Making a Customer Say “Wow!”

I read Tom Peters’ The Pursuit of Wow! back in 1994.  He wasn’t the first to write about exceptional customer experiences and he certainly isn’t the last.  Yet, as I talked briefly in my last blog, marketing trends come and go, but the customer really remains the center of it all.

Today a customer’s ability to transmit a good or bad experience is far greater than it was in 1994.   Back then personal PC use was just starting to cross the chasm.  Only the experienced were diving deep into bulletin boards and chat rooms.   You still sent a letter to Aunt Marge instead of an email.  AOL was just starting to have its time in the sun.   Your ‘bad’ customer experiences were usually cocktail party stories.

But now I can be in the middle of an experience [good or bad] and start tweeting away about it.   In a matter of seconds I have the ability to affect a brand’s public reputation.    As a marketing person I have no control over it.     What I do have control over is how the brand is empowered in the hands of employees.    Last week I had the great pleasure of hearing Dennis Reno, VP of Customer Experience at Oracle, talk about building customer satisfaction.  One of his key points is empower your employees to act with the customer in mind.

At Panera Bread today I had one of those experiences that will make me a Panera enthusiast for a long while.  As an independent consultant I have always appreciated their good food and free wifi on those days I need to get out of the office.     After ordering my coffee and chocolate croissant this morning,  I handed the gentleman at the cash register My Panera card [their loyalty program] and jokingly said to him that ‘someday it would be a magic card and things would just be paid for’.  In fact, my pastry was already free due to their loyalty perks and I was getting out the cash for my coffee, when the man said “no need, it is magic today.”

Now I don’t know if I looked like I was having a bad day [it’s possible as I hadn’t slept well the night before and had already driven back to my house once to get the wallet that I left behind], but he somehow know that I needed a little bit of magic in my day.  Just one cup of free coffee made my day–gave me that Wow! experience.   It inspired me to write this post.

I am working with a new service company right now to help them develop a customer experience that will set a higher standard of service for an industry that traditionally has only wanted to provide exceptional service to those who could pay for it.   It’s an interesting challenge as only Disney can manufacture experience–the rest of us need to create it, replicate it and hope that our employees with embrace it.

It’s my turn to go put a little Wow! in someone’s day…maybe you should do the same.

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Innovation Through Insight

Tomorrow I am giving a talk on  “Innovation Enablement through Customer Insights”.   The description is “use customer intelligence to enhance product development, sales, marketing and retention efforts”.  This panel is part of a two-day conference on Relationship Optimization, sponsored by the Altamont Group.

Just like anything else, there are trends in marketing.  For while it was customer relationship management [CRM] software.  Then, NetPromoter scores were all the rage.  Guerrilla marketing.  Banner ads.  And, of course, the last couple of years have been all about social media.   Part of the reason I love marketing is that there are so many ways to slice and dice.  Yet, what always needs to remain at the core of any strategy or tactics is your customer.

I often feel that the customer is forgotten in many marketing pursuits.   A trend lately on Facebook pages is that you have to “like” the brand before you can see the content underneath it.    I hate this tactic as sometimes it’s a new brand that I want to explore and don’t want to commit to “liking” it, but I know that some e-marketing person has been forced to justify their existence by increasing the brand’s likability.

After looking at the agenda, I agreed to give the talk because I believe in providing the grounding voice in an organization.  I like intricate processes and systems as much as the next guy, but I also believe in simplicity.  Sometimes we, as marketeers, get too busy and don’t make time for the fundamentals.

For those who click on this link after hearing my talk, I hope you got three things out of the presentation.

Rule #1   Stop!  Eliminate the focus group of one. 

I am very thankful that I live in area that is filled with visionary and innovative people who keep creating gadgets that I didn’t even know I needed.  However, I wish that once in awhile they’d realize that Silicon Valley isn’t like everywhere else.  Two years ago I went to a family reunion on the Eastern seaboard and brought a portable iPod dock with me.   No one had seen one like it before.  They were familiar with the stationary docks, but this was cool.  Yet, the conversations we kept having back at headquarters were around the fact that the category was old–and everyone had a dock.   Yet, one look at shipment numbers of docks to the number of iPods/iPhones sold would tell you that there was still a long way to go to even get to a thirty percent attachment rate.   What we needed to do a better job at was segmenting our market and understanding who we needed to create new products for, and who we needed to just make aware that the products existed.

Rule #2 Listen!   Talk to each other.

I love this quote from Dave Frankland of Forrester Research, “We live in an age of big data, in which firms are data-rich but insight poor.”   Information overload is a reality for most busy professionals.  The amount of emails every day almost guarantees ADD-like thoughts around even the most important topics.  Yet, organizations need to ensure that they carve out time to have discussions around customer activities.  Events, whether they are user conferences, trade shows or in-store demonstrations, are rich with customer interaction.  The anecdotes and inferences from the events need to be expressed, and ideally, in a group of people to debate and decide what is relevant to future developments

Rule #3 Look!  Put a different frame around it.

Innovation shouldn’t stop at just the product or service.   Innovation can also occur within the marketing mix.  Understand the customer’s journey to discover new ways of communicating, distributing or promoting the product.   If you need inspiration, check out Adrian Ott’s The 24-Hour Customer.   She has an interesting thesis on time versus money that may help you think about how you can innovate your product or service for today’s economy.

Enough words for today.  I’ll post my presentation and any comments and insights from the discussion later this week.