers when the next bus is about to arrive at a stop.

At the end of the day, its about people who are mobile, devices that enable ‘anywhere computing’ and brands that are portable – the ultimate engagement & collaboration.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

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CRM Not Working? Try Brian.

I like to play golf. I also use fairly good equipment. My Taylor Made clubs are fitted. I have had them for over 10 years and I really like them. The other day, my 3-iron (21 degree loft) club head came loose so I needed to have it repaired. I went to Golf Town, a chain of ‘big box’ stores in Canada.

At first, I was skeptical that Golf Town actually had people who could do much beyond chatting me up about the lastest in golf equipment technology. If I want to improve my game I have 2 basic choices: take lessons, play more often. In fact,  the only technology that has really led to the amateur’s game improvement over the years has been the lawn mower rather than golf equipment. Well, maybe the golf ball. As Sam Snead once said, “You can not go into a shop and buy a good game of golf.”

So I went to Golf Town. At the repair counter and was greeted by Brian, an elderly chap replete with apron, all kinds of club heads, shafts, vices and grips. Brian informed me that indeed all he had to do was put the club head back on with epoxy glue and it would be fine. There was no damage to the club itself. Brian also noted the club as a Taylor Made Rescue, a fine utility club in his view, that needed a new grip and he just happened to have the last one for that particular model in stock. I was skeptical – I first thought Brian was trying to upsell me on a new grip that I didn’t really need.

Then Brian said “You’ve had this grip the entire time you owned the club”. He was dead right. I looked at the club again and realized how much the grip had worn down. Brian also explain that because of Taylor’s “bubble shaft” design that was now out of production, so were the replacement grips. It all made sense so I agreed to have the club re-gripped. The only catch was that the club was not going to be ready until Wednesday morning. I then explained to Brian this was fine, in that I could live without my 3-iron for a day as I had a game lined up very early Wednesday, out of town.

Much to my delight, Brian then said to me: “No problem, I’ll move some orders around and have the club ready by 3 pm today”.  Lo and behold, just as I returned to pick up my club, Brian was actually on the phone calling me to let me know everything was ready.

Was this customer service? At it’s most basic level maybe. At the core, this was really textbook relationship management, not of the ‘experience engineering’ sort but a natural and effortless execution of a memorable customer experience. It was building loyalty and forming a bond between a customer and a craftsman. I left the store feeling that I can now trust someone to repair my golf equipment from now on. All it took was someone – Brian – to understand how to treat people. The transaction, the sale, took care of itself.

You cannot go to your technology provider and buy a good game of CRM.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

No Ticky No Laundry: The Unservice Service

My 75 year-old mother-in-law recently inquired, via the web, about a laundry product that she has been using for years.  In response,  Church & Dwight employed what is known in CRM-Customer Relationship Management as “the customer service apology” method:

 Subject: Reply from Web Form Regarding ARM & HAMMER® Super Washing Soda

Thank you for visiting our web site recently.  We have received your e-mail regarding ARM & HAMMER® So Clean! Super Washing Soda. We appreciate your interest in our product and are sorry you are having difficulty finding it in your area.

Because so many products compete for space on grocers’ shelves, stores sometimes must limit their offerings to those with the greatest demand. You might mention your interest in our product to the store manager where you shop and he or she may be able to order it for you.

Please understand that we are not able to process individual consumer orders.  And since we work through brokers that distribute our products to retailers, we are unable to give you the names of specific stores in your area that carry our products.

Again, thank you for taking the time and having the interest to contact us.  If you have any questions or concerns in the future, please call us at 1-866-931-9741.

We hope you will visit our web site again at: WWW.CHURCHDWIGHT.CA for information about our company, products, history, and financial information.

Church & Dwight Consumer Relations Representative

 

You may wonder why, in this age of location technology (bar codes, RFID), how a manufacturer could be so clueless as to where its own product is within the distribution channels. By contrast, food companies can locate any shipment.

Being a resourceful sort, my mother in-law has gone with Team Borax.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Cross-posted @ cloudave: http://www.cloudave.com/link/no-ticky-no-laundry-the-unservice-service

HBR – The Social Media Bubble: Opinion

Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab, recently posted a thought piece in the Harvard Business Review .

