Tag Archives | customer experience

Think Personal Touch Doesn’t Matter To Your Brand?

Think again, amigo. Today’s reminder comes from Klout, who actually did much to redeem itself by not hiding behind a faceless corporate persona. When it made a mistake in an email, the mea culpa came from their marketing associate’s personal Twitter account.

It started with an email received this morning from Klout letting me know about a perk. Note who it is addressed to.

Not sure who Lan is, but I semi-joked with Klout that if they think I’m Lando Calrissian they may have a slight problem (though, I do think I still have my smooth old-school Billy Dee moments).

The response I got back was not an anonymous, sorta sincere “Sorry about that” from the Klout account. Instead, a response came from Lan Nguyen, Klout’s marketing associate who constructed and sent the email.

Turns out Lan messed up the personalization and came clean about it. And you know what? Name me one marketer who hasn’t done the exact same thing when working with email. We all usually test but we can also get impatient, particularly when we have a gazillion other tasks to accomplish. And sometimes we’re working with email marketing platforms that make it exceptionally difficult to test even the simplest of personalizations let alone complex segmentations.

What’s the learning here?

  1. Make it easy for your customers to empathize with you. Don’t hide behind anonymous social media accounts. Smiling faces – like Lan’s – really do make a difference as to how people feel about your brand.
  2. Keep hammering away in your internal branding docs the value of being personable, real, and yes, vulnerable. Your customers are smart and they know when they’re getting the corporate treatment. Screw up? Then fess up and learn how to do better. I very much believe that Lan – after she deals with the barrage of confused/irritated tweets – will work doubly hard to not make the same mistake in the future.
  3. And reward employees for being human and putting a face on your brand. They only hide in the shadows of anonymity when they know they’re going to get shredded by management for screwing up.

What are your favorite examples of brands that know how to humanize their customer experience?


Marketers Are Hypocrites

Yep, big fat, stinking hypocrites. Why? Because we perpetrate the same marketing bullshit that annoys us to no end on our own prospects and customers. Think I’m joking? How many times have you secretly – or publicly – wished a company would treat you like an actual human being in their messaging? Wished they would actually send you information that recognized your own special snowflake qualities?

Now, turn it around: when was the last time you actually tried to give the same level of appreciation with your own prospects and customers? Do you see each name and recognize it belongs to an individual?

Before you answer, honestly consider about how you think about that house file in your CRM. Think about how you organize your reports. Think about how you’re rewarded in your job. Think about what really matters in your success.

None of this is intended to point fingers (hell, I know I would already have three fingers pointing right back at me). Instead, my intent is to stir some awareness that things need to change. And that change should start with the language, syntax, imagery we use in marketing. As my esteemed friend and fellow marketer, Russ Somers, notes in his Human Marketing Manifesto (and also the genesis of this post):

I am not traffic. I am not driven by your marketing to your site like a lemming is driven by instinct to a cliff’s edge. I am a person who had a need to know something…Where am I in your funnel? What a stupid question. Who the hell wants to be in a funnel?

I don’t have any definitive answers…at least not yet. But it seems to me that if marketing as a discipline is to evolve toward where the world is going, we better get ourselves together and plot a new direction. Else, we don’t need to wait for the comet to wipe out our profession, we’ll have done all the damage ourselves.


The Convenient Lie Of Customer Lying

Last week, Alessandro Di Fiore wrote a blogpost at HBR that provoked some pretty strong reactions from me called How to Get Past Your Customers’ Lies.

First, I don’t believe customers “lie.” When we believe they’re “lying” to us, it immediately puts a negative lens on the customer and their experience. Try this little thought experiment: the next time your significant other (or kid, boss, etc.) says something to you, immediately plant it in your mind that they’re lying or not telling you the whole truth. Makes a big difference in how you treat these relationships, doesn’t it? So what makes us think we can do anything different with a customer? How about if we practice some empathy for our customers instead? Our customers may hide things from us or simply not know how to clearly articulate the needs, frustrations, ideas, and convenient work-arounds that play out in their daily experience. They need help and it’s what a trained anthropologist with experience in fieldwork can do.

He suggests that eight to ten participant observations are enough to gather necessary data for decision-making. Field observation in business settings can be time, labor, and money intensive activities. But if we’re going to condense the ethnography, then every single interaction and experience counts. Nothing can be wasted. Field observation isn’t just an academic exercise, it’s purpose is to drive better business and product results. If the whole process – research design, data gathering, and analysis – takes months to complete, that’s critical time lost. Business anthropologists know how to conduct what’s known as rapid ethnography to complete the process not in months, but in weeks.

Finally, the process of getting market feedback and customer ideas in the field is not the sole domain of the C-level suite. As a matter of fact, I’d argue they are the least best option. You have to know how to observe the right things and ask the right questions. You also have to know how to see what’s not there and listen for what’s not actually said. Too many times, CEOS and other executives are too tied to their prior strategies and decisions. They become blinded to what they want to see. And they’re not trained to explore the nuances of things which is often where true discovery happens.

