Thursday 26 January 2012

Somewhere to hide?

Top of the wish list in most customer satisfaction surveys is that companies should behave with honesty and transparency.

It seems a shame that many of the big, largely internet-based companies don't seem to have cottoned on to this one yet. People have a need to know who they are dealing with - that there is something solid behind that virtual presence.

I had a ghastly PayPal experience last summer that I needn't go into except to say that trying to find a postal address for them was next to impossible.

I've been dealing with a large US-based internet services provider this week. They have been doing a lot of things right in terms of customer service: prompt replies, helpful staff, even a personal voice message from the VP or CEO suggesting you email him if you have any trouble.

But I needed their postal address. Could I find it? I searched the website high and low - I googled clear answer.

What have these people got to hide? Not providing a postal address on your website makes people wonder what, exactly, is behind the facade.

Friday 20 January 2012

David vs. the Amazon

For years, I loved amazon without really thinking about it. Living out here in Germany, it's invaluable, I teeter in and out of being a Top 1000 reviewer there and I've recently acquired a Kindle.

But there is another view of amazon that I'm becoming increasingly aware of - as the big, bullying monopoly that's killing off real bookshops - especially the cute quirky little independent ones. (By the way, the pic is of Ripping Yarns in Highgate. Never been there, but I must!)

In this article from the Huffington Post, there's some super thinking about what those independent bookshops can do. And it boils down to using your competitive advantage.

Rule 1: Don't play amazon on price - you'll lose
Rule 2: You're local - use it. Be something in the community.
Rule 3: You're real, bricks and mortar - use it. What events could you hold in your store?
Rule 4: You're staffed by human beings who love books, not driven by algorithms - use it!

Let's hope that these Davids fight back and don't go the way of record stores.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Expectations exceeded

Missions Statements and corporate intent posters are forever blathering on about "exceeding customer expectations," or sometimes it's "over-delivering on". Not something I take much notice of, as usually none of these companies bother to find out what their customers expect, anyway.

Recently, however, I really have had my expectations exceeded, and, boy, does it feel good! A classic example of how a company can right wrongs and then some.

Back in November, Apple recalled its first generation iPod nano, due to a potential flaw in the battery. Annoyingly, this is probably the only gadget in the field of consumer electronics where I've ever been an early adopter in my life - I've had the thing for about 6 years.

I dutifully dug it out and went through Apple's complicated recall policy instructions. OK, the instructions were not so complicated, but it was all a bit of a faff. The packaging didn't turn up when it was meant to, all emails were of the "no reply" variety, a visit to the Apple Store scored a zero on the helpful scale - I began to think I was dealing with PayPal.

But...the arrival this week of a sparkly new clip-on iPod Touch with a massive 8 GB (the old thing was 2 GB, I think), which was immediately grabbed hold of and pronounced as "coo-el" by my 11-year-old more than made up for all that.

Apple, you have exceeded this customer's expectations. Thanks!

Monday 9 January 2012

Planning by Numbers

I hear so many complaints these days from all walks of life that essential elements of doing a good job - from personal contact and discussion with colleagues to thorough problem-solving thought - have been taken over by form-filling.

And often the completion of a form means "job done" - end of story. To used that horrible phrase, all the boxes have been ticked.

In the marketing world, there have always been companies who have been more keen on forms and templates than others, but the disease seems to be rampant.

The internet is packed with templates and forms to "enable" you to write a marketing plan, or a communications strategy, or whatever.

And for most of these, you just need to follow the template, copy and paste your own info and - job done.

I'd like to see less dumping and more thinking. More small groups of people sitting in a room together and working out an overall structure. Less delegating of "OK, you guys do Section 3.1.4 to 55.6.3" and more discussion as to the overall picture.

And, once that part of the job is done, to put it into action while there's still time - and stick to it.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Nous is More

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who is a little weary of the trend forecasters and their oh-so-witty portmanteau designations ("Flawsome" et al). Here is a super post with a link to a very sharp presentation from Richard Huntington of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Mr H is calling for less trendspotting and more real insight - which he rechristens revelation. And I am all for that, but I make one plea. Can we stop talking about "generating insights"? A generator, like this chappie above, churns out something basic, a commodity, in mass, untouched by human hands, let alone emotion.

Real insight is about those uniquely human abilities - intuition, intelligence, empathy. It's about nous, the difference between understanding and information.

I hope, this year, I'll have less cause for Richard Huntington's "guaranteed free of insight" rubber stamp.