In general, Haque hypothesizes that Social Media doesn’t really connect people but instead, creates the semblance of relationships. Haque states, Social Media is ” largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.”  He goes on to say “Today, ‘social’ media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.”  Here are my own observations relating to some of Haque’s supporting points.

Truth: If we take social media at face value, the number of friends in the world has gone up a hundredfold. But have we seen an accompanying rise in trust? I’d argue no.

Agreed. In fact the word ‘friend’ is used very loosely in the social media vernacular. To me, a friend is someone that I know and trust. Most of us have about 5 real friends in our lives whom we trust implicitly. The rest are aquaintances, people that we are tied to loosely via circumstance like work, associations, clubs or…Facebook and Twitter. What we have seen a rise in is conversation amongst relative strangers under the pretense of ‘friending’. Caveat Eggshell.

Disempowerment:  If social tools were creating real economic gains, we’d expect to see a substitution effect. They’d replace — disintermediate — yesterday’s gatekeepers. Yet, increasingly, they are empowering gatekeepers.

It’s been notable that service providers such as PR agencies, advertising agencies and media consultancies have been vying for ownership of social media within the advertiser domain re. client side of business. They advocate the social media imperative, are evangelical in their style of persuasion and purport to offer social media “ROI”. They fall short by ignoring the element of accountability – something ingrained in traditional media. There is however, substitution in the form of reallocating traditional media dollars to digital. In this regard though, the financial equation is incomplete: digital is cheaper but the material business benefits are elusive. Quantified returns, in management accounting terms, are a work in progress.

Value: The ultimate proof’s in the pudding. If the “relationships” created on today’s Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. .. I can swap bits with pseudo-strangers at any number of sites. “Friends” like that are a commodity — not a valuable, unique good.

This is a tough one. Social Media is increasingly seen as a near free channel or pipe to deliver content, customer service and promotional offers. It’s also cheap in the sense that it has the capacity to diminish the value of fact-based, expert content while simultaneously encouraging the rise of ill-founded, non fact-based crowdsourced opinion. In this context, success is all too often gauged in purely quantitative terms (# of fans or followers) rather than say, degree of loyalty/willingness to recommend. In a similar vein, it is problematic to prove that people are who they say they are in the world of social networks, as many use avatars to represent themselves. If something is a known unknown then how does one ascribe value? 

There also exists an element of social media that is redundant, maybe superfluous, in terms its effect (non-effect?) on consumers. For many brands, the franchise is well entrenched (Tide, McDonald’s, BMW, Wal-Mart and of course, Apple) and the principles of The Discipline of Market Leaders are in place. These same brands already have meaningful relationships and established trust with consumers pre-Internet. Social Media is not about to change this any time soon, though to some, it may appear that way.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

(Cross-posted at Cloud Ave and reprinted by IBM Business Insight Blog)

Becoming Customer-Centric: The Social Enterprise

“Time discovers truth”, said the Roman philosopher Seneca 2000 years ago.

With this in mind, it’s been some time since I taught the course “Becoming Customer-Centric” at IBM‘s Advanced Business Institute in Palisades, NY. This was when the Internet was an enabler of e-business and  CRM was in its early days. Social networks did not exist.

So I recently thought of the “Social Enterprise”. Back in Y2K,  CRM was seen as the panacea for companies with a vision to become customer-centric. This is to say, enterprises lead with technology to drive CRM implementation. Other companies adopted the “Outside-In” view, with the customer as focal point, as their approach to delivering optimal business value across every customer touchpoint.

Things are much different now and for the better. Here’s why:

1. The Portable Brand: The web and the world of the customer has given rise to the Open Brand – On-demand, Personal, Engagement and Networking. This does not mean loss of brand control, but instead, new opportunity to deliver flawless customer experiences, across all touchpoints, according to the brand promise. Mobile applications now afford customers to interact with their favourite brands as they are on the move around the physical and virtual worlds, hence the “Portable Brand”.

2. Customer Outsourcing: New opportunties abound, especially in customer service at pennies per transaction. This is especially true for mobile apps at under $0.10 per contact but also of web-based transactions where customers provide instant feedback on the experience. Customers are saying “come into my process” as they exert their new found powers to influence the relationship agenda.

3. The Web as Data Warehouse: The Internet is a vast but unorganized data warehouse of customer experience stories waiting to be mined –  it’s like harvesting bottled water from a huge stream virtually for free; a new era of customer behavioural analytics will re-define the traditional purchase funnel;

4. “Outside-In” rediscovered: Companies can extend their boundaries deep into the customer’s world in a most personal way to the point where the company/customer boundary disappears. This effectively renders the product-led “Inside-out” approach to process design and technology selection obsolete especially for brands that evoke high emotional involvement on the part of the customer;

5.Sense & Respond” is redefined: The Social Web transcends geography therefore providing global brands with a unique opportunity to leverage their footprint in all markets, in real time, always on. Companies are taking on new ways of listening to customers via online monitoring of consumer-generated content, running viral advertising campaigns and engaging cusumers in on-line forums and communities.

Upon further reflection, those days at the Palisades might as well been in Seneca’s time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

The Portable Brand: Take Your Bank With You

Forrester’s Latest on CRM Trends:Opinion

Forrester Research has recently released it’s 2010  perspective on CRM. William Band, the lead analyst, prefaces the report by asking “As the economy recovers, what are the key trends that will drive customer relationship management (CRM) strategies and technology adoption in 2010?”

Here are my own observations on some of Forrester’s 11 key trends:

Trend #1) Companies return to investing in their most important asset — customers: This should never stop but credit to those who realize the importance of this vital asset. By re-orienting the enterprise back to the customer, companies will be able to sense and response to emerging wants and needs in period of tremendous upheaval in the marketplace. Various aspects of the web that affect the way consumers shop for and purchase will translate in to changes across all customer-facing touchpoints of the enterprise and filter back to the supply chain.

Trend #4) Social CRM hype reaches a crescendo, but projects remain in pilot mode: Makes sense as sCRM technology has outpaced the CMO’s ability to absorb and understand the business utility of a wide variety of applications.  For example, FourSquare, while it has intriguing possiblities for retailers, is only at the stage where some (mainly coffee shops) are offering discounts on product. Companies, such as Ford Motor Company, have seen promising results with viral campaigns, notably a significant number of pre-orders in the US market for the soon-to-be-launched Fiesta.  At the other end of the spectrum, few companies have been able to derive clear benefits from Social Networks such as Facebook, other than having a web presence. 

Trend #5) Customer service embraces real-time methods: This is a huge opportunity as it will generate two clear deliverables for the business case – reduce costs of customer service delivery and drive down cycle time to problem resolution. This trend falls in the category of ‘quick hit’ as it takes little effort to set up extension of the customer service function on Twitter and conversation can take place in real time. Additionally, it has the potential to offload contact centre traffic and deliver the added beneft of broadening the customer’s touchpoint options for contacting the enterprise for service/product queries.

Trend #8) Mobile CRM becomes a must-have capability: This may be the jewel in the crown. Not surprisingly, the travel industry has been quick to embrace this technology, as it has been at the forefront of self-serve for some time re. airline check-in kiosk at the airport, via desktop or mobile device. Hilton Hotels, for example, has rolled out mobile apps that enable guests to manage their reservation status remotely, use the GPS function to search for hotels, order special services while en route or check their frequent stay points balance while travelling. I call this “being able to take your brand with you anywhere you go” CRM.

Trend #10) Scrutiny of business cases remains intense: As it should. With some much in front of the CMO these days, the range of possibilities is intensely confusing. I believe that this is one of the main obstacles to adoption, early or otherwise, as too many people advocate one technology solution over another without providing the necessary guidance to client companies. What is needed are clear strategy and process roadmaps with an eye to benefits and outcomes rather than an obsessive (and futile) focus on ROI. Until such time, piloting projects will remain the order of the day rather implementing cross-enterprise processes and technologies that support the business transformation.

Thanks to the Forrester team for prompting this dialogue on CRM.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM