Monday, May 23, 2011

Achieve More - Marketing

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tweeting Marketing Communications

Less is now more. Twitter is changing the way people communicate or read blogs.

Twitter has revolutionalized the way people make presentations - "Create Twitter-Like Headlines". Read Carmine Gallo's How to be insanely great in front of any audience.

Twitter is another version of social networking that allows its users to microblog- send and read messages called tweets. Why it is working so well in marketing communication is because the tweets (or what was originally coined 'short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds') intrigue the reader(s) to find out more. Messages are also concise and use of trigger words to grasp attention, especially in today's overcommunicated society.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Misleading Marketing

"Enjoy 0% interest for 12 months with (bank) c/card Balance Transfer. No upfront fee. Now till 31/8/10. For enquiries & to enroll, call (the bank). T&C apply"

Sounds like a great deal, but the shocker will be revealed in the account statement! In the above misleading marketing strategy, (the bank) does not explain that any payments made for the next 12 months can only reduce the Balance Transfer amount, leaving any/all retail spending to be charged the standard interest. A nice cost saving promotion turns out to be an interest-charging scam in disguise (customer's perception).

When the competition gets tough, companies resort to various creative strategies to lure more business. Even the most reputable companies, may eventually resort to scam tactics to deceive unsuspecting customers. While the customer(s) may have fallen for such scam tactics hook, line and sinker, the experience and (negative) post purchase effect will continue to impact the next purchase decisions. It takes years to build a strong brand, but only seconds to destroy it. 

Only 10% of customers complain, the rest, simply take their business elsewhere. But even for the 10% who complained, the once, positive perception of the company/brand could have been marred especially when the product/service is more personal level. We've heard a dissatisfied customer normally tells 10 others, but in the internet (social marketing) age, the dissatisfied customer tells the world!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When Brands Become Personal

Remember the scene from Up In The Air where Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) a corporate downsizing expert having conversation with another frequent-traveler, Alex Goran, who later turns out to become the woman of his dreams...

Ryan: Are you satisfied with Maestro?
Alex: Yeah, I am.
Ryan: A little stingy with their miles. I like Hertz.
Alex: No, Hertz keeps its vehicles too long. If a car has over 20,000 miles, I won't drive it.
Ryan: Maestro doesn't have instant checkout. I like to park and go.
Alex: Hertz doesn't guarantee navigation.
Ryan: It's funny. You don't seem like a girl who needs navigation.
Alex: I hate asking for directions. That's why I get a nav.

This scene is quite common when we discuss about highly competitive and personal brands. For most of us, unlike the movie scene above, we probably didn't get turned on, or spark a romantic relationship while talking about our personal brand preference, but I'm quite sure we may have experienced some tense moments instead defending our preferred brands and attributes.

These are some common brands that always attract different personality customers. You'll like one and have something you dislike about the other.
Toyota - Honda
Coke - Pepsi
AMD - Intel (processors)
McDonalds - BurgerKing
Microsoft (Kinect) - Nintendo (Wii) - Sony (Playstation)

Brands get their own personality. Similar to (EBA) Emotional Bank Account, brands affect us through their display of positive (or negative) messages through public relations, advertisements, sponsorship, CSR activities, and these activities will have some impact in customer's mind.

Brand personality also play a critical role in (new) product diffussion of innovation. Customers become less defensive when trying out new products from the brands they associate with and are confident and comfortable with.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Marketing with Product Reviews

Extract from cnet review - the Nokia N900 Smartphone (click here for full review)

The good: The Nokia N900 offers a powerful mobile Web browser, plenty of storage, a 5-megapixel camera, and an ultrasharp display. It's also fast, multitasks well, and has excellent call quality. Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, and GPS are all onboard.

The bad: The user interface isn't very intuitive. Ovi Store for the N900 isn't live yet, limiting the number of available apps, and it doesn't sync with Exchanger Server 2003. The phone is a bit bulky and not all apps work in portrait mode.

