Archives for December 2013

5 Reasons Why WestJet Trumps Mortons

Maybe you remember.  Or, more likely you don’t.  Unless you happen to be waist-deep in the customer experience profession and follow the variety of hashtags on the topic on twitter.  Or, you might have come across the story on Flipboard or other such aggregator app.  In any case, I’m referring to what was at the time being promoted as The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told.  The tale of how a high profile customer experience consultant and author tweeted to Morton’s Steakhouse to bring him a steak at an airport.  And…they did.

And it was a really cool story, no doubt.  But, the opinion I held two years ago, that this was not even close to the greatest customer service experience, is still my opinion today.  A great PR stunt?  Absolutely.  But, there are a multitude of reasons why it was in no way an example by which other brands could or should model their customer experience design.  Why?  Hold that thought.

Flash forward two years to last week.  Along came Westjet, a Canadian airline, to trump Morton’s and Mr Shankman in spades.  Westjet pulled off a Christmas surprise for passengers on one of its flights that was off the charts.  So, while I don’t necessarily believe Westjet earned the title of Greatest Customer Service Story either, here’s five reasons why it is so much more worthy of praise and a special place in the Customer Service Hall of Fame.

5.  Westjet’s gift was unsolicited:  Unlike the Morton’s story, nobody on that Westjet flight made any request remotely resembling what they received from the airline.  Surprise, or as my friend Stan Phelps has spent years documenting Lagniappe, has such a profound and long-lasting impact on the recipients that the financial return is equally profound.  Also, because Westjet’s gesture was unprovoked, there was almost zero downside.  If they did nothing, no foul.  If Morton’s didn’t respond, who knows what fall out could have transpired from the wrath of a disrespected social media star.

4. Westjet wasn’t catering to a famous, influential personality:  I have no idea who made up the manifest of that Westjet flight.  But, since I haven’t seen any blog posts or tweets from any social media customer service rock stars that they were a party to it, its safe to assume that the hundred and change passengers were just regular joes trying to get from point A to point B.  As for downside, see #5 above.

3.  Westjet directly touched about a hundred or so more lives than Morton’s:  While we can argue the merits of catering to digital influencers and the positive network ripple effect that can have for a brand. there is no denying that, online or off, there is a multiplier effect at play here.  Word of mouth is undeniable.  And in a time when consumers are as cynical as ever, word of mouth from your neighbor or co-worker still carries more weight than from the dude with the Klout score of 80.  Who is going to realize a greater return on its investment?

2.  Westjet’s “stunt” required significantly greater investment in time, money and resources:  None of this post is meant in anyway as a slight against Morton’s.  I happen to be a fan.  And, what they did for Mr Shankman was awesome.  However, it was largely conceived and executed by a very savvy group of local employees at one restaurant in New Jersey.  Westjet’s gift required far-reaching resources, investment in technology (the bar code scan match of the passenger manifest was at the core of the plan), and planning and commitment from so many more people within the organization, including I assume from some very senior executives that had to put their necks on the line to pull this off.

1.  And none of what I’ve described in 5 through 2 above would be possible without a pre-existing, broad culture and commitment to delighting customers, regardless of who those customers are.  As I said in #2, while both stories are more PR stunts than anything, the breadth and reach of resources required to pull off Westjet’s stunt demonstrates the core, baseline culture required for any organization to sustain customer centricity over the long haul.

Agree?

Who’s Mining Your Enterprise Collaboration Data?

imgresI’m not sure exactly what triggered my latest bout of insomnia two nights ago.  You can pretty much pick a card from the deck and find a reason.  So, at 3:15 am, I did what any sleep expert will tell you.  I picked up my iPad to catch up on my reading.  Because nothing says “soothing lullaby” like an irradiating screen burning your retina from six inches away.

As my head began to clear a bit at 3:25, I came across this post from Dan Brown.  He did to Facebook what many of us want to do but just can’t seem to pull the trigger, despite Sheryl Sandberg’s latest assertion.  If you are on Facebook (the 6 billion slackers that haven’t felt the rush yet can disregard), you need to read Dan’s post!

I did, several times.  After finally closing my tablet, I thought I could squeeze out another 45 minutes or so of sleep.  But, Dan’s post kept swirling in my head.  Then, I had a thought that scared the hell out of me.  Sleep was done for the night.  Here’s why.