Trust me, a good business anthropologist is going to be able to filter all of this with the necessary focus on business, strategy, and people. It’s this – along with our needed objectivity – that makes us the ideal partner.

Photo credit: discoodoni via Flickr


Why We Care About Corporate Logos

I’ve been thinking a lot corporate logos, their meaning, and what it contributes to the customer experience. In a bit of serendipity, today I read this post from Derrick Daye at The Blake Project entitled Branding Debate: Does Logo Design Really Matter?. He writes:

What’s important are the associations people have with a logo–not the logo itself. A logo (trademark and its associated visual language) is the symbolic representation of a whole narrative story built into an organization over time. Brand equity is the result of successfully delivering on the promise your brand represents in the hearts and minds of consumers. Indeed, there are some time-tested design guidelines all enduring trademarks share, but that is not what enables them to endure. What makes a logo endure (and be cared about) is not the design, but the promise it represents.

When The Gap changed their logo (then backslid after an uproar in social media channels), I started to think about this enduring quality of logos and their meaning to consumers. At first, I was actually critical of the company for reverting their decision on the basis of a minor uproar. No one likes change so it’s always going to be a battle when a company decides to change something meaningful like a logo. And there’s always a segment of design creatives that will bitch and moan about anything that doesn’t please their own narrow aesthetic philosophy.

But then, I got curious about what all this might mean to the relationship between a company and their customers. Approaching it this way, a consumer’s attachment to a company’s brand, logo, and promise is a far more interesting exercise in seeking out symbolic meaning. The anthropologist, Victor Turner, argued that symbols are important because of their ability to both condense meaning as well as contain a multiplicity of meanings. While it may sound paradoxical, it actually illustrates the various layers in which a symbol – such as a logo – resides.

Let’s take Southwest Airlines, for example.
When we think of Southwest Airlines (even if we’ve never actually flown with them before), images and ideas come to mind. We know certain things about the business and the promise it represents. The logo becomes a sort of shorthand for how customers and company relate to each other. If Southwest decided to change their logo, it might signal a potential shift in this relationship. And because each customer has their own personal experience with the airline, the customer generates several meaningful impressions when confronted with the logo. We might think of their “Bags Fly Free” commercials or a memorable time we flew with them. We then attribute positive or negative meanings depending on these experiences.

Now, let’s juxtapose that with Enron.

A very different set of meanings are involved, right?

Here’s an exercise. Take a look at these logos and think about what the business is trying to convey to you. Now think about what that brand means to you. What feelings does it invoke? What brand promise does it represent? What’s the overall symbolism?

Logos and brands are just simplified, symbolic constructs that make it easier for customers to recognize and related to your business. Whether or not you decide to change your company’s logo, think about all the different ways you generate meaningful relationships with your customers. And then consider how your customers have created (or want to create) relationships with your business. It’s these relationships – embodied in your logo – that will prove a strength in good times and bad.


2011: The Year of Leadership at Bailey WorkPlay

I love the “end of year” time, particularly the week wedged between Christmas and New Years. Everything sort of slows down and encourages the traditional opportunities for reflection that come at year’s end. This year, I threw myself headlong into some heavy reflection about the purpose of Bailey WorkPlay and its relationship to my current work. I don’t know about you, but a lot changed for me in 2010. Among other things, I made a transition from start-up business owner to job seeker to my present position as a corporate marketing manager. And with all these changes, I – perhaps inevitably – had a rather scattershot focus throughout the year.

Let’s do something different this year. I’ve always had a passion for leadership and the work it takes to be a better leader in both attitude and action. That’s why I’ve decided the theme for 2011 will be Leadership. Don’t worry…the main topics of marketing, customer experience, and organizational culture will still be the primary focus of this blog and Bailey WorkPlay. We’ll just look at them primarily through the lens of leadership. What does this mean? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure yet, and that’s okay. We’ll explore this together. Here are some of the issues and questions I have in mind:

The practice of marketing has changed significantly over the past few years. How can a leadership-focused marketing approach change how we communicate with customers and prospects?

Customer Experience
If a terrific customer experience is so vital to business health, why do so many businesses still struggle to make it happen? How would a leadership-focused effort improve the relationship between customer and business? And are there parallels between customer experience and an improved employee experience?

Organizational Culture
As an anthropologist, I believe culture is a wonderfully complex thing. It’s not something that can be controlled or engineered; rather, it can be merely guided. What role does leadership play in guiding the cultures within our organizations?

You have a part to play here, too. What questions do you have related to leadership? What problems do you face in executing marketing strategy or creating a better customer experience that would be improved with a stronger leadership focus? I hope that we have the opportunity to co-create something here together that makes our selves and our organizations even more successful in 2011. If you’re on Twitter, we’ll be using the hashtag #Leadership2011.

I can’t wait to get this year started. Let’s make it a great one together.