Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Customer-First Marketing: The customer is always right … but not always right for your company

October 19th, 2017

You’ve heard the saying a million times, I’m sure. “The customer is always right.” It is so ingrained in Stew Leonard’s that the supermarket chain has engraved it in stone