The Perfect Customer Experience

Turning Satisfied Customers into Advocates – Dale Wolf, Editor

The Perfect Customer Experience - Turning Satisfied Customers into Advocates – Dale Wolf, Editor

Bob Bly Helps Cincom Writers

Handbook  Bob Bly, a new Cincom Expert Access contributor took a day to share his some of his expert knowledge with Cincom's management and writers. McGraw-Hill calls Bly "America's top copywriter." His book, "The Copywriter's Handbook" (Henry Holt), is considered by many to be the "Bible" of copywriting and was voted a "mini-classic of direct marketing" by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The legendary David Ogilvy said, "I don't know a single copywriter whose work would not be improved by reading this book. And that includes me."

Read below on the impact that Bob Bly is having on our writers.

Bob Bly at Cincom 2

Pictured along with Bob Bly (center in front row) is the Cincom writing team: John Tepe, Linda Walker, Dale Wolf, Susan Fortman, Carla McQueen, Troy Gross, Rebecca Hearst, Dhana Banks,Julie Walker,Randy Saunders, David Borscherding, Jilian Phelan, Chris Woodhead,Jeremy Jordan, John Mangan, Julie Beikert  

ADDENDUM TO INITIAL POSTING (November 14) — If you are wondering what impact Bob Bly has had on our writing at Cincom, I am happy to report that every piece of copy that has come back across my desk is better than a month ago. If you are looking for someone who can make immediate and positive impact on your organization's ability to communicate to customers, contact Bob Bly.

Female Brain Drain Clobbering Britain?

A bit of a light-hearted customer experience. The Aussies have it when it comes to British women.

BusinessFinanceLink’s most recent newsletter:

With promises of plentiful sunshine, affordable homes, low crime, good jobs, and lots of single men, Southern Australia is luring Britain’s highly skilled, young women to its shores. An estimated 50,000 British women are packing up for Australia each year to meet Australian winemakers, engineers, bankers, and surfers. Obviously, word of mouth is spreading the news, and it is the experience that’s doing the attracting.

Perhaps Parliment should take this female brain drain as a significant challenge as the former colony is in the process of depleting Britain of its "better half."

Any thoughts on how to save Britain?

The Customer Experience of a US Citizen

Opinion by Dale Wolf

I could not agree more that we need change in this country. Why? Because, as customers of the Federal and State governments, we are getting a bad deal. Or at least it feels that way to this one customer.

When we get a good customer experience, we repeatedly go back to the same provider – time after time. We feel we are getting a good value. We are getting good service. The vendor is meeting our needs. That’s what this whole movement about customer experience management is about. Corporations that want to succeed are making the change – some faster than others. Mistakes are being made along the way. The companies that make mistakes turnaround and rectifiy fast when they blow it — or they will lose customers. Starbucks knows this cycle first-hand.

But the government leaders we have hired to solve our biggest problems are not providing a good customer experience. At least that’s the way it feels to me.

Governments are no different than companies. They either deliver to us customers what we want or we go find someone else who will meet our needs and who will deliver a great customer experience.

I will also admit this condemnation is not universally true. There are parts of the federal government that at least for me make me feel like I am getting a great customer experience. Example: The US Postal System. There might be detractors of this service, but for me, when I go to the local post office I am met by pleasant people who are knowledgeable, who discover rapidly what I want to do and they come up with answers and deliver a service that is exactly what I want. On the receiving end, the mail comes to my home without fail. As a customer, this feels like a good experience.

Our library system is similarly good – the people working in our libraries are knowledgeable and service oriented. Not at all like librarians in the past. I get my money’s worth when I go to the library.

I am struggling to think of any others who take my tax dollars and deliver a great customer experience.

Now, how would it look if the Federal Government provided us with a great customer experience?

We have some really big problems that need to get solved. We send enough money to Washington to get them solved. But year after year the big problems are just fodder for officials of different parties to point at one another for bad performance. Well, I am pointing at them too. Only I am pointing at both parties at the same time.

Bill Clinton had 8 years to solve these problems. George Bush had 8 years to solve these problems. That’s 16 years wasted. We sent them billions, and on our behalf they borrowed trillions more. But the problems remain unsolved.

I agree with both candidates currently running for President. We need change. But not the political slogan type of change. We need real change. Two parties working together for all of us, to take our money and return a great customer experience.

Energy is one of these problems.

We need answers, without being told we have to ride bicycles to work. There is only one person in America that seems to be proposing a systemic solution to our energy crisis and he does not work for the government. I am not an expert, but T. Boone Pickens is spending his own money for TV commercials that propose a comprehensive solution. No such solutions are coming from the candidates. Just promises. If our government would present a comprehensive solution and get on with using our money to make it happen … then that would feel like a great customer experience.

Bridges, roads, sewers.

Our physical infrastructure is old and falling apart. These need to be rebuilt or people will die. That seems to me to be just as important as rebuilding Iraq. But I see no official even talking about this as a problem, let alone fixing it for us. Let’s get a plan and put a lot of people to work to rebuild this mess. A new Works Progress Administration would put a lot of jobless people back to work.

