Archives for July 2012

The Real Impact of Social Media

About six months ago, my daily commute became a lot shorter as I started to split my time between my headquarters and an office closer to my home.  The benefits have included more productivity and lower stress.  However, I don’t get that windshield time to let my mind run wild for two hours a day like I used to.  Today, I had that opportunity.  And this thought came crashing over me.

I’ve figured it out!  No.  Not the meaning of life.  The real impact of social media on business.

I was listening to John Mayer’s song No Such Thing.  There’s a line in that song – “they love to tell you, stay inside the lines”.  And that’s when it hit me.  Social media is in the process of smashing traditional corporate culture.  The journey is not yet complete, by any means.  But, PERSONALITY has been removed from the list of seven dirty words you can’t say on t.v. And, STUFFY and CORPORATE JARGON have been nominated to take its place.

Customers and younger generations of workers are demanding the change.  Social media is the platform for, what is I think you’d agree, is a quantum shift in corporate culture.  Without social media, the individual’s voice would not have the amplification to influence and put the corporate PR bully in its place.  Companies are now starting to realize that they either need to be real, or face retribution.  By breaking down the veil, social media is also making companies pay attention to social responsibility.  And, if they try to fake it, social media gives anyone the vehicle to call “B.S.”

Seth Godin wrote a best selling book about the new realities of being weird. 

My brother-in-law was telling me a story about a recent corporate event he attended where the keynote speaker dropped the F-bomb three times during a 20 minute speech.  Is that a bit too much for some?  Does that still make the suits in the corner office cringe?  For the most part, probably.  But, 10 years ago, it would have also likely resulted in this speaker being labeled as a lunatic.  And probably resulting in his firing.  Now, whether you agree with the use of the actual word or not isn’t really the point.  The point is there is now a permanent place for this type of expression in the corporate setting.  And, not just in the far-flung recesses of the enterprise.  In the board room. 

Why should I care?  Well, I’ve never been one who’s always stayed inside the lines.  For the first twenty years of my career, that had a profound impact on the path upon which I ended up.  Consulting was a vehicle for me to succeed in the corporate world while being a bit…non-conformist.  Now, non-conformity has made its way inside the corporate walls.  Opportunities are now wide-spread inside corporate America for those that have a need at their core to express their individuality.  Instead of having to sand the sides of my peg, the hole has now changed shape. 

I think this quote from Seth’s book sums it up for me.

“When we consider that who we pay the most, whom we seek to hire, whom we applaud, follow, emulate and idolize are society’s outliers, the weird ones, why is it that, from the earliest age, we try to force our children to the middle?  To get them to conform.  Do these adults get there by being normal students in school then magically transform themselves into Yo-Yo Ma or Richard Branson?  Hardly.”

So, the real impact of social media on business?  We don’t have to do that any more to our kids.

Now if we can only get our politicians to get on the bus…

A Perky Retail Experience

A friend of mine sent me these pictures from his recent vacation to London.  I was so amazed that I wanted to jump on the next Concord out to Heathrow…oh right.  So, that not being an option, the next best thing was to share them with you. 

In terms of customer experience design, those companies that have been most successful in creating a remarkable retail experience are those that have started with a deep understanding of how their customers interact with the brand.  And, the retail experience enhances that.

When Apple entered the retail world, I read countless blogs predicting their fast failure in that channel.  “What does Apple know about retail?”.  If the benchmarks where KMart, Borders & Circuit City, they didn’t know squat.  What they did know (and “know” is an understatement) is their brand image and how their customers wanted to interact with the brand.  They created a retail experience that delivered on that brand promise.  And redefined the retail experience in the process.

There are a lot of companies making single serve coffee machines and “pods”.  Nespresso is not one of them.  Nespresso is a lifestyle.  Nespresso means sitting on your deck overlooking the Pacific as the sun sets; relaxing, relishing the moment.  All five senses engaged.  The smell of the ocean.  The sound of the sea birds and the crashing waves.  The taste of the salt air.  The sight of the golden sky.  The touch of the cool breeze on your skin.

