Tag Archives: customer relations

Delivering on the promise.

The basic idea behind “brand alignment” is pretty simple – When it comes to delivering on your marketing promises, make sure everyone in your organization knows what’s going on and they’re able to walk the talk.  Living up to that ideal, though, isn’t simple at all.  It takes a concerted effort to get everyone tuned in and turned on to the principles and practices that align the “do” with the “say.”

Promise Broken
One revealing way to test if an organization is living the brand is to observe how they deal with customer complaints.  I recently had an experience with a new service I subscribed to online that told me a lot in a hurry about what they believe and how they operate.

Within an hour after subscribing, I got a notice that the first program would be broadcast that same evening.  They described the event and what the participants would learn during the one-hour session.  I didn’t want to miss it, but I already had another meeting scheduled.  Reluctantly, I contacted that person and asked if we could reschedule for the following evening.  She agreed, so I was set to take part in the new program.

Does your company deliver on its brand promise?
Does your company deliver on its brand promise?

Customer Disappointed

I decided to share one of my Inside Out lessons with them in the form of a “strongly worded” e-letter to what I thought was some nebulous person in the ether-world.  To my amazement, I got a reply the next morning from a sales manager named James, expressing regret for my problem and promising to look into it.  Later that day I had my next pleasant surprise.  I got a real live phone call from James explaining how I had been connected to the wrong program.  He also thanked me for informing them because they were able to contact other people who experienced the same problem.  Then he said I would be set up in the near future to participate in the program that had been advertised.

Relationship Renewed

That would’ve been good enough, but then I got a call from David, their head of marketing.  He had received my e-letter, too, and he also wanted to apologize for what happened.  Then he really floored me – he said he wanted to give me a FREE lifetime subscription to their service.  The only thing he asked in return was for me to give him occasional feedback on how I felt the service was meeting their customers’ needs.

I told him I thought his offer was very generous but I probably over-reacted a bit in my note, and his compensation was way more than I expected.  To his credit, he would have nothing of my attempt to downplay my initial disappointment, and he apologized again for “wasting my time” and failing to give me what I was promised.

Execs in some companies might say he was crazy to give away so much.  But I’m betting they don’t get many complaints like mine, and when they do, few people raise a fuss because the service is probably impeccable most of the time.  Since it’s an online program, it’s not really “costing” them anything to give it to me free, but it still speaks volumes about their commitment to delivering on their promises – and living their brand.

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Let people’s emotions get the best of them.

Emotions drive sales and buy-in
Emotions drive sales and employee buy-in.

It’s a truism in sales that customers make up their minds on the basis of emotions and rationalize their decisions with reason.  That principle holds true in most types of communication where you’re trying to win people over – regardless if it’s for a product, a service or a point of view.

A good example is the remarkable commercial that Google ran during the Super Bowl.  It managed to take the techie tool of a search engine and make a wonderful emotional connection with it.  I decided to compare it to how Microsoft is promoting its new bing search tool in its commercials.

The differences start with the basic style of production.  In the initial commercial that launched bing, a narrator hypes the contrast between a search engine and a “decision engine.” The second commercial illustrates the frustration that people can experience with the “overload syndrome” that bing suggests they get with the typical search engine.  Both spots are well done and attempt to strike an emotional chord, but they still lean more toward the rational end of the spectrum.

The Google commercial, on the other hand, has no narration, just poignant music and simple, engaging visuals that show someone going through various links on the Google site as he makes his way through a series of moving moments in his life.  It brilliantly takes the rational experience of online searching and “humanizes” Google much more effectively than the bing ones do for Microsoft.

The effect is similar to the Anheuser-Busch commercial that shows soldiers coming home from the Middle East.  As they come off the plane and walk through the airport, spontaneous applause breaks out from strangers waiting for other flights – no narration, just moving music and appreciative faces conveying a very touching moment.

When I went to YouTube to look at the AB commercial again, I got a version that was followed by a news report of soldiers coming home and being reunited with their families.  Naturally, that amplified the impact of the commercial, and it showed how well “news” can be linked with “promotion” to create a one-two punch of emotional impact.

By the way, YouTube numbers show that the Google commercial has been viewed more than 4 MILLION times since it was posted after the Super Bowl.  Compare that to the 72,000 views of the bing intro spot and 170,000 view of their “overwhelm” commercial – over a much longer period of time.  Does that say something about how people respond to the emotional versus the rational?  Check them out yourself – and remember those contrasts the next time you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of any stakeholder – inside or out.

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Gaining the edge with customer relations.

We’ve all seen the data that shows it takes far more effort and expense to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.  So why do many marketers persist in investing so much more heavily in the attraction side of the equation – mainly advertising – than the retention side of customer relations?  Likewise, why do they invest comparatively little in employee engagement efforts that reinforce customer satisfaction and loyalty?

The answer lies partly in the traditional emphasis on promoting name recognition and brand identity.  That’s important, but it’s just part of the broader definition of marketing we use at Landes & Associates: To create, sustain and continuously improve relationships with the organization’s key stakeholders.

So here’s a crucial question.
If the holy grail of effective marketing and branding is to differentiate a product or a service or a company from the competition, are ads really the best way to do that?  Or is advertising mainly a leveler to make sure that the brand shows up on the playing field as a contender for people’s attention?  More to the point, how much does advertising really affect dedication to a company, product or service?

Ask yourself about your own purchasing patterns.  When was the last time you seriously considered changing the toothpaste you use or the coffee you drink because of advertising?  When it comes to personal care services, the case is even more striking.  How often does advertising sway you to a new hairdresser, banker, doctor, dentist or auto mechanic?  If you’re like most folks, you rarely switch unless you get upset.  Bottom line, choices like that almost always come down to the quality of the relationship.

To differentiate, relate.
No doubt, some consumer behavior is shifted by advertising.  What’s more, it reinforces the “smart choices” people make in purchasing the products and services they’re already using.  So advertising does promote some degree of brand loyalty.  But when it comes to being a differentiator, customer relations
has the edge over advertising for three main reasons:

  • Customer choices are affected more deeply by experiences than promotions
  • Most organizations make a relatively small investment in customer relations compared to advertising, so it’s easier to stand out from the competition
  • Customer relations strategies are not as easy for the competition to see and copy as it is with advertising

And where does employee engagement fit in?
In “The Customer Comes Second,” author Hal Rosenbluth puts it this way.  “Only when people know what it feels like to be first in someone else’s eyes can they sincerely share that feeling with others.  We’re not saying choose your people over your customers.  We’re saying focus on your people first because of your customers.”

The role of customer relations is clearly more critical in some industries than others. Still, if differentiation is the goal, especially in a bottom-line conscious economy, every organization should take a hard look at shifting more attraction dollars to the retention side of the business.

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