The bottom line: While it has yet to reach its full potential, the Nokia N900 is a powerful mobile device with excellent browsing capabilities and vast customization options. However, its unintuitive interface and other limitations make this a smartphone for tech enthusiasts and early adopters only.

Almost every product reviews will have something about good points, bad points and an overall recommendation. Unfortunately, I have never seen any review that gives a perfect rating without any bad points.

Even the "best smartphone" around, the iphone 4 also has it's bad points;
The bad: Multitasking entails some trade-offs, and home screen folders are limited to 12 apps. AT&T reception continues to be spotty, and you'll need a case for the best calling reception. Also, we'd prefer a 64GB model.
Next on the list of "editor's choice", the HTC Droid Incredible is not spared from bad points;
The bad: You can't use voice and data at the same time. The multimedia experience is adequate but still behind the competition.
So, why do companies continue failing to completely satisfy customer expectations? Or in this case, review-editor's expectations? Are customers expectations being totally unrealistic for current product development standards to achieve? Or current marketing research managers talking to the wrong target audience, and should include review editors in their Delphi research panels?
The task of anticipating and meeting customer's needs effectively and profitably is not getting easier. Marketers need to be updated with product development roadmaps and actively monitor the evolving needs and trends to stay ahead of the competition. A concept that is not new, but extremely useful, is participating in customers discussion forums. Again, referring to the Nokia N900, there is a powerful forum for developers and phone owners to discuss openly their post-purchase experience and expectations. (read more about the Maemo forum).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great Products Create Ripple Effect

"I've also started stuffing papers I want to have with me through a sheet-fed scanner and moved the resulting files to the iPad as PDFs. It is like ripping CDs to get MP3s; the iPad is like an iPod for paper." - PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer

From the article caption above, we could expect a sizeable population with the same intention or thoughts to maximize their iPad experience. And this could easily create opportunities for copier machines that could easily sync with the iPad.

Consider the huge gadget products and accessories market. While they compliment the core products, it's market could be larger due to the flexibility to change designs and trends at a lower investment. With easy customization, some accessories even allow you to create team-themes. Besides offering some product protection, gadget accessories allow consumers to differentiate their products and create an identity for themselves, and take HP's tagline, "the [computer] is personal again" up a few levels.

ZAGG Inc. (a company that supplies high-end gadget products and accessories) mission statement, "ZAGG is committed to offering innovative ways to improve the relationship between people and their beloved gadgets—that they love and rely upon. We get it!"

Lifestyle Altering Products

It's interestng how some great gadgets actually influence our daily routine. But if we look carefully, it's not really the gadgets, but the marketing and brand building activities that actually breathes life into a product.

iPods could have been another very  sophisticated "walkman". But consider the impact from the product branding strategy, "Ultra-Portable MP3 Music Player Puts 1,000 Songs in Your Pocket." According to Steve Jobs, "With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go. With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.”

The PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). While the original form and function may have evolved dramatically into surviving smartphone versions, have changed the way we take notes, and made smartphones more of a necessity. Over 150 million smartphones are sold each year, while "stand-alone" PDAs without phone functionality sell only about 3 million units per year (Wikipedia).

The classic marketing explanation of augmented product (the non-physical part of the product) and the presentation creates purpose for the product's existence and sustainability. Marketing is about meeting the needs of customers effectively and profitably, so don't just sell on the product features and specifications, but recognize what the customer needs and sell the customers solutions.

Marketing myopia as introduced by Theodore Levitt suggests a wider perspective of marketing attributes. Some common examples include positioning as transportation rather than train, energy rather than petroleum. Organizations could explore more opportunities and improve their competitive strategies if they positioned the product(s) or corporate vision creatively.

Still on the topic of walkman...
on Monday, Sony announced the end of the classic cassette tape Walkman in Japan.
(AP) Published: Tuesday October 26, 2010 MYT 8:54:00 AM

'Sony Walkman' dies aged 31
NEW YORK: The Walkman, the Sony cassette device that forever changed music listening before becoming outdated by digital MP3 players and iPods, has died. It was 31 years old.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Impactful Branding

What makes brands powerful?

