Archives for July 2013

Microvideos. What Are They Good For?

This week’s guest post is from my good friend Seth Goldstein.  Seth is an Internet and social media marketing pinoeer based in the Philadelphia area. You can find him online in most places, but mostly on Google+ and Twitter.

imgresInstagram Video and Vine are locked in a massive battle for the hearts and minds of social media users.

Both services offer the ability to record small clips of video and post it online via their individual apps. Instagram Video gives its users 15 seconds, about the length of a short commercial, and Vine allows for 6 seconds. Now you’re probably wondering what you could do in 15 and 6 seconds respectively. A lot. You can do stop motion videos, you can do quick tips, you can record memories and even current events.

But, despite these possibilities, what are microvideos really good for? I was a bit a bit skeptical when Vine made it to Android and Instagram soon followed. I saw some neat stuff being created, but I also saw a lot of really boring, dull and stupid stuff. It took me a few weeks of seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly to finally come up with some good uses for microvideos.

Instagram Video, with it’s 15 seconds recording time, is just enough time to engage with users. It allows for a complete thought in bite sized chunks. I’ve seen it being used by photojournalists in North Korea, giving outsiders a look into this reclusive society. I’ve seen videos of the protests in Egypt. I’ve also see stupid videos of people’s cats sleeping.

There are definite uses for these services. It’s how people use then that either makes or breaks their brand.

Speaking of brands.  Both Vine and Instagram Video are great for brands to branch out and show their customers and potential clients what they’re all about in a bit sized chunks of multimedia.

Companies can use both services to show their creative side, events, offices, and personality.

Vine is better for stop motion videos. So brands need to think about what they can do that will make their Vine videos pop. On Instagram brands can expound more and can because of that be less disjointed. You can tell more of a story.

Regardless of the service, microvideos are here and will probably be around for a while as a tool for both the marketer, journalist and average user to use and build on.

Through the Lens of a Social Customer

[The following is a guest post by my friend and colleague John McCabe.  John gives an honest, no fluff look into how consumers really view brands and the experiences they deliver to their consumers.  We should all listen closely.]

imagesSo, I am sitting here thinking about my daily customer experience & interactions. What is it that I like? What do I dislike that will completely turn me off from your brand?

  1. First, I am a social consumer.  In other words I love being social. For example, when I begin a search to contact a company, there are some things that immediately get me “hooked”.  If the company offers me multiple options aimed at my convenience, I am intrigued, excited, and genuinely grateful that they understand that not everyone operates on a 9 to 5 schedule.   If I can contact a brand 24 x 7 by a live person answering the phone (yes, I do occasionally make phone calls) and the representative answering the phone is able to resolve my issue, I will make it a point to give that company more business.  In addition, if I can Tweet, text, IM, share, your company has it figured out.  Also, I will tell my  friends and family about your company and provide a very positive post on a host of various social platforms.  To all of those companies that allow me to interact with you on a 24-hour basis, I deeply thank you!
  2. To those companies who are the opposite of that which I described above, as a conscientious consumer, I will conversely post my feelings on a host of social platforms. Remember that old adage “a happy customer tells a friend, but an angry customer tells everyone?”

To those of you confused brands, the ones who do not understand or are unwilling to change, I will choose not deal with you. In fact, I hope brands understand that they are serving me (and all consumers).  That I drive their success or failure.  And, that I will tell people via multiple channels about my experience.  Companies with antiquated customer service operations, offered between the convenient hours of 9 – 5 pm will not survive in a social market.

The genesis of this post was an interaction I recently had with a local produce market.  The store is open 24-hrs.  But their customer service was not.  I was perplexed by this situation.  If you’re going to be sell 24-hours, why not service your customers 24-hours? I was so baffled I won’t go back.  To be fair, I did speak to someone behind the so-called customer service counter. But they couldn’t resolve my issue.  Let us not mention their poor attitude and shock when I asked a question regarding organic products.  In response to my inquiry was a feeble “that is a separate & outside vendor, you would have to express your concerns with them”.  Let’s remember that when we choose to sell services and products, we are also responsible for all experience integration points.  In short, consumers are not difficult to please.  It just takes some understanding of the buyer’s journey in one’s respective market.

High Flying Customer Expectations

[From my post on Salesforce.com blog]

imagesI had an experience with one of those in-flight Wi-Fi services a couple of weeks ago that got me thinking of the concept of meeting customer expectations versus exceeding them. And, is continually exceeding customer expectations sustainable?

I’ve been in the thick of enough Twitter chats, hangouts and customer experience think-tank kind of events to realize that the popular rhetoric is to stand on the desktop and revolt against any notion that contradicts exceeding customer expectations by a long shot; knocking their socks off; giving them x times the value they were actually seeking; and so on.

And, in fact, a friend of mine Stan Phelps has spent the better part of the past several years documenting little surprise acts of customer delight through his work at the Purple Goldfish Project. The stories of lagniappe he tells are truly special. Check them out.