In their new flagship store on Regent Street, I think Nespresso captured that.  Don’t you?  I can’t wait for this store to come State-side!

(disclaimer: this post is not a paid endorsement of or by Nespresso)

Tips for Creating a Thriving Customer Community

When it comes to social customer service, why do we first think of Facebook and Twitter? 

At the top of the list ought to be customer-driven communities.  Self service, customer-driven communities are all about creating a space where customers can engage with one another, find information and answers for themselves.

Customer communities are nothing new.  And while their value tends to be more pronounced in some industries like technology, the lessons from some ultra-successful communities can serve as models for how to launch, develop and grow a robust customer-driven community.

Several benchmarks that you may be familiar with are Autodesk, AAATurbo Tax, Dell and Logitech.  The business results from and level of customer engagement  within these communities is impressive.

The bottom line is that, in order for these communities to thrive, and to realize a measurable ROI from social media, the golden ticket, you need to do more than just flip the switch.  (Yes, social media is more than Facebook and Twitter)

Research firm Software Advice posted a video guide recently that explains what you should do to keep customers engaged. The tutorial features Zendesk VP JD Peterson; who describes how gamification, excellent usability, employee engagement, analytics and integration help your community grow.

I Wasn’t Expecting That…and It Wasn’t Good

Read any number of blogs about customer experience or follow some of the many twitter hashtags on the subject, and you’ll experience a popular theme.  It’s this notion that, in order to earn the loyalty, future patronage and word of mouth from your customers, you must consistently exceed their expectations.

Many often refer to this story from Morton’s Steakhouse as the greatest customer service experience ever.  I’m not one.  While it was brilliant and garnered the restaurant some terrific free publicity, it was at the end of the day a PR stunt that is neither scalable nor available to customers who’s on-line influence in this area doesn’t rival that of Peter Shankman.

I’m not suggesting the following is happening.  But, think about this scenario.  What if, while Morton’s is delivering steaks all over the Metro New York region, the turn around time from the kitchen starts creeping northward.  In the rush to get food out to diners, the steaks get a little more rare than requested.  The returns back to the kitchen begin to increase.  The staff starts feeling the pressure and starts turning over.  And then the downward spiral has begun.

I’m of the mind that it’s not the big bang theory that will ultimately determine the winners from the losers in the customer experience design olympics.  The medals (long term profits and repeat customers) will go to those that understand their customers and delivery an experience that satisfies what those customers are trying to solve for. 

Consistency wins over the roller coaster ride.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t equate consistency with complacency and status quo.  Customer’s needs are continually morphing.  So, the well designed experience needs to continually adjust as well.  However, I would argue that for any brand, its customers will have a core set of needs over time.  However, delivering on the basics time and time again seems to be traded often in exchange for the new shiny WOW trinket.  Humm…may customer service IS the new marketing (campaign)?  I digress.

Case in point.

Those of you with whom I’m connected on Facebook know that I frequent a particular casual dining chain often enough so it has become a running joke everytime I check in.  So, by most accounts, I’d be considered a pretty loyal customer.  The share of my casual dining wallet spent with this brand is fairly high.

Over the past year or so, this chain has done all the stuff you’re supposed to do in a “like” me-driven consumer world.  Problem is that the basics, the reasons I go to this particular place, have started to suffer.

After a train wreck of an experience yesterday, I started to think back.  Yes, over the past few months, the service has started to slow.  The number of errors has increased.  Not just yesterday, but for a while.  The quality of the product has deteriorated.  Blips on the radar.  Hardly noticable at the time.  But, in reflection, little signs of something brewing.  It wasn’t until yesterday, when it blew up, that it seemed to have come to anyone’s attention at the restaurant.

So, the next time you’re racking your brain to come up with the next WOW, maybe you should focus instead on delivering “Ahhh, that was just right”.