Making line-extension brand names recognizable by (logical) sequence allows immediate association and understanding of the brand category/classification and supports differentiation strategy and recognition. Here are some case studies:

Cars: Everyone is familiar with the 3-series, 5-series and ultimate driving machine 7-series (BMW). Another example is the S40, S60, S80 (Volvo)which one can easily distinquish the sedan class and catagory. Unless you are an E-class fan, or S-class, or C-class, or B-class,'ll probably get confused at some point of time on the category difference. (of course each code has a distinctive meaning; E = Executive, S = Luxury, SLK = Sports, SLR = Exotic...but isn't each Mercedes model supposed to be executive, luxurious, sporty and exotic?).

Microprocessors: Back in the old days, (marketing brand names) Pentium I, II, III, 4... is so much easier to understand and remember rather than Athlon, Turion, Sempron, Phenom... Unless of course (again) you are a huge computing fan and you've scrutinized and memorized each processor features because of your specific needs.

Mobilephones, Laptops, Digital Cameras and other gadgets: When you have new products every 3-6 months, it's a bit difficult to keep labelling them in series (a case of brand dilution). That's why most manufacturers refer to the category as often as the brand-series.

Laptops: TT Series, Z Series, SR Series, BZ Series, G Series (Sony Vaio series).
To avoid confusion, laptop manufacturers use categories such as Mini, Everyday computing, Ultra-Portable, and High Performance which is so much more user friendly.

Digital Cameras: Usually brand distinction by the simple digital "point and shoot", and professional DSLRs series are more effective rather than the IXUS, Powershot, Powershot Pro, EOS (Canon camera).

Golf: Product categories for Game Improvement (MX-25, MX-1000, MX-100, MX-200, MX-300), Game Enhancement (MP-58, MP-68, MP-52, MP-62) (Mizuno).
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.
Read more on branding strategy here

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marketing for a Sustainable Future

“The financial crisis is a result of our living beyond
our financial means. The climate crisis is a result of
our living beyond our planet’s means.”

Yvo de Boer,
Executive Secretary of the
United Nations Climate Convention
Learn about climate change - download the WWF pocket guide to Climate Change

Friday, March 26, 2010

Earth: Every Marketer's Responsibility


Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.
Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm (local time) and is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet. So sign up now and let’s make 2010 the biggest Earth Hour yet!.

It’s Showtime! Show the world what can be done.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 Expectations

A little late, but it's always fun to join the 2010 expectations bandwagon. Here are some for marketing topics. A new year presents opportunities for new goals, new themes, new ideas, new hopes and new expectations. Of course, any of these could be done any time of the year. But like Christmas and all other holidays, it's a catalyst or gimmack for a happy new year! So, here goes...

Shorter articles will gain more interest unless you are writing journals or academic thesis. Look at how well Twitter is surpassing Blogs. People expect to know things faster and make their own conclusions which is usually more fun. This also applies for advertising messages. If you don't succeed in capturing attention within 3 seconds, the rest don't matter. Again, make it different and make it clear what you are selling.

More me-too products will continue to compete in the market because of saturation of form and function in technology and product developments across various industries. Hybrids for cars, more functions crammed into mobilephones, and thinner laptops with longer lasting batteries, less power-hungry processors, etc are only small, incremental developments. Even new breakthrough product development need to compete with faster emerging me-too. Finding new ways for people to dispose of their old products will be the better strategy to improve new product diffusion of innovation.

Waste will continue. On one hand we look for ways to reduce certain waste (less paper, bio-degradable), but on the other hand crappy products continue to over-flood the market and create more waste. The vicious cycle includes competing for floor space during new product introduction, more advertisement and promotion efforts to sustain growth and fight off competitors, and finally how to dispose of end of life products with new advertisements and promotions. How to consolidate and collaborate effectively will ensure an exponentially greater waste-reduction effort. Also, how to use the same product for different purpose like the WD40 example. Unfortunately, it's easier said than do-able. Imagine using your mobilephone as paperweight?