Caring for the Elderly.

Yep, it is miserable to get old and have your dignity stripped from you. Social Security payments are hardly enough to live on and now the government wants to tax those receiving these payments – just to make life even more miserable for those living within this system. Who has a plan to take our tax dollars and provide everyone over 65 who has worked an entire life to live out those years in happiness? Answer: Apparently no one. That is not a good customer experience.

Healthcare.

The twin sister to the Social Security problem is Medicare and Medicaid. And along with it, the uninsured, the under-insured. What good is the world’s greatest healthcare system if only a few citizens can afford to access it. Is there anyone in Washington with the courage to propose a solution that the other party will not immediately attack while not proposing a solution equally workable. We send trillions of dollars to Washington and they cannot come up with a solution that helps those of us who give them all this money? I don’t have the answers, that’s what we pay the elected officials to come up with. Instead, they use these big problems that need real change as political footballs. We need a T. Boone Pickens to come forward and solve this … otherwise it will just be another poor customer experience.

Education.

We pour billions into our educational systems. Then we create drop-outs or graduates who cannot read. We need smart kids in every public school (not just the suburbs) equipped to move our country forward. Tax levies for schools fail because the customers paying for the system are not getting a good customer experience. Education is the only path out of poverty, but except for a few examples, schools are getting a failing mark. Not because of bad teachers … but because there are not enough of them to work with students who need more help because that help is not available in their homes. We are already sending enough money, but the problems are as much cultural and social as they are with educators. That makes education a bigger problem and it must get solved or America will not be able to compete in the future. As a customer of our government, I want a better customer experience.

Small Business Opportunity.

There are 26 million businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees; most of these have fewer than 10 employees. But each is a dream by people with the gumption to try something on their own. Collectively, these SMBs create more new jobs than all the big companies in America. But our governments make this road to entrepreneurial success so difficult that too many fail or remain marginal. We need infusion into this enormous pool of private energy. We need an entirely new solution to stimulate and support those who take the risk and try to turn a dream into a successful, thriving business that is the best possible engine for American growth. Again, I don’t feel like we are getting a good customer experience from the government.

Other Experiences.

I just hit the problems that are most on my mind. Other readers will have a different list. But surely, our government leaders must do better. We pay them. That makes them providers and it makes us customers. Business is discovering it must deliver a better customer experience or the business will lose customers to more effective competitors. Customers of local, State and Federal governments should have the same attitude. Solve our problems, or find a T. Boon Pickens in each area that can come up with solutions.

I just want a good customer experience.

The $35 Billion Give-Away that Feels Good

Giving is as important an experience as taking. In fact, giving is a great experience that most of us take seriously.

As we all know the US government is frequently accused of stinginess when it comes to foreign aid. But the story does not stop there. US citizens and business leaders seem to realize that it is not the government that is responsible for caring for the poor of the world … it is our collective but individual responsibility. And this is where Americans step up to the plate and lead all countries in supporting the poor of the world. The Economist recently reported that donations from individuals and businesses are incredibly high.

American private giving to poor countries amounted to $34.8 billion in 2006, dwarfing that of other rich nations, according to the Index of Global Philanthropy published on Monday May 12th by the Hudson Institute, a think-tank. An established culture of philanthropy and charity contributes to direct aid-giving, as does a generous tax regime.

The chart below from is the factual record of our $35 Billion Give-Away. It does feel good to lead in something even more important than Gold Medals (also wonderful, but altogether different than donating. The Economist article does not break it out, so I wonder if all our giving has been accounted for … I know the church I attend, for example, has sent teams into South America, Haiti, and parts of Africa to build schools, community buildings and homes … is this labor counted?

But before we feel too good, the United Kingdom (much smaller than the US) is No. 2 and not terribly far behind the US. So despite our record, we can do better. And we probably will. Why, I wonder, does the image of Americans as stingy seem to persist outside the US?

Shutterstock

Urgency Addiction is not Job Insurance

Louis Columbus

Cincom Manufacturing Business Solutions

Workaholics20cartoon_3 People are battling against the uncertainty of their jobs, the economy and their company’s futures by taking on more work than ever. Overcomitting and being hyper-responsive is the new job insurance mirage.

I’ve seen my good friends increasingly see urgency addiction as job insurance this year like none before. The more battered the industry the higher the urgency addiction. One friend is in the mortgage industry and he has always been ultra-responsive, yet now he is in alert-mode constantly.

Now don’t take this as a blog post about getting off the grid; I am all for being passionately consumed about what you do and getting immersed in it. That is the only way to live.

My point is that when urgency addiction is seen as some form of flimsy job insurance – a mirage if you will – people sell themselves short of what they could accomplish.

Killing distractions or at least controlling those gives people the freedom to do their best work – those projects and tasks that make their passion of what they do abundantly clear. Urgency addiction and the anxiety it’s based on short-changes some of the best people I know from doing excellent work.

On Sunday June 22 Marci Alboher wrote an excellent column for the New York Times titled Fighting the War Against Distraction. It’s an interview with Maggie Jackson, author of the book Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Here are some insights Maggie Johnson shared in the New York Times column:

  • An astounding 28% of a worker’s day is consumed in interruptions (Basex) and recovery time. Ms. Johnson states in her book that it takes up to 30 minutes to recover from an interruption, citing Gloria Mark who leads research in the area of interruption science.
  • "Under deadline pressure, workers produce creative work on days when they are focused, not when they are scattered and interrupted, a study published in the Harvard Business Review found" as cited from the New York Times article.
  • "In meetings where everyone is checking e-mail, opportunities for collective creative energy and critical thinking are lost, argues Nathan Zeldes, a senior engineer at Intel and a leader of the nonprofit Information Overload Research Group" as cited from the New York Times article as well.

My favorite quote of all from the series of blog entries and articles all emanating from the New York Times article mentioned below is "Knowledge work can’t be done in sound bites."

Julie Morgenstern of BusinessWeek.com, one of my favorite writers on time management, wrote a blog entry on this topic on June 24 titled Concentration Conundrum, which is worth checking out. The graphic in this blog entry is from her post. I’ve read her book Time Management from the Inside Out and it’s excellent; it was a gift when our daughter was born and Julie Morgenstern’s tips were really helpful for us as new parents.

Resolving to tackle the larger, more complex projects and ignore the immediate gratification of firing back quick e-mails or voice mails may paradoxically be the best job insurance of all.

Let’s Be Positive and Avoid the Negative

Editor’s Note: This article came to me in a newsletter by Jim Ward, president of BrainSell Technologies, and it resonated so well with my thinking that I felt compelled to share it with you. You can subscribe to his newsletter at http://www.brainsell.net/.

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I’m not a big fan of the "R" word (recession – here on out known as "R") .  I tend to believe by labeling a downturn in business that we create a self fulfilling prophecy.  Media tells you we’re in a recession, you buy in, and then you let the chips fall where they may, hoping for the best.  Or you take a defensive position. Stop investing in your business, downsize, or  you take on a different decision process — and you change the way you operate based on fear of the "R" word. 

Frankly, I’m of the belief that any time in business or life  that you start thinking strongly enough about a negative situation you move in the direction of your dominant thoughts (a discussion for another day).

Business, just like economies and your every day life go through cycles. It’s how you move through those cycles that determines the outcome or next cycle.  Will you prolong the downturn?  Will you shorten the cycle phase, or will you not even be affected, and will you prosper and be better as a result of the cycle or downturn?

I’ll take the later. First, get ahead of the "R" cycle.  Get on a positive track, look for opportunity, find ways to improve your business  — don’t stand there and take it on the chin.  This "R" cycle is just what you needed to make decisions that will build a stronger company, you’ll come out a better company than when you went into that cycle.

The only difference in your thinking will be that instead of being busy with day to day tasks will be that you now proactively look for how to make your company more effective (something you’ll continue to do post cycle). You’ll become more laser focused on improvements to the business. You’ll lead your employees on the same path you’re on.

This is a great time to focus on areas you may have let slipped. Work closely with your existing customer base. Work on how you go from satisfying your customers to delighting them.

Use technology to improve your effectiveness. Take for example, Customer Relationship Management solutions.  If you have one — use it now to improve results and analytics from data gathering in order to make more laser informed decisions and learn more about your business  — determine Key Performance Indicators and monitor business health proactively ( like getting your business on a heart monitor). User CRM technology to perform repetitive tasks through automation (i.e. report generation, double entry into multiple systems, quote generation, invoice creation, etc). This leaves more time for you and your employees to be performing high value tasks.

(Did you know, anytime you create a work flow process that you can automate you add value to your business? Acquirers love business that are plug and play.)

Manage non essential costs but make a clear distinction between those costs (like travel, entertainment, overhead) and business investment. Hold to your investments that improve your business!

Just like any obstacle you faced — did it not make you better and stronger?  So shall the "R" word!  Oh … and don’t even use that "R" word as part of your vocabulary. Recognize it for what it is. Simply a cycle of change. Respect change – and be proactive and positive.  The Media reports on doom and gloom. It’s what they do.  Don’t let the daily message from the media get you down. (Imagine a 60 minute news cast where the only reports were positive "Its’ sunny and the perfect day. Markets are up! All wars have ceased! Thank you and have a good day – Channel 7 Reporting)  — Media thrives on the negative: It unfortunately sells advertising.

Maintain business investment and I’ll bet your business will thrive through any cycle and be better when you come out of each cycle.

Could Facebook be the New Replacement to TV?

The world of social media is changing faster than you can say your own name. More and more businesses are launching growth engines inside social engines. It is all part of the realization that we must get closer to where the customers are. Traditional media are shriveling like a flower under a heat lamp while new social media and social networks are making the personal connections. Take this one as reported by B2B Magazine:

Visa announced it has launched the Visa Business Network on Facebook. The application is designed to connect businesses on the social networking site. Visa also partnered with AllBusiness, Entrepreneur, Forbes.com, Google, Inc., Microsoft Corp. and The Wall Street Journal to provide small businesses with news, commentary and tool kits to help them manage their businesses. As part of the launch, Visa will award the first 20,000 U.S.-based businesses that join the Visa Business Network a $100 Facebook Ads credit.

Visa’s program will be one of more than 24,000 applications that have been built during the past 13 months by developers who want to reach Facebook’s rapidly growing audience. Most of the programs are for fun, offering ways for Facebook’s 80 million users to play games, share photos, rate music and track their friends’ activities.

But while the array of applications have helped make Facebook even more popular, few programs are producing revenue for the site, and Facebook still hasn’t proven that its social playground is an effective advertising forum.

Finding the right advertising approach also has been a challenge for other social hangouts like News Corp.‘s MySpace. Even Google, which runs the Internet’s most lucrative ad system, has had trouble marketing on social networks.

In theory, the information that Facebook has amassed about the demographics and personal interests of its users should make it easier to target certain ads to certain people. But some advertisers fret that Facebook’s audience will resent commercials amid all the site’s frivolity. Others are leery about their brands showing up on Web pages featuring racy or unsavory content.

Visa’s service could turn into a financial catalyst for Facebook if the businesses receiving the ad credits are impressed enough with the results to continue marketing on the site.

Matt Maupin — He Served to Save Us All

You probably saw the story on the national TV news — about

My friend Steve Kayser reflected on Matt’s life and on the evil that ended his life. Steve writes so that every reader feels the story.

In the video, the soldier identified himself as “Private First Class Keith Matthew Maupin,” a standard procedure followed by prisoners of war. It’s supposed to help protect their rights under the Third Geneva Convention.

I encourage you to take 5 minutes on his story: Morning Matt: The Last Post.

Feeding the Right Wolf

What you might ask does this old Cherokee story have to say about delivering the perfect customer experience?

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’

 

If your company feeds the wrong wolf, it will surely fail to deliver a great customer experience. This is where corporate culture becomes such a commanding part of how we succeed or how we fail. Every corporation struggles with an inflated self-importance that when unchecked creates customer experiences that result in churn … customers using their feet to tell us how wrong we are. Those managers who get it right — who feed the right wolf — they are the ones that create customer advocates and who will experience more profitable business growth. That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Week Links / Best of the Web
March 1, 2008

Maybe the Worst Customer Experience Team in the History of Business

Talk about bad customer experiences, how about what’s happening at Sprint?

According to C-net, for several quarters Sprint has been plagued by massive customer defections. Sprint just reported it had lost 683,000 customers in the fourth quarter. Company executives said Sprint Nextel will likely lose another 1.2 million post-paid customers in the first quarter of 2008. Post-paid customers are customers who pay a monthly bill. And they are often considered highly coveted in the wireless market.

Meanwhile, Sprint rivals Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile gained subscribers in the fourth quarter. In fact, T-Mobile, which has the smallest network footprint of the four major carriers and does not yet have a high-speed 3G network fully deployed, added 951,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, the company said Thursday.

The main problems for Sprint right now are poor customer service and a severely damaged reputation, issues the company’s management readily acknowledges.

"The level of customer defection on the iDEN network is unacceptable," Dan Hesse, Sprint’s newly appointed CEO, said during the conference call with analysts and investors. "We need to rebuild the Sprint brand. And the most important way to do that is delivering a good customer experience. We have not done this, but improving that experience is job one."

Mobile Tech Today reports also on Sprint’s financial difficulties: Sprint Nextel said its revenue in the fourth quarter of 2007 fell a whopping $600 million to $9.8 billion in comparison with the year-earlier period. The company also recorded a staggering $29.7 billion noncash write-down stemming from its acquisition of Nextel, which has proven problematic to integrate with Sprint’s CDMA wireless network.

My only comment on this news item from C-Net is that it would be a lot cheaper to deliver a perfect customer experience than driving out nearly 700,000 paying customers. Consider all the ways in which Sprint could have delivered a great customer experience for just 10% of the $30 billion they have lost … so far. Full story By C-net.

Take a Lesson from the Masters
By Kurt Deutscher; Chief Technology Evangelist, EllisLab

Keep in mind here that Kurt is a musician, actually a drummer. And he brings an incredibly sensitive analogy between musical masters and customer experience masters. His full blog will bring the art of CEM alive for you in a way that many other articles fail to accomplish.

When we’re designing our customer experience, I think we would do well to take a lesson from the master artisans.

1. Make what we’re doing look easy.
2. Carefully craft the information we share with our customers.
3. Use silence to our advantage.

Re-Shoring of Contact Centers
By Christopher Musico, CRM Destination

A recent study by the CFI Group, "Satisfaction with Contact Centers Drives Customer Loyalty," examined Americans’ perceptions of and experiences with contact centers. According to the report, customers who believed they had reached a contact center overseas rated their overall satisfaction with the service experience 26 points lower than those who assumed the contact center was U.S.-based. These customers were less likely to recommend the company to others and were almost twice as likely to sever their business relations with that company.

Sheri Teodoru, the author of the study, says location was not the sole driver of negative perceptions of offshore services. "The single biggest issue and biggest source of dissatisfaction is that the first-call resolution — the ability of the representatives to solve the problem — was statistically and dramatically worse in outsourced [contact centers]," she says. "It wasn’t even a close contest. Clearly there is a language barrier which may hinder the representatives’ ability to solve the call, but it’s the fact that [customers’] issues aren’t getting fixed that’s the biggest problem." Full story at CRM Destination.

Unlimited Opportunities
By By Nancy Byron
Smart Business Columbus

The Limited has been spun off as a separate retail fashion business. Further complicating the task of better connecting with customers is the fact that The Limited attracts an extremely varied demographic among women. The company gives us a great example of using personas as a means of focusing everyone in the business on the customer rather than serving an ambiguous "anyone who walks in the door" that confuses so many businesses who undervalue the need to have a sharp business focus.

“Our customer was any woman from 25 to 50 years old,” CEO Linda Heasley says. “That’s a very broad range. And you can’t be everything to everybody.” So Heasley and her team fashioned a more specific customer profile, gave her a name and plastered her likeness upon the walls throughout the company’s headquarters to help associates envision who they’re catering to at The Limited Stores.

“We call her Tyler Monroe,” Heasley says. “We believe she’s 28 to 35 years old. She’s a professional woman. She likes fashion, but she’s not a slave to fashion. She’s probably in her second job, but she’s career-minded. She’s involved in a relationship. … We created a whole brand story around Tyler.”

Limited executives even created a detailed day planner for Tyler listing everything from an upcoming Key West getaway to sticky-note reminders to call her mom.

“It’s a tool to bring life and a face to our customer,” Heasley says. “The associates rally behind it. The design and merchant team really love it. … It’s been a very helpful way for us to get very clear in our minds where the assortment needs to go. What would Tyler wear? What wouldn’t she wear?

“It also gets to the customer experience in the stores. How would Tyler want to be addressed when she goes into the stores? What would be the store experience she would want? So we’re now carrying this all the way through our service offering.”

Heasley’s only concern with the Tyler prototype is that she may narrow the customer target a bit too much.

“Our customer is broader,” she says. “When you walk in our stores, we have a lot of women who are stroller moms now, but they’re career women. So we’re all Tyler. That’s the theme we’re talking about now. How do we keep it inclusive relative to who the customer really is? How do we capture all of that? That’s what we’re trying to refine right now.” Full Story at Smart Business Columbus.

Contact Center Metrics

Call center metrics can be categorized into three namely service, efficiency and quality. Metrics in the service measure may work for both traditional and modern call centers, although some may have to be modified to reflect new call center transactions. There are different metrics that are included in the service measure. One is blockage. This accessibility measure indicates the rate at which customers cannot access the call center at a particular time because of inadequate network facilities. Most contact centers gauge blockage by a given time of day or in situations when `all trunks are busy’. Failure to incorporate a blockage goal can enables a call center to keep up with its speed-of-answer aim by blocking off excess calls. Even if the call center seems to be doing a good job at managing call queues, this can damage customer satisfaction and accessibility. Full story.

A Smaller Slice of the CRM Pie
By Colin Beasty

There still remains a “yawning gap” in the area between the knowledge that an SFA solution provides a sales rep and their ability to actually do their job better. After all, if a sales rep has to spend all their time managing their CRM system instead of actually selling, what’s the point? Such is the results, according to the report:

“You will see that effectiveness measures remain essentially flat. Average deal size increased only slightly and not uniformly across all industries. Conversion rates on qualified leads to first calls, initial discussions leading to presentations, hit rates on presentations and proposals that eventually close all are similar to last year.”

In the larger context of CRM, it’s no different. So while we (the vendors) have come a long way since the technology bust at the turn of the century in developing CRM software that increases usability and efficiency, we still have a ways to go. Full Story.

Viewing customer experiences and business value in isolation
By Sweater Doves

Having actively worked in CEM for the past three years I believe that there are four areas that are currently holding CEM back from its full potential:

Forget the motherhood statements, lets get practical. We are all trying to meet company goals, whether they be revenue, profit or market share. If we can’t demonstrate how our investment in customer experience improves those business outcomes then we’re not going to be here very long.

As an example of this type of gap we recently worked with a financial services organization that conducts tens of thousands of customer surveys a year, gathering a range of experience data. Yet at no time did they link the survey data with customer records and profitability patterns, even anonymously. As a result they could tell you volumes about the customer experience but nothing about the incremental business value of that experience.

In order to get traction; the customer experience, the cost to implement and the business benefit need to be directly linked and stated in cold hard terms.

For the other three areas holding back the potential of CEM, read Let’s Get Real about Customer Experience Management.

Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously Is Great Marketing Too

Louis Columbus, Cincom

Earlier this month I was in Hawaii on vacation and the radio spots Senator Obama had going were excellent marketing, as they mixed his Hawaiian heritage, also combining a sense of humor and sense of responsibility for the future On Election Day there the lines around the elementary schools of Waikiki stretched nearly a quarter of a mile to vote – some had not voted in years. Senator Obamas’ messaging in the state where he grew up was spot on; he stressed native ties and a sense of being in touch with today, yet also being real enough to at times poke fun at himself too. Winning the state with 76% of the vote just underscored how effective humor can be when combined with credibility.

On the Republican side you really have to admire Mike Huckabee on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. His willingness to be the subject of his own joke was self-deprecating humor at its best. Sure, he’s out of the race yet what fun he had and laughs he gave others shows he’s a good sport and understands the value of humor too.

(SNL Clip Here )

With eight more months of mudslinging and drama on its way, it’s good to see some candidates who can poke fun of themselves and also connect with voters without dragging the issues or other candidates through the mud in the process. I’ll take humor over drama and mudslinging any day.

Links to articles written on Huckabees’ visit to SNL:

Daily Variety: SNL has highest rating in two years

Yahoo News: Huckabee Overstays His Welcome

Week Links / Best of the Web
Feb 23, 2008

Marketing To Women; The Root of All Profit — By Ross Shafer

Not only do women tend to complain about the perpetrator, but they also tell everyone else about the experience. Faith Popcorn, author of, "EVEolution – Understanding Women," says that the average satisfied female customer will recommend a service, shop or client to 21 other people. Since women speak an average of 20,000 words a day – vs. a man’s 6,000 – women were indeed the first "viral marketing" machine. Therefore, when women have a good feeling about your company, it can create a vast army of female unpaid spokespeople for you. Can you do better than that with traditional marketing?

Looking For Insight? Tiptoe Into Customer Call Centers — Mediapost.com

In the latest grab for consumer insights, more marketers are tapping into an often-ignored in-house resource: The customer call center. True, many of the consumers are cranky and calling only because they’re already disenchanted with a product or service. But call centers can still deliver boatloads of data, often in a much faster time frame than other forms of research. Consumers, in general, are feeling abused. A Yankelovich study released several months ago found that 62% of Americans say companies "don’t care much" about their needs, up from 52% in 2004; 67% say marketers care more about selling existing products than really helping the customer, an increase from 58% in 2004.

Customer Experience Domination #3— By Robert G. Howard

Discretely defining your customer touch points and customer scenarios will enable you to take an important step towards becoming more disciplined in customer experience management. Think about which touch points are causing problems …

Net Promoter is Top of Mind with CMOs — By Deborah Eastman, Satmetrix

It’s a 2.0 world.  While we have all heard of Web 2.0, I heard a talk on Marketing 2.0 and  was on a panel discussion of Customers 2.0.   The power of connectivity is driving change in all aspects of the business.  In the Web 1.0 world we saw companies transform their business, leveraging their Internet connectivity to deliver operational excellence, global reach and cost reduction.  In the Web 2.0 world we are seeing organizations transform their business around the customer, understanding that the power of communication enabled by Web 2.0 environments creates a powerful environment for Word of Mouth and customer listening.

Make Your Blogging Lists and Check Them Twice — By Mack Collier, Search Engine Guide

Have you taken the time to sit down and put your blog’s goals on paper?  Do you know why you are blogging and what you want to accomplish from your efforts?  Excellent.  But don’t fool yourself into thinking that all you need is a plan, that’s just your starting point. Let’s look at some of the reasons why a business might want to consider blogging …

Loyalty Lab Converses With the Customer – Software-wise, That Is…. — By Paul Greenberg

Loyalty Lab released version 3.0 of its integrated marketing platform which they call "Ready-Aim-Engage;" Here it is in short order.

Marketers can track responses wherever customers purchase or interact, providing what the company calls "a more accurate view of response rates and performance.

The standalone email marketing product provides data integration with "Ready-Aim-Engage." Theoretically, (since I haven’t seen it in action at all) it enables marketers to link email to transactional (of course) and non-transactional behaviors — so messaging can be relevant to social networks.

Up to this point, interesting for its non-transactional promise, but not REAL interesting. But then: R-A-E 3.0 records customer activities that go beyond simple transactional behavior, including interacting with social media applications; recording important dates; reading or posting to blogs; and referring friends.

Now THAT got my attention. The former features are ways of integrating traditional tools like customer segmentation, the operational kind of CRM and a non-traditional tool or two – like actions on non-transactional behaviors – to a traditional channel – email in particular. Nice, but not dramatically different than a number of things out there. BUT, The latter recording, interacting, reading and referring tools is the approach a platform that truly believes that, as The Cluetrain Manifesto says, "marketing is a conversation" Which makes it completely NOT like all the marketing apps tied to CRM suites or best-of-breed approaches.