It’s year-end prediction time all over this great big media universe we live in.  Everyone’s taking their turn putting on the Carnac get-up.  One of the most prolific predictions in the social business galaxy is that social business, enterprise collaboration, E2.0, whatever you want to call it, will accelerate in 2014 and will start to become ubiquitous in enterprise operations, strategies and business models across a multitude of industries.  Enterprise collaboration and the technologies that enable these practices will start to become the norm.  Corporate culture will shift en mass from the idea that “he with the knowledge wins” to “he who shares his knowledge and builds collaborative relationships will win”.   And, I’m all for it.  There’s no “I” in team.  Nor is there one in my name.  I am an over-the-top, open collaborator.  And have been forever.

But, in order for this enterprise collaboration to really work, for people to find and share with others in the organization through which they can create mutual value for themselves and the business, by definition, people will have to form bonds.  They will have to find some common ground upon which to forge these collaborative relationships.  In the course of this new enterprise Dating Game, people are going to share, and want others to share with them, information about themselves.  In this social media-driven world, we call it “authenticity” and “transparency”.  But, its also basic human nature.

So, what happens when the Monday morning water cooler chatter ends up in the new stream of the company’s collaboration platform?

A typical post that is already a reality might look something like this.

“Hey Bill, I’ve posted a revision of that design here for you and your team to review for your presentation”

“Thanks!  BTW, I had a great time at the Packers game yesterday.  Thanks for the tickets!”

Fairly innocuous.  Right?

Then, a couple of days later, Bill comes back from lunch and checks his news feed again.  The first post he sees looks something like this.

Sponsored Link

Get the latest NIKE NLF gear from The Packers and support Green Bay in their charge to another Super Bowl”

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Ok, that would never happen.  The Packers stink this year.  But, here’s the point.

As Dan Brown articulated, in Facebook’s eye’s, you are the product.  You are there to be sold.  Everything you do, either with your explicit permission, or implicitly because they have crafty attorneys that write privacy statements that you can’t understand and so consent to blindly, is mined, packaged and sold as data to marketers who use that data to hawk their wares to you.  In case you hadn’t noticed, your Facebook news feed is being overrun by sponsored posts and targeted ads.

So, what’s to stop your employer from doing the same?  Yes, I know.  Just like email or any other company-owned platform, whatever you say becomes the property of the enterprise.  But, this is different.  Email is email.  And while I’ve seen way too many people torpedo their careers by hitting “reply all” when sending a rant about their boss, a selfie showing too much flesh or other such stupidity, this is different.  As, organizations become more virtual and digital collaboration platforms become the default methods for all communications (if we are to believe the prognosticators), much much more will be shared across these platforms than would ever have been shared via email.

Facebook uses all this member data for one reason.  To make money.  While not even Walmart has a billion employees, some of the most progressive organizations in the adoption of enterprise collaboration are huge, global enterprises with several hundred thousand employees.  Not a bad data set for a marketer, if you ask me.

What happens when one of those smart brands approaches said progressive company and offers a lucrative revenue stream in exchange for access to it’s collaboration platform data and the ability to use that platform to pitch its products to all 400,000 employees.  What if ten brands do it?  One hundred?  One thousand?  This is potentially a temptation too strong for company leadership to resist.  Where does it stop?  The NSA is already there.  Credit agencies? Banks? Insurance companies?  Lifestyle is a significant variable in health insurance premium calculations.  What if an employer’s insurer offers discounts on group premiums in exchange for access to this data?

The past several years have seen employers spend countless monetary and human capital resources crafting social media guidelines that their workers need to follow as a condition of employment.  The focus of these guidelines for the most part has been to protect the company.  What about protecting employees’ privacy?  It’s not reasonable for organizations to incentivize, and even in some cases require employees to engage on these digital platforms and then provide them no reasonable protection from having what may seem mundane information used as input into some targeting or segmentation algorithm.

My goal in writing this ridiculously long post (sorry about that) is that someone reading this post can point me to advocacy work already been done in this area.  Or, if not, to raise awareness that this is a real and present issue that needs thoughtful dialog and consideration.  Let’s hope the dialog happens before unsuspecting employees find out the hard way.  Like Bill.