By making things more "available", we are creating waste. Look at the airline, automotive and housing industries - by making it easily available for everyone to have, we have created excess of everything from the supply chain to the end products. In contrast, limited editions sell for higher profit margin, last longer (because of the prestige association), and reduces supply chain waste (limited order planning). Unfortunately, in economic sense, it's less attractive because volume sells better, but you'll definitely have less waste.

Doomsday themes continue to sell. Doomsday messages including financial crashes, commodity shortages will continue to dominate online search and make interesting headlines. Tag your promotion campaign on these themes to get attention.

Post financial crisis management theories. A lot of previously well-known strategies will be outdated or lose some credibility after the 2007 world financial crisis. Most of the companies featured as "Good to Great" didn't perform or remain as resilient as they should have been. Were the management strategies wrong? No, it's just a different ball-game which only goes to show that we need to be highly adaptable to survive. The iceberg IS melting, Expect more new theories on how to survive the next crash, but to stay ahead of the pack, change the ball-game totally to your advantage.

Stay tuned for more...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tough Decisions

I received an interesting email the other day on Insight into Decision Making – Tough Decisions.

A group of children were playing near two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused. Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track. The train is coming, and you are just beside the track interchange. You can make the train change its course to the disused track and save most of the kids. However, that would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would you rather let the train go its way?

Let's take a pause to think what kind of decision we could make...

Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way, I guess. Exactly, to save most of the children at the expense of only one child was rational decision most people would make, morally and emotionally. But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place? (albeit of course playing near any track in the first place is unsafe). Nevertheless, he had to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was.

This kind of dilemma happens around us everyday. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are. The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track was sidelined. And in the case he was sacrificed, no one would shed a tear for him.

The great critic Leo Velski Julian who told the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that track was still in use, and that they should have run away if they heard the train's sirens...

If the train was diverted, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track! Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to the track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! And in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few kids.

While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right one. 'Remember that what's right isn't always popular... and what's popular isn't always right.' Everybody makes mistakes; that's why they put erasers on pencils.
[end of extract]

The reason why decision making is so tough is because of the consequence we need to face when making the wrong decisions. In the above example, it could be a psychological impact that we need to live with. Decision making today also comes with risks and trade-off. Making the wrong decision on your investment could mean great financial losses, or a missed opportunity. Marketing Management decision making impacts the marketing mix strategies and brand perception and positioning.

It seems the complexity of decision making can be proportional to the perceived consequence or impact. For simplicity case, let's categorize them into 4 levels;
Level 1 - Little or no impact, including personal and daily decision making, such as what's for dinner?
Level 2 - Involving 2 or more opportunity cost variables, such as cost, time, or product design changes which cannot be regained
Level 3 - Involving second person, especially when impacts trust and perception (example contracts, agreements, policies, negotiations)
Level 4 - Involving more people or the general public, especially impacts credibility and social perceptions, and including a combination of some of the earlier levels (also advertising campaigns, promotion, positioning strategies)

I heard that we need to make about 500 decisions a day on average. And since it's an overwhelming experience, we try to auto-pilot or delegate some of these decisions and even set up algorithms to make some decisions for us faster. Basically what we are doing is avoiding the consequence of making a wrong decision - since it was based on some model, or someone else's idea. And with the more decisions we pass over, we lose our thinking edge and decision-making intuition.

But how do we have time to manage over 500 decision a day? Well, with the impact levels, it helps to create a threshold when certain decisions can be auto-pilot (or delegated), and when certain decisions are just too important and need our attention and intervention - no matter how simple the surface impact may look. As a guideline, I would say anything from levels 3 and 4 should have our personal attention.

We need to recognize that each and every decision we make can have a different outcome. As much as we want to standardize things, it's impossible to have spaghetti every dinner. Circumstances (hunger, time) and expectations (motive) can change our decision making process, and ultimately the outcome. Simply setting auto-pilot or delegation decisions with level 3 or 4 impact can be disastrous - especially since it involves another person - and we've heard many times before that you can not be efficient in a relationship.

