Archives for April 2011

L(ove). L(ove). Bean

I just had to share this story. 

So, we’ve all heard the urban legend of L. L. Bean’s otherworldly customer service, the channel integration, the brand engagement.  Well, I think I can safely say I’ve seen the Uncorn.  This is so cool.

A bit of background:

My friends recently decided to take up hiking the Appalachian Trail as a hobby.  I could probably think of about 3 dozen more leisurely activities to pick up as a “hobby”.  But awesome for them!

So, about sixty or seventy miles into their latest trek last week, they were strolling within a few miles of my house and asked to camp for the night for a hot meal and a shower.  So, after devouring half the food in the house and getting cleaned up, we all sat down with a bottle of wine to hear some stories.

My friend proceeds to tell me that at a campground, he and a fellow hiker got their Bean Boot laces crossed, whereby the stranger ended up accidentally putting my friends boots into his backpack and hauling off down the trail.  My friend, upon later putting his fellow long-departed sojorner’s size 14 boots on his size 9 foot realized the mix up. 

He called L.L. Bean from the trail (in our connected world were noplace is “out of range”) and told them of his dilemma.  The Bean rep told him that he would FedEx a new pair of boots in the right size to my address for next day delivery.  In return, they asked him to send the old boots back to them when he got back home.

Oh, did I mention that they treated this like an exchange?  Like….he didn’t have to buy the new pair of boots.  And get this.  The boots they were sending him cost thirty bucks less than the old ratty size 14s he had in his sack.  So, Bean sent him a gift card for the thirty bucks!  I couldn’t make this stuff up!

We finish the wine (and one or two more bottles, I think), went to sleep.  And sure enough, around ten am the next day, the FedEx guy delivered a brand new pair of warm, dry Bean Boots to my door.

So, do you think my friend will buy his next ten pair of boots, and all his other outdoor, Daniel Boone, trail-blazing gear from L.L. Bean for the rest of his hiking days?

I’d say: roger that Wilco! 

Happy weekend everyone.  Talk to you next week from Las Vegas and the SOCAP Spring Symposium.

Where Was Customer Service?

Two weeks removed from Radian6 first ever user’s conference in Boston – Social 2011 – and I’m still digesting, pondering, analyzing, processing, reflecting (and grinning).  And the one question that keeps rising to the surface is this.  Where were all the customer service people?

Don’t get me wrong.  I was ecstatic when I saw Marjorie Bynum from SOCAP.  As a respected industry leader, her presence made a statement.  And there were some other familiar faces, including you amazing folks with whom I had the pleasure to participate with on our panel discussion.  So, while I don’t have any official data on attendees’ job titles.  I did ask the question during our panel.  And about five percent of the audience raised their hands self-identifying as being in customer service functions.

So, what’s my point?  SOCAP and other customer service oriented associations have been pushing social CRM content and focusing a larger portion of conference time over the past two years on social media’s impact to customer service.  To a person, everyone I’ve met at these events in this time frame has been trying to get on top of service delivery models, operational impacts, engagement guidelines and customer services’ role in the corporate social business strategy.  So, it just struck me as a bit curious that, at Social 2011, which I viewed as more than a social media monitoring vendor’s user conference, I wouldn’t have seen a bigger representation.

Of course, as a percentage of Radian6 client base, customer service is still relatively small.  And, clearly not every company on the planet is a Radian6 customer.  But, based on the content, the lineup of speakers, the attendance from many of the brightest minds in the social CRM space, and the announcement of the Salesforce.com acquisition the week before, I would have seen this as an opportunity to suck that all up in order to launch my customer service organization forward.  A pilgrimage destination, if you’ll allow me a bit of hyperbole.

I’m not going to try to evaluate what this means.  But, I’ve been preaching for a while that customer service needs to grab the brass ring of social CRM in their organizations and stake a claim to the value of the function within the social enterprise.  Showings of force at events like these, while costly and time consuming, in part, demonstrates that this is in fact happening. 

There are, of course, other customer service and social CRM events this year, including SOCAP’s starting in two weeks in Las Vegas.  So, as to not be accused of making hasty statements and drawing false conclusions based on this one data point, I guess I’ll just have to make my way to as many remaining events this year as possible.

I know.  I know.  Its a huge sacrifice.  But, for the cause, I’ll suffer through it.  Just for you.

As a post script, I just want to thank again the folks at Radian6 for allowing me the opportunity to present at the conference.  I feel very honored to have had such an opportunity.  And, it allowed me the opportunity to meet in person more of the amazing social CRM thought leaders I’ve come to respect over the past several years. 

Have We Gotten It All Wrong?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been doing research on, thinking about and gathering client examples about brand engagement. 

In preparation for participating in a panel discussion at this week’s Radian6 Social 2011 conference on High Performance Participation Brands, my objective was to share some big old nuggets from my personal observations; leaving what will no doubt be a rivited audience totally pumped up and ready to elope with their collective social customer.

Then I read this.  Paul Greenberg wrote a guest post on briansolis.com that probably gave, or at lease should have given us all pause.  Paul referenced a recent IBM Global Consulting study about the current mood of customers towards brands with respect to engagement.

You can read all the stats at your leisure.  But after reading Paul’s post and then clicking through to the details, I had to wonder aloud.  Has the message been distorted?  Has the pressure to engage simply reincarnated old habits in a new form?  It’s an established mantra that customers no longer have a tolerance for the “shouting through the bullhorn” brand messaging.  But, has that been replaced in some playbooks by a “chase me around the social web to try to get me to engage with you” approach?

The lesson I’m taking from this latest dose of reality?  There is no shortcut.  No easy path to customer engagement.  Its not about having a fan page or a celebrity persona on twitter.  Customers don’t owe your brand their time simply because you’ve put it out there.  IBM exposed a fact that probably
everyone knows but about which there may be some serious denial at work.  Customers would rather talk to their friends and trusted associates about your brand than to you.

Take solice though.  There is in fact a secret sauce.  Well, it’s not so secret if I figured it out.  The key to getting your customers to engage with your brand?   Give them such a compelling reason to do so, that to not would be down right silly.  People buy the entire brand.  Not just the product.  Not just the service.  The whole enchilada.  The brand value is the sum total of all of its parts.  Maybe that’s why, when you look at what are considered the “most engaged brands”, the list is pretty short.  Further, look at these logos and honestly tell me that the reason these brands earned this distinction is because of their twitter presence.

The fact that these brands have build such equity is what provides them the social currency to be engaged.  And that is actually the point.  These brands aren’t engaging.  They are engaged.  Engaged by their customers.  That’s not just hair-splitting.  Customers are making the choice.  They’re calling the shots.  They’re deciding with whom they engage.  (hey, IBM confirmed it.  So, it must be true).  So to Mr. Greenberg’s definition of Social CRM: “the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation”, responding to customers who run the other way by chasing after them is most definitely not the way to win friends and influence the social customer.    

By the way.  This is probably a good time to remind everyone that I’m a technology guy.  I’m clearly no marketing genius.  But, I am a consumer; a customer.  So, from my catbird seat, the way I see it is this.  I will give you my time if the value you give me in return exceeds my investment.  Give me that and I’ll come find you.  I might even propose.  Trust me.