Customer Service worth talking about

Sometimes you come across a brand experience that was just so amazing, you have to tell people about.  For me, that experience came this weekend from an unlikely place – a baby monitor manufacturer.

One of my tasks on my to do list was to set up our two newly purchased baby monitors at the house.  Being the geek that I am, we had purchased cameras from WiFi Baby that would be viewable on the iPhone, iPad and Android.  Initial set-up was a breeze but I ended up running into some pretty technical problems with the dynamic IP’s on the cameras.   After wasting a few hours trying to solve it myself, I decided to drop an email to WiFi Baby to see if they would be able to help.

Since their website clearly said that customer service was only available during the weekday, I didn’t expect to hear anything from them till Monday.  But in the first of many pleasant surprises, it only took them about 30 minutes to get a response on Saturday afternoon from Gary, the WiFi Baby Technical Supervisor.  While the speed of response was impressive, its really what came next that set WiFi Baby apart.  In their email back to me, Gary offered to set up a time over the weekend at any point that I would be available.  Once we had a time, he followed up with a simple program to install for screen sharing so he can help me with the problem I was facing.

Once the appointed time rolled around, Gary called my cell phone and we got to work.  He immediately took the control of my computer and walked me step by step through everything that needed done.  It took about 15 minutes and everything was running perfectly.  He even tweaked a few of the settings on the camera that would make for a better experience (changing the date stamp and fixing the lighting).  If that wasn’t enough, he even helped me get the app set up on my iPhone, which was impressive since it was third party software.  Almost any other company would have claimed to not be able to help due to it not being their program.  But WiFi Baby recognized that customer service was the ultimate goal and that meant helping at each step of the process.  And I almost forgot the best part.  Gary followed up about 30 minutes after our call with an email detailing every single step he took so I could fix it myself at a later date.  And it wasn’t just a generic note but a detailed email with every personalized step.  Wow.

Everyone knows of the great customer service from companies like Zappos or Apple.  But it is really amazing when you have a chance to run across equally stellar service from a small business.  WiFi Baby clearly recognizes the value of going above and beyond for their customers.   Needless to say, they have won me over as a loyal customer.



Get Satisfaction’s take on Evolution of Social CRM [infographic]

My friends over at Get Satisfaction just posted the below infographic that provides a great snapshot of “The Evolution of Social CRM.” Some key points to call out that Brand Marketers should think about:

  • 77% of customers look for incentives and coupons on social media sites.
  • 80% of US consumers use social media to verify purchase recommendations.
  • 43% of US consumers say brands should use social media to help customers.
  • 50% of companies have created an online community but failed to manage it properly (according to Gartner)

A Case of Why Brands Need to “Be Awesome” More Often

Talk about a simple but powerful story in the below video.  A person walks into PF Changs and tweets how much she loves the lettuce wraps.  Since PF Chang’s is active on Twitter, they see the message and decide to “be awesome” and send the girl on Twitter a free dessert and appetizer.

Now think about that for a second.  From across the country, PF Chang’s reached out and delighted a customer in a way she wasn’t expecting.  And this person wasn’t a celebrity.  They weren’t an influencer in the sense of being a food magazine editor or a restaurant reviewer.  They were just a fan of the place that was sharing how much they love lettuce wraps.

And PF Chang’s had NO expectation of getting anything more out of it.

For me, that is what sums up the benefits of Social Media.  It gives you a chance to put a human face on your company and your brand.  Hell, it gives you a chance to actually act like a human instead of just a marketer or business person.

In it’s simplest form, Social Media gives Brand Managers a chance to thank the people [ie consumers] who make their job even possible [by buying the products].

So if you are in marketing, when is the last time you actually thanked a customer?  When is the last time you tried to “Be Awesome”?  Does your company even have the systems in place to let you do so?  If not, it is time to start making a change.

Thanks to Karl Long for pointing me to this video and Andy Sernovitz for the original version of it.

Mashable says brands don’t belong on Twitter

Mashable sparked an interesting debate on Friday when Dr Mark Drapeau made the bold statement that Twitter should ban brands from the site.  In the post “Do Brands Belong on Twitter”, Drapeau stated that:

Thinking about what might be best for people, in my opinion Twitter should not only not charge brands for membership, but also ban them altogether. Not unlike Facebook and other sites, every account would represent a person using a real name, location, and picture.

Drapeau explains his stance by arguing that a brand must have a person behind it:

Twitter is about people sharing information with other people. So how do one-dimensional organizational brands fit into this mix? When you really think about it, they don’t. As an analogy, when you call customer service, a human answers the phone (eventually) and tells you their name – and you’re not talking to “Sprint” or “Dell” but rather “Steve” or “Danny.”