In making decisions, people try to get the best outcome. But what's the best outcome is also relative to the person making the decision - especially for post-purchase experience. The marketing team needs to persuade the potential customer that the product/service will satisfy their needs. Having made a purchase, the customer should be encouraged that he or she has made the right decision with the after-sales support and services.

Finally, in the book by Wharton on Making Decision by Stephen J.Hoch, we look at 7 Strategic errors in decision. Understanding and overcoming these strategic shortcomings will help improve our decision making effectiveness.
  • Being blinded by emotions
  • Overreliance on intuition
  • Emphasis on speed
  • Failure to detect deception
  • Underestimating risks
  • Insufficient information technology for decision support
  • Insufficient regulation

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is Speed a Good Thing?

For those of you who have a Facebook account, you would probably have joined some Facebook games application.

I played the wildlife zoo game because it was entertaining seeing things grow (in this case, the zoo and it's population) and also challenging (how to manage funds to expand your zoo). This kind of game (strategic life simulations) have been around for a long time and most people would be familiar with SimCity developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts (EA) back in 2000. After over 16million copies sold worldwide, and numerous awards, this game has evolved with all sorts of simulation expansion packs today. Other equally successful games include Civilization, WarCraft, and many more. Simulation games allow you to flex your creative and strategic muscles in truly amazing ways. Whether you're planning cities, building societies, or controlling lives, the power is in your hand to express yourself while shaping entire worlds and destinies. (EA)

The most critical adversary in simulation games (or any other games as a matter of fact) is time. In all cases, the players have to abide by the time principles and resource issues. Time will decide if your army is capable to withstand the invading forces when they arrive. So the faster you train your army, or the faster you build your walls or weaponry, the better your chances for victory.

This is not so much different from real life scenario. In reality, we also need to abide by time principles and resource issues. But, society today wants things super fast, faster! And the expectations of this "super fast" is evolving to that of a simulation game timeframe which could be about 1:100,000 - for example, constructing something in 1 minute (game time) when it normally takes over 70 days in real life. I am not suggesting the time frame game developers use are innacurate, but rather, the mentality and confusion that it has shaped in society's expectations today; "If in the game I could do it, why not in real life?", "I just want it faster".

In supply chain and dealing with customers; customers want products and materials faster. And so often we encounter our customers will face "lines down" situation, and expect suppliers to switch assembly to accomodate their "more urgent" orders. But with all the switching and expediting, streamlining, lean, Kaizen, 6-Sigma, most of the time you probably won't be able to do much (with the exception of keeping inventory/WIP, cutting corners/materials, introducing additives, hormone growth and other unethical and unsafe ways, and perhaps planning in SIM world). In the example of Wildlife zoo, you can actually buy more wildlife dollars and points to speed up your zoo population - and this "business" is rather common with a lot of other games nowadays, where you can buy character points instead of earning them.

When there's no opportunity for virtual bailouts, marketers need to engage with better communication and product diffussion/lifecycle planning. The market will continue to expect things faster and faster, and narrowing the gap between reality and SIM time frames. Marketers, likewise are expected to be able to react swiftly in this new and challenging environment. In order to succeed, go play more SIM games - not really, but that would be a more fun and exciting choice. In reality, marketers need to equip themselves with the marketing fundamentals and knowledge on the latest trends and tools development so that when the situation arises, they can make strategic marketing decisions instantly - and this is a competitive advantage!

Speed of execution is a good thing, but there are somethings that you cannot cut corners or get someone else to do for you - learning, exercising and nurturing relationships. Invest some time today to identify the larger rocks, build solid foundations and overcome the quadrant 2 (important issues) first. In the meantime if you need to release some stress, enjoy a game or two.

Click here for more info on Facebook Wildlife Zoo

Friday, December 4, 2009

From My Book List: The Ultimate Book of Mind Maps by Tony Buzan

Fun with MIND MAPS...

Learn MIND MAP today,
  • Unlock your creativity
  • Boost your memory
  • Change your life
(Mind Maps can also be used to describe the contents of your blog!)