Unintentional Customer Delight

But what happens when a customer is delighted in such a way that was unintentional? When a product or service was rendered that was the result of some error or an unsustainable process?

This is what happened to me with the Wi-Fi service. I’d used the service several times. And I was able to do pretty much whatever I wanted online, including stream Netflix to catch up on my obsession – The Walking Dead. This last time though, all that changed.

I proceeded with my online session like the times before. But this time, the service was poor. It was very slow. And several minutes into my session, the browser on my iPad froze. And, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, having your stream freeze in mid zombie attack stinks worse than the rotting flesh of those pesky walkers.

I logged off and back on and engaged in a customer service chat session where the agent, politely enough, noted that how I was using the service was not advisable. And, these activities, like streaming shows or YouTube, would cause the precise problems I was experiencing. It’s all right there on the login page, you know. Like I read that.

Ok, fine. But I was able to do all these things on my last trip, I explained. In response to which, I was told essentially that I got lucky. It was an anomaly. Unintentional. Unexpected.

Well, the problem is that this was now my expectation going in. I expected this level of service. This experience. Intentional or not. Sustainable or not. This was the bar that had been set. Now that was being taken away.

Now I get the fact that sometimes crazy errors happen. Like when your bank credits your checking account with a few million that isn’t yours. In those circumstances, it’s a reasonable person that would not expect to benefit from such an glitch. But, when the error is within the realm of reality but unsustainable, when it creates an expectation that a reasonable person would believe to be probable, and then is taken away, what then?

Managing vs Exceeding Customer Expectations

Here’s the thing about expectations. Human nature dictates that the more you provide, the more is generally expected. Forget about the erroneous benefits like I had in-flight. Are companies in fact training customers to expect more and more for the same or lower price? Is this a sustainable business model? In fact, is this a sustainable foundation for any relationship?

So, what’s the right answer? Continue to deliver experiences that are unexpected? Or, manage expectations? Under promise and over deliver? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

How Individuals Personally Impact Customer Experience

imgresI really relish the moments when the cosmos work in my favor, when the planets align.  This is one of those times.

I had an experience last night that I thought would make for a good story here.  But, I was struggling with the title.  What was the message?  Then, I saw a tweet from my friend Roy Atkinson announcing the topic for tonight’s #custserv twitter chat.  “How Do You (personally) Make a Real Difference with Customer Service”.  Worlds collided (in a good way).  Planets aligned.

I had my story.  I had my message.

So, how can individuals, whether they be employees or soloists, really impact the customer experience?  First of all, in my opinion, that’s the only way.  Customer experience is a person to person endeavor.  At any and all touch points along the customer/buyer journey, the connection between people is what the experience is based upon.  And, this is regardless of what function that individual is performing as part of the customer experience journey.  So, that being said, on with the story.

I usually end these types of posts with a question.  This time, lets start with a question.  Have you ever thought about how your hours of operation impact your customers’ experience?  More to the point, have you considered how much this constraint can negatively impact your customers’ experiences?  Even more, what criteria do you use to set your hours of operation?  And finally, how are your employees implementing that policy?  (ok, that’s four questions)

Here’s the point.  I was out and about with my family last night.  And after dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, we were on a mission to get long overdue haircuts for my son and my father-in-law.  We drove up to the place my son usually gets his style on, a national chain that will go nameless.  We saw that it was open until eight pm.  As it was currently 7:50, we parked the car and headed in.

Setting the scene.  Two stylists working, each with a customer in her chair.  As we walked in, they both looked up with clear expressions of displeasure on their faces.  As we made our way back to the reception counter, one of the employees left her styling post and quickly informed us that they were closing in ten minutes.  And, we could not be served.

Ten minutes.  They were closing in ten minutes.  Which means, according to my simple logic, they were still open for business.  Hours of operation were until eight o’clock.  It was ten minutes until eight.  Are you with me?  I don’t need to spell it out.  But, to complete the equation, what this encounter equalled was that we will not be returning to that particular establishment in the future.  And, while I’m not going to bash the national brand here, if a local should ask me, they will get my opinion.  Oh, and I can only assume, because hair stylists typically depend on tips for a portion of their income, that these two particular employees do what they do for the altruistic benefit of their unkempt fellow man.

So, when one thinks about how individuals can personally impact the customer experience, how about this?  They can put the customer at the center of everything they do.  They can give a hoot.  They can, at the very least, provide your customers the minimum service and value to which you have committed.

It’s not that complicated.

Reflections from Call Center Week 2013

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jason Boies from Salesforce.com the other day to chat about our observations from Contact Center Week, held in Las Vegas in June.

His interview of me is here at Salesforce Marketing Cloud blog.

If you have a different perspective on where the industry is going, click back here and let me know in the comments.  I’d welcome some different perspective.  Thanks.