Now while I completely disagree with that statement that Twitter should “ban brands altogether”, I do see the rationale that Twitter is about sharing information with other people.  I actually think the brands doing Social Media right are the ones that base their strategy off of this simple point.  If you just throw up your brand logo on Twitter (or any Social Media platform) and expect to have a conversation with consumers, you are doing it all wrong.  You are just trying to act the easy way out with one-way communication.

Brands belong in Social Media, but you need to humanize the brand

On the same day that Mashable said brands should be banned, the folks at iMedia highlighted “How to be a Twitter All-Star.”  Focused on brands like Flying Dog Brewery, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, the article proves the point that brands can enjoy great success on Twitter or any other Social Media platform.  But doing so requires them to humanize the brand by putting a person behind the logo.  And requires them to work with a different set of rules.

Christi Day, the Social Media face for Southwest Airlines, explained their approach as follows:

“Twitter empowers us to be authentic.  Getting real means being empowered, engaged and prepared. It is necessary to have the person in the Twitter role equipped to handle news management, customer communications, to be able to write compelling tweets and be willing to be engaged at all times.”

Let’s face it, this isn’t the type of marketing approach that most Brand Managers are use to.  But Twitter is just the latest technology to force us to think about change in our jobs.  If you haven’t sat down and thought about the impact of Social Media on your brand (and your career), maybe it is time you did.

NOTE:  Michael Brito from Intel joined in on the discussion with a great post on why brands do belong on Twitter.

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How Should Brand Managers Think About Twitter?

I have been meaning to write about Twitter for awhile now, but every time I got around to it, the site seemed to be experiencing either extreme fandom (like around SXSW) or extreme hatred (with all the site outages).  Well it seems like things have calmed down a bit at the moment so I was finally about to put my thoughts together.

Let’s start with a little Twitter 101

Now first, if you haven’t heard about Twitter yet, David Armano provides my favorite summaries with the two below graphics about the service (click for larger images):

Now with Twitter 101 out of the way, the real question is why should you as a Brand Manager care about Twitter.  I’ll be the first to admit that I held off embracing Twitter for awhile.  I just couldn’t see the value of a service that was about listening to updates on what my friends were doing.  But I ever since I caved in a couple of months ago, I have been a true Twitter fan and advocate for why it matters for marketers.

Twitter is about conversations

For me, I have found Twitter to have three big values for marketers.  They are: 1.) Customer Service/Community Management, 2.) Consumer Research, and 3.) Personal Learning.

Customer Service/Community Management:

Some of the smartest people in the industry are talking about why Customer Service is the new marketing and I couldn’t agree more.  After all, as the title of Blackshaw’s new book says “Satisfied Customers Tell 3 Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.”  What is great about Twitter is that it can put this customer service in the hands of the Brand Manager without you having to go through your Customer Service Department.  Zappos is an amazing example of this as their CEO and almost 200 other employees are on Twitter, monitoring the community around the brand.  The powerful of this is that consumers know they can engage directly with management AND employees can actively monitor any mentions of the brand.  This can create some remarkable customer service stories, all because of using Twitter to directly connect with people.  Brands like Jet Blue, and H&R Block understand this…so have you checked if your brand’s Twitter name is available?

Consumer Research:

The power of monitoring conversations is the consumer research that you can find in the every day conversations.  Sometimes this will lead to Customer Service/Community Management opportunities like the above.  But just as often, the conversations will be able to serve as your own mini-focus groups.  Through a site like Summize, you can plug in your brand name and get alerts whenever a person mentions it in Twitter.  Likewise, if your Twitter brand has enough followers, you can start using it for proactive consumer research, asking polls and questions of the audience to help influence your decision.  You could instantly tap into the collective wisdom of your biggest brand fans to help influence decisions.  Talk about cultivating a powerful relationship with your users.

Personal Learning:

Finally, Twitter creates an amazing personal learning opportunity for marketers and brand managers.  Every day we are nose to the grindstone in delivering the business.  We are running from meeting to meeting, worrying about shipping the next case or getting a qualified copy score.  This unfortunately can leave little time for personal learning besides the occassional reading of BrandWeek or AdAge.  There are tons of conferences we would love to go to but little time and travel budget holds us back.  The beauty of Twitter is that these don’t need to be barriers to your personal learning any longer.   Through hashtags you can monitor anyone on Twitter who is talking about a conference, be it SXSW, Mix08 or TED.  Or some innovative conferences (like Chicago New Media Summit) are even creating their own Twitter profiles.  This allows you to monitor the entire conversation around a conference from the comfort of your office.  This is how I experienced the Resource Interactive iCitizen conference this past May and it was truly great.  You are able to listen to the conversations, find out which speeches were worthwhile and then download the presentations on  Talk about convenience of personal learning on your own time.

So those are my three reasons why Twitter should matter to a Brand Manager today.  What do you think?  What would you add to the list?