Now you can create yours too, there are 3 simple levels!

Level 1 - Take a plain piece of paper and some colored pens (I used color pencils). BE CREATIVE!!! Start by writing or drawing the theme of your Mind Map. Use pictures or key words.

Level 2 - Create thick branches radiating out from the central theme. Use different colour for each to represent main thoughts.

Level 3 - Review the key words you have written - does it spark off further ideas? Draw further branches radiating from each of your key words in order to accomodate the associations you made.


(Taken from the ultimate book of Mind Maps by Tony Buzan - please read the book to find out more)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Customer is Always Right

We hear it all the time, "the customer is always right", or "the customer is king". So what should we do when the king is wrong? or is requesting something absurd? Good thing, there is a new phrase coined with a disclaimer, "the right customer is always right". Well, it puts things in a better perspective because the "right customer" should be that 20% contributing to our 80% sales or revenue - and should deserve that special privileges. But even so, if we had to weight brand reputation / business sustainability over customer's whims and fancy, the latter (brand reputation / business sustainability of course), without any doubt needs to take priority.

So, how do we treat our customers justly? Customers like us, are emotional human beings, have needs and wants, and learn to wear their pants one side at a time. Therefore, it should not be difficult to decide our course of action when a customer complaints or request for a refill, again. The Bible according to Luke 6:31, "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise." And this verse today have become the "Golden rule" or ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment. But will that make us go out of business? I think not. In contrary, a delighted customer, not only buys more, but tells 15 others of their positive experience.

Well, that's easy and even our competitors can do it. So what's next? Take the golden rule one step further and you have empathy (defined as the capability to share another being's emotions and feelings - Wikipedia). Empathy involves understand customer's needs and expectation. Most writings and seminars today will also include listening as part of empathy. Listening to your customers involve understand their likes, dislikes, preference and most importantly motivation. Another important part of listening is to understand customer complaints (or a better phrase, customer feedback).

If you are not in the public sector, nowadays most customers don't complaint, they simply take their business elsewhere - to your competitor's door step (or website)! SME & Entrepreneurship Magazine Oct 2009 cover story quotes, When your customers say that your products need improvement, they mean it. When they say your services should have more "happy looking customer relations", they really mean it too. Nobody wants to be treated like a nobody.

Organizations therefore should encourage customers to provide feedback and create an environment where feedback are seriously reviewed and action taken. A good example I noticed was at Jusco (Queensbay Mall, Penang) where customer complaint cards, complete with some management response, are posted on a notice board, visibly, and in front of a customer service counter. Of course some other companies choose to reward their customers for taking the time and effort to respond, but the most important thing about this activity is not only about getting feedback, but taking action. Sometimes taking action can be easy like enhancing facilities, while others that deal with service level are more difficult (irrational ones could be ignored).

So how do we align our employees with this customer focus? Firstly management needs to play the leadership role and walk the talk, while employees should undergo adequate training on values and how to handle and respond to customer feedback. A reward scheme could also boost staff performance, and it's equally critical to make sure employees have some flexibility to make decisions that delight customers. I've seen Starbucks baristars going out to buy newspapers because they didn't have enough copies.

Whatever you are not willing to do for your customers, your competitors probably are. Making sure customers are delighted is not a simple task, and requires a crystal clear focus, dedication and commitment. But the rewards really do pay off. A delighted customer, not only spreads the word of joy, but remains a loyal customer - and we all know how much more business (and referrals) a loyal customer can bring. And, it's also less expensive retaining a customer than getting new customers.

Finally, here are Lisa Ford's Gold Standard Customer Service;
  • Be reliable (do what you say you're going to do; do it when you say you'll do it; and do it right the first time)
  • Be responsive (act fast and consider the human side)
  • Make customers feel valued (make all customers think they are most important)
  • Be empathetic (understand the customer's situation and feelings)
  • Be competent (have the first person contacted take ownership of the problem and be responsible for getting it solved)