Gas Prices Rain on Customer Experience

By Dale Wolf

What industry for the past year has given you the most rotten customer experience. I know a lot of people will jump immediately on mobile phone service providers and others will jump on the airlines. For me, it is the oil industry. They have given consumers nothing but fear, uncertainty and doubt.

They have jacked up the price of oil so that it trades with gold, diamonds and rhodium. As consumers of oil, we are held powerless. Just keep shelling out more today than yesterday for the same stuff that sits in the tanks below the gas stations that run our cars and trucks and the same stuff that sits in vast stores of natural gas that heat our homes.

Speculators have take the oil business over and they are ruthlessly driving the customers of oil into the ground. No added value, no differentiation, no consistent delivery. They run against every rule of creating a positive customer experience. Just pure greed, and our governments allow this to happen.

Business Week tells us there is plenty of gas in our supply line. "

What’s driving oil prices? Economics 101 says price is determined by the balance of supply and demand. But when it comes to the oil market, fears and expectations have been trumping economic rules and carrying the day. "These movements have nothing to do with supply or demand, or with oil for that matter," says Fadel Gheit, senior analyst with Oppenheimer (OPY) in New York. "There is more exaggeration than ever before in this market."

Where prices head from here is the subject of much debate. Gheit estimates that $40 of the current price is based on speculation and not market fundamentals. Even if there is that much air in the price, some analysts don’t see oil heading down anytime soon. "We won’t see oil prices head down unless there’s a major increase in supply, a sudden religious conversion to conservationism, or a recession," says Peter Beutel, president of the energy risk management firm Cameron Hanover in New Canaan, Conn.

So first we have the speculators, then the Middle Eastern countries controlling the price of oil out of the ground, in a virtual monopoly, then we have the oil companies who keep prices high by not building refineries, then we have environmentalists who want our SUVs sold for scrap metal while they hope we can build enough wind-powered generators to run the country. And the only answer we are given is that we have to live in a recession just to get the price of gas down!

If you and your wife go for a ride in the country, just to enjoy the sights together, you can expect the price of gas to be 15 cents higher by the time you get home. Unless, of course, we go into a recession in which case you won’t have a job and you will have to sell your car to make your house mortgage payment.

I write frequently that we have to create better customer experiences or watch our business go to a competitor. That’s because mostly there is an over-supply of just about everything and the customer is now in charge. But when it comes to oil, the customer is the victim. We are slaughtered as we back our cars out of the garage.

Maybe the next president will do something about this gouging. Maybe it will take the United Nations or the World Bank (since this is not a problem limited to the US). But somewhere, leadership is needed to stop the speculation, increase the supply to meet demand … while we all work together on solutions that end our dependence on oil. After all, I’m all for clean air to breath and I fear that global warming might just be true so we will see an iceberg floating down past the Outer Banks. But until there are practical solutions, we as customers need a better customer experience. Consumers have long memories.

Why Oracle May Want Salesforce.com As An Investment: Check Out These Reports

Louis Columbus Cincom

There have been a few e-mails and comments about salesforce.com being potentially acquired by Oracle Intrigued by the rumor, I also checked out all the available investment firms’ analysis of salesforce.com this year. I’ve posted all five below.

Be sure to look at the KeyBanc one as it has a great valuation analysis in it. The bottom line is that buying salesforce.com even at $75 a share looks like a good investment while getting salesforce.com needed additional resources for international expansion and product line breadth to stave off what many investment analysts consider to be their greatest potential threat, Microsoft.

Download ThinkEquityJanuary82008.pdf

 

Download ThinkEquityJanuary172008.pdf

 

Download WachoviaJanuary222008.pdf

 

Download ValueEngineJanuary232008.pdf

 

Download KeybancFebruary12008.pdf

 

May The Force By With You

Louis Columbus, Cincom

Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher blog published an excellent analysis of how Salesforce.com has apparently, from his sources, approached Oracle to sell the company for $75 a share, almost a 50% premium over the existing share price that Salesforce.com closed at $50.87. Tom’s analysis is outstanding and reads more like an analyst overview than a blog entry.

Maytheforcebewithyou10255 Speculation of Salesforce.com being for sale has been sporadically mentioned by bloggers and the media, including a prediction by IDC in early 2007 that the company would be sold last year.

Page 99: A Must-Read Book Lover’s Blog

Louis Columbus, Cincom

Nicholas’ Carr’s blog, Rough Type today mentions 99 Pages a blog based on the advice of Ford Madox Ford who once said, in discussing how to choose whether or not to read a book, "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." Nicholas Carr was invited to contribute from his most recent book, The Big Switch, and his entry can be found here.

I checked out the blog, which was created by Marshal Zeringue, and felt it was valuable enough to do this blog entry about.

What you have to respect about Marshal’s efforts is that he is successfully striving to create a blog that creates more interest in reading and appreciating the knowledge and insights books have to offer.

After reading through several entries, I’d say Marshal is well on his way to accomplishing that.

I’m recommending my students pick this blog up in their RSS Readers; and if you love learning and books, be sure to add it to your reader as well,  as this unique concept will undoubtedly deliver insights not obtainable through traditional book reviews.

Why Sales 101 No Longer Works

By Thomas A. Freese

To me, it’s ironic that the world of strategic sales training has stayed pretty much the same over the last 15 years, but for most companies, the selling environment has changed dramatically. Consequently, salespeople are having to work harder to penetrate new accounts, while prospective customers are working even harder to keep salespeople at bay.

Don’t blame the customer. In the past decade, downsizing and acquisitions have burdened corporate decision-makers with greater responsibility, oftentimes without the benefit of additional resources. Meanwhile, workloads continue to increase, competitors are getting hungrier, and the overall pace of business has quickened. Even if they wanted to, customers simply cannot afford to spend time with every salesperson that comes calling.

Customers are also less accessible.

In the past, salespeople could build relationships with the gatekeeper in their target accounts, knowing that these relationships would eventually get them in to see the decision-maker. Electronic devices have since replaced most gatekeepers and you can’t build a relationship with a voice mail system. Other technological innovations such as e-mail, fax, cellular phones, digital pagers, and the Internet have also given customers the freedom to execute their job functions away from their desks. While this is good in one sense, it also means that potential customers are less likely to pick up the telephone when you call.

Many prospects are reluctant to pick up the telephone.

With the rapid economic expansion in recent years, more vendor businesses are offering more solutions than ever before. Consequently, decision-makers are being inundated with a barrage of sales callers — who are all competing for the same thing –a chunk of the prospect’s budget, but even more importantly, a slice of their time and attention.

Some sales organizations try to address this problem by encouraging their salespeople to be more aggressive. "If the going gets tough," chants the proverbial sales manager, "then we, as salespeople, need to be even tougher." The problem is, if the telephone rings tonight at my house during dinner, and a salesperson on the other end tries to be more aggressive with me, they will irreparably harm any chance they had of making a sale. People don’t want to be pushed.

Sales Training Not Keeping Up With the Times

Many of the marquee sales training courses currently being offered were developed 15 to 20 years ago, if not earlier. But the business world has changed dramatically in the last 20 years — in my opinion, many of the "old school" techniques no longer apply.

Most prospects already know the tricks –things like calling after hours to avoid the gatekeeper, or leaving voice-mail messages that say so-and-so told me to call. They also know about the Ben Franklin Close, Alternate Choice, and Feel-Felt-Found. That’s why so many salespeople and sales managers have become frustrated with traditional methods. Teaching salespeople to be just like everyone else puts them at a competitive disadvantage. When a salesperson is perceived "the same" as everyone else, then they are only average, by definition, and their chances of winning are significantly diminished. Prospects and customers usually don’t buy "average" products from an "average" salesperson.

The fundamentals in selling have remained the same.

Salespeople must uncover needs before they can provide solutions, the product or service being offered must be cost justifiable, and the salesperson with the best relationship has the greatest chance of winning the business. People still do buy from people. But the paradigms of the strategic sale have shifted significantly and differentiation is now the key.

Prospect Relationships

Everyone wants to have good relationships with lucrative prospects, to uncover needs, present solutions, and secure a commitment. Establishing mutual relationships with new prospects has grown increasingly more difficult, however, and just because a salesperson wants to ask questions, doesn’t mean their prospects and customers will want to respond.

What makes prospects and customers want to respond?

The answer is: Conversational Layering"

The first time I tried to diagram the sales process, I sketched a cacophony of boxes and arrows into a messy schematic that would make most engineers proud. This model evolved into a much simpler diagram (as shown) that depicts the strategic sales process as a series of prerequisite steps. Before you can secure a commitment, for example, you must first present a solution.

Likewise, before you present solutions, you must first uncover needs.

Relationships are an integral part of the Conversational Layering model, but you will notice that the sales process doesn’t begin with a relationship. Salespeople must first earn the right to engage. What’s the key to building effective relationships? The answer is credibility. Now the question becomes: What are you doing different than your competitors to establish credibility in your targeted prospect accounts? Everyone claims to have the best product, which once again, makes you average.

Leveraging curiosity to fuel the sales process is another paradigm shift — but it’s one that makes absolute sense. If a prospective customer is not curious, then it becomes very difficult for a salesperson to secure their time or their attention. On the other hand, a curious prospect will want to engage in a conversation about their needs and your solutions to satisfy their curiosity. Now the question is: What are you doing to leverage curiosity in the sales process?

The message is clear.

If you are going to train your sales organization, then make sure to invest in something that teaches them how to be different, in order to give them back their competitive edge. After all, just because you have a great story, doesn’t necessarily mean prospects and customers will want to hear it.

With more than 17 years experience in the trenches of corporate sales and management, Tom Freese packaged his unique approach into a proven sales methodology called Question Based Selling. Now, he works with companies all over the world showing salespeople how a question-based approach can exponentially increase their bottom-line results. See www.qbsresearch.com, or contact him at tfreese at QBSresearch.com.