customer service

Customer Experience: The “NEW” Branding

Branding 2.0

Branding has changed over the past twenty years.

A Brand used to exert far more control over their image than they do now. Their image was dictated by their marketing team and it was presented via one-way communication channels such as Print, Radio and Television. There was no means for the consumer to talk back and no sharing “en-mass” of experiences. The worst a Brand had to fear was negative word-of-mouth referrals amongst their consumer’s family and friends. This of course was minimal and easy to drown out.

This type of “one-way” marketing communications made it easy for brands to position themselves with nothing more than a large budget and a savvy marketing team.

That has all changed. With the advent of the internet, the world became a great deal smaller. This is a truth that has been compounded even further by “Social Media”.

“Social Media has made every customer a “mystery shopper”. It has enabled every last consumer to weigh in on a Brand’s performance.”

Social Media has enabled anyone and everyone to share their thoughts on anything at anytime. Is this a good thing? Perhaps not in all cases, yet it is the truth we live with. Everyone’s hearts are now on their sleeves and now just about anyone across the world can view it.

This is a cold hard fact for Brands.

The Brand Image is no longer dictated solely by slick marketing, it is dictated by customer’s sharing their experiences with the world. Take for example this recent post to social media giant, Reddit:

This UPS employee deserves a raise for the good he has done for their brand.

This UPS employee deserves a raise for the good he has done for their brand.

A customer, or quite possibly no more than the NEIGHBOUR of a customer, witnessed a diligent UPS employee and shared it on Reddit. The post was instantly shared with millions of consumers all around the world.

Congratulations to UPS!  Thanks to this employee and the consumer who noticed it, they got excellent brand recognition and advertising without spending a dime.

Now as a point of comparison, have a look at this short video posted to YouTube. The video shows a FedEx employee casually tossing a package (containing a computer) over a fence. This is a video that went viral only months ago:

Ask yourself, which of these two elite carriers are consumers more likely going to use? Based solely off of these two consumer-shared posts I know who my choice would be.

Of course this isn’t to lambaste FedEx or endorse UPS, but to demonstrate the principles behind the new era of Branding. Simply put Brands must now exercise a new level of responsibility and engagement with customers. Any Brand seeking success in the 21st century must now focus less on shiny advertising and image and more on “Customer Experiences”.

A customer with a mouthful asked for a "Mapkin". This is what the clever employee provided. As a result it got great, positive exposure to 60 million users on a social networking site. Good employees are worth investing in.

A customer with a mouthful asked for a “Mapkin”. This is what the clever employee provided. As a result it got great, positive exposure to 60 million users on a social networking site. Good employees are worth investing in.

Customer Experiences.

Customer Experience (Definition): Is literally any part of the entire experience a consumer (or consumers) has during the process of making a purchase. This includes preemptive researching, sourcing, pricing, purchasing, taking possession of, installing and using, as well as any and all customer service related activities following. This may include warranty, returns, questions or comments.

Twenty or more years ago a customers experience with a brand was shared with only their immediate social circles. Feedback, bad or good, was restricted. These days customer experiences can (and are) immediately shared with hundreds, thousands or even millions of other consumers. For this reason Brands have begun to put more effort into their daily transactions with customers.

There are billions of customer transactions and experiences occurring daily around the world. They take the form of phone calls, emails, discussions with sales associates, deliveries, installations, warranty requests etc. Every instance of participation between you and a consumer, every interaction that your business has with a customer, is a “Customer Experience” and EVERY SINGLE ONE of these interactions could make or break your brand.

We as businesses have no control over which consumers will share what with others. That one negative experience we provide to a consumer could quickly be seen by anyone and everyone. Likewise that incredible effort on the part of your staff, could reach thousands on your behalf. This “unknown” is why EVERY interaction is crucial.

Social Media has made every customer a “mystery shopper“. It has enabled every last consumer to weigh in on a Brand’s performance.

The key point being made here is that EVERY business big or small, needs to invest in improving their day-to-day interactions with consumers.

Improving Brand to Customer Interactions.

As outlined above, there are countless interactions between customers and Brands every day. Whether making an actual purchase or simply looking for product information, it is imperative that every customer experience be as smooth, efficient and positive as possible.

“Always keep this one direction in mind: “How can I make this better for the customer?”

The sheer number of interactions and instances of “Customer Experiences” can be overwhelming. In this excellent post by Dr. Brian Monger. He outlines a far more thorough list of the various interactions that may take place between you and your consumers. To read through it, one can feel quickly discouraged! But take hope. This list provides the impetus for you to BUILD YOUR BRAND!

Instead of getting discouraged, go through the list and pick two or three interactions that you KNOW you have with customers and look at ways to improve them. For example, does your business frequently have to deliver to customers? How can that be improved? Can you offer it for free? Can it be sped up? Is your delivery guy providing them with a smile and a handshake?

The improvements don’t need to always be complicated and it is often the little things that matter most to customers.

Always keep this one direction in mind: “How can I make this better for the customer?”

Getting Social.

Improving customer experiences is a crucial step for the new era of Brand Image because customers are continually sharing their experiences via social media. Since this is the case, it only makes sense for Brands to also be involved on social media channels.

In past posts we have outlined some of the many social media sites available, what they do and how they work. The two primary reasons for a Brand to “get social” are as follows:

1. Engaging Customers: The purpose of social media is quite literally in its name: “SOCIAL media”. Many Brands have yet to truly see that success on Twitter, Facebook or any of the many sites out there, boils down to the ability to connect with customers. Using “one-way advertising” tactics and simply shouting your message without listening or replying to the customer base is a faux pas and it is one of the things killing Brands on social media.

Instead, make your time on social media, all about talking WITH your target market. Share insider info on tips, deals and sales, reply to their comments and start conversations. This builds your brands integrity and gives them reason to participate with you online.

2. Being Available To Listen: If a customer has an issue with your business and decides to share it via social media. How will you know?

There are a couple of different ways. The first is just BEING on social media. There is a good chance that if a customer has an issue with a recent experience and is going to share it online, they will seek out the Brand responsible (Tweet at them, visit their Facebook page etc). It gives them a chance to address it with you, which ideally results in dealing with the situation and improving their opinion of you.

“If a customer has an issue with your business and decides to share it via social media. How will you know?”

On the flip side, positive experiences may also be shared and should be highlighted and shared with your social media followers.

A Brand can also watch for  “mentions”. Platforms like Twitter allow for an extremely easy search of various words and terms. Simply plug-in your brand name, or specific terms that are associated with your business and hit “search” to see what people are saying. There are programs available to allow you to do this with just about any site and they can be customized to fit your business.

Closing.

We chose not to get into the details regarding many of the topics at hand above. The sole purpose behind this post was to educate small businesses on the growing importance of customer experiences. What they are, how they work and why they matter. We value feedback, did something in this post standout? Do you have an opinion, question or criticism? Share it with us and let’s get social!

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

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Employees Engaging Customers – A Look At Customer Service

When Employees Can Be Themselves.

Here is a question. How well do you inspire your employees? Are they happy? Are they comfortable? Are they permitted to be human or to engage on your businesses behalf?

Many brands spend a fortune attempting to “humanize” their brands, but spend little money on developing the front lines of their brand – their service employees.

Customer accidentally asked for a "Mapkin" and this is what he got.

Customer accidentally asked for a “Mapkin” and this is what he got.

The story behind this photo: A customer accidentally asked for a “Mapkin” (probably had a mouthful of food). The waiter brought this back.

Almost every customer appreciates this type of extra effort from their service providers.

It’s humourous, engaging and human. In fact this customer enjoyed this so much it made it to one of the largest online content sites available!

Free exposure and advertising simply because the minimum wage worker took the time to enjoy their job.

What can we all learn from this?

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. At Transition Marketing, we have made it our priority to know specialized marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Follow Up With Unhappy Customers

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How’s this for follow up? DirecTVwas so concerned about losing this customer that they CRAMMED his inbox with emails trying to get him back.

We are sure there is more to the story, but whatever the reason behind this inbox barrage, this sure looks bad on their part.

A SINGLE follow up email would have been a great idea. This, however, is just plain annoying and could simply be the nails in the coffin.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

20121220-193900.jpg Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

Effective Customer Service Mindset: A Quick Synopses

Small Business Branding Depends On Your Customer Service

Customer Service Reps find themselves quite literally in the trenches, as the first line of defense and representation for a brand.

The fact is that in small business that Customer Service Rep will almost always be YOU!

If you want to drive your brand representation home then remember this:

Your customers & clients should always come away feeling like a million bucks. They should know that they matter.

ALWAYS.

Go into every customer conflict with this thought: No matter the crisis, no matter the emotion behind a customer’s complaints, there is a way to address them and leave them with feeling of worth to your brand. That must be your goal.

They may be frustrated, unhappy even, however they can still come away with the feeling that they have been taken care of.

That is Customer SERVICE.

If you act with this thought in mind, you will always give 120% to your customers.

This builds a reputation.

This builds a brand.

Do not ever go into a customer conflict assuming the customer is wrong or unreasonable. The customer is always treated as reasonable, and always treated as having a valid concern.
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Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

How You Benefit From Customer Comments You Were Pretty Sure You Didn’t Want

Recently came across a brilliant article that reiterates everything we have been saying about PR and Customer Service effecting your brand.

How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want. – By Bruce2B

Due to a misunderstanding, at the last minute before takeoff an airline refused to allow a pair of special-needs passengers to fly. This upset the passengers deeply and stranded them at an unfamiliar airport.

No one should have been surprised that intense criticism of the airline spread rapidly via social media, portraying them as bad-guys even though the incident was (arguably) a one-time mistake by an isolated group of employees.

This wound up being a good thing, because:

The airline discovered this issue, apologized to the would-be passengers and their families, refunded their money, offered them additional free flights, and came up with a new process to keep the problem from recurring. All-in-all, the airline—our hometown favorite here in Seattle, Alaska Airlines—took a regrettable mistake, and did everything possible (considering it was after the fact) to make it right with those affected. In this way Alaska Airlines also earned positive PR by showing they’re the kind of company that owns up to their mistakes and jumps on an opportunity to do the right thing when they can.

> Read more about the “special needs passengers stranded by Alaska Airlines” incident

> Another great PR turnaround story:  FedEx responds after delivery guy caught on video throwing computer equipment over a fence

MORE HERE:

Things Brands Can Learn From Apple

Branding Is Driven By Service

Apple tore down and rebuilt their business model to resounding success.

Our past weeks posts have all focused on Branding. Understanding it, what it achieves, and finally how service drives Brand recognition and association.

The best points and lessons are always illustrated with examples. We will close of our examination of branding, with lessons learned from Apple (with a little help from Henry Ford).

Apples to Apples, not all fruit are equal.

Apple has broken records and set precedents for business success. On average Apple stores are generating over $6000 per square foot and they were recently estimated to have a worth of around $600 billion.

So how have they done it? By breaking with many traditional forms and placing customer experience where it belongs – at the head of the pack, as their primary goal.

“We are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences” – Apple Credo

This is not a new concept, in fact we can trace a similar thought to the head of one of histories other great business success stories – Henry Ford:

steve-jobs-apple

A young Steve Jobs looking a bit like Freddy Mercury.

A business absolutely devoted to service, will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large” – Henry Ford

Ten years ago Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson (former head of Apple retail) determined that something had to change, the current business model was lacking. They were not content to simply adjust, they tore everything down and rebuilt from the ground up. Here are but a few concepts that Apple implemented in their business model.

Things Brands Can Learn From Apple.

Taken From the book The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty by Carmine Gallo.

*Quotes by Henry Ford and “TMS” (Transition Marketing Services) have been added in separate, and are not a part of The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty*

1 .Stop selling stuff.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business” – Henry Ford

When Steve Jobs first started the Apple Store, he did not ask the question, “How will we grow our market share from 5 to 10 percent?” Instead he asked, “How do we enrich people’s lives?” Think about your vision. If you were to examine the business model for most brands and retailers, and develop a vision around it, the vision would be to “sell more stuff.” A vision based on selling stuff is not very inspiring and leads to a very different experience than what the Apple Retail Store created.

“Many consumers flock to Apple, because they are disenchanted with being sold stuff by cheesy sales pitches and non-authentic marketing campaigns” – TMS

Steve Wosniak or The “Woz” as Sheldon Cooper calls him. Co-founder of Apple, Steve was caught recently waiting in line to purchase the new iPad, further proving that the mentality at Apple does not fit with stereotypical big business.

2. Enrich lives.

“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous” – Henry Ford

The vision behind the Apple Store is to “enrich lives”. These are the first two words on a wallet-sized credo card employees are encouraged to carry. When you enrich lives, magical things start to happen. For example, the basis of “enriching lives”, convinced Apple to have a non-commissioned sales floor, where employees feel comfortable spending as much time with a customer as the customer desires. Enriching lives led Apple to build play areas (the “family room”), where kids could see, touch and play on computers. Enriching lives led to the creation of a “Genius Bar”, where trained experts are focused on “rebuilding relationships” as much as fixing problems.

“The best Branding is all about Humanizing your business, make yourself accessible and REAL if you want to build effective brand to consumer relationships” – TMS

3. Hire for smiles.

“Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas” – Henry Ford

The soul of the Apple Store is in its people. They are hired, trained, motivated and taught to create magical and memorable moments for their customers. The Apple Store values a magnetic personality as much, if not more so, than technical proficiency. The Apple Store cares less about what you know and more about how much you love people.

“Good service begins with training. Unless you are willing to settle for mundane efforts, train your employees – take an active role in their improvement” – TMS

4. Celebrate diversity.

Apple does not turn their nose up at the non-traditional. They have built their brand by breaking the mold and their retail employees testify to that.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” – Henry Ford

Mohawks, tattoos, piercings are all acceptable among Apple Store employees. Apple hires people who reflect the diversity of their customers. Since they are more interested in how passionate you are, your hairstyle doesn’t matter. Early in the Apple Store history, they also learned that former teachers make the best salespeople – because they ask a lot of questions. It’s not uncommon to find former teachers, engineers, and artists at an Apple Store. Apple doesn’t look for someone who fits a mold.

“The world is quickly filling up with brilliant minds that do not conform to the suit mentality – the day for that image is waning. It is not uncommon now to see Bank Tellers, Doctors, Lawyers and more, sporting tattoos and such. I know a dentist with massive ear piercings. Do not make the mistake of turning your back on the mind behind the next big thing, simply because they wear skinny jeans” – TMS

5. Unleash inner genius.

I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done” -Henry Ford

Teach your customers something they never knew they could do before, and they’ll reward you with their loyalty. For example, the Apple Store offers a unique program to help people understand and enjoy their computers: One to One. The $99 one-year membership program is available with the purchase of a Mac. Apple Store instructors called “creatives” offer personalized instruction inside the Apple Store. Customers can learn just about anything: basics about the Mac operating system; how to design a website; enjoying, sharing, and editing photos or movies; creating a presentation; and much more. The One to One program was created to help build customers for life. It was designed on the premise that the more you understand a product, the more you enjoy it, and the more likely you are to build a long-term relationship with the company. Instructors are trained to provide guidance and instruction, but also to inspire customers, giving them the tools to make them more creative than they ever imagined.

“When you engage your customers and improve their experience, you have just done more for your brand than thousands of dollars in advertising could ever do” – TMS

6. Empower employees.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself” – Henry Ford

I spent one hour talking to an Apple Store specialist about kids, golf, and my business. We spent about ten minutes talking about the product (a MacBook Air). I asked the employee whether he would be reprimanded for spending so much time with one customer. “Not at all,” he replied. “If you have a great experience, that’s all that matters”. Apple has a non-commissioned sales floor for a reason—employees are not pressured to “make a sale.” Instead they are empowered to do what they believe is the right thing to do.

“It has been our experience, personally and from discussing with consumers, that few things impact a brand image more negatively then sales commissioned staff” – TMS

7. Sell the benefit.

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own” – Henry Ford

Apple Store specialists are taught to sell the benefit behind products and to customize those benefits for the customer. For example, I walked to the iPad table with my two young daughters and told the specialist I was considering my first iPad. In a brilliant move, the specialist focused on my two daughters, the ‘secondary’ customer who can influence a purchase. He let the girls play on separate devices. On one device he played the movie, Tangled, and on the other device he brought up a Disney Princess coloring app. My girls were thrilled and, in one memorable moment, my 6-year-old turned me to and said, “I love this store!” It’s easy to see why. Instead of touting “speeds and feeds,” the specialist taught us how the device could improve our lives.

“Engage your customers on the levels that matter, have fun with them, develop a banter and a relationship by investing yourself in them” – TMS

Follow the steps of service.

“Time and money spent in helping men to do more for themselves is far better than mere giving” – Henry Ford

The Apple Store teaches its employees to follow five steps in each and every interaction. These are called the Apple five steps of service. They are outlined by the acronym A-P-P-L-E. They are:

  • Approach with a customized, warm greeting.
  • Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs.
  • Present a solution the customer can take home today.
  • Listen for and address unresolved questions.
  • End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

9. Create multisensory experiences.

“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one” – Henry Ford

The brain loves multi-sensory experiences. In other words, people enjoy being able to see, touch, and play with products. Walk into an Apple Store upon opening and you’ll see all the notebook computer screens perfectly positioned slightly beyond 90-degree angles. The position of the computer lets you see the screen (which is on and loaded with content) but forces you to touch the computer in order to adjust it. Every device in the store is working and connected to the Internet. Spend as much time as you’d like playing with the products—nobody will kick you out. Creatives who give One-to-One workshops do not touch the computer without asking for permission. They want you to do it. The sense of touch helps create an emotional connection with a product.

“Do not make your customer interaction about the sale. Make it about the customer. Don’t chase the sale, please the customer and let the sale come to you” – TMS

10. Appeal to the buying brain.

Apple lays their buildings out in a way that creates a comfortable environment for consumers.

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success” – Henry Ford

Clutter forces the brain to consume energy. Create uncluttered environments instead. The Apple Store is spacious, clean, well-lit, and uncluttered. Cables are hidden from view and no posters are placed on the iconic glass entrances. Computer screens are cleaned constantly. Keep the environment clean, open, and uncluttered.

“Take pride in your quarters, in your business. Treat everything about your business as intrinsic to improving the customers experience, and thereby creating the environment for the sale” – TMS

This way of thinking is not new, it was just misplaced. Apple has clearly demonstrated the success behind these principles. How long before businesses truly understand the foundation for ultimate Branding power lay in Customer Service and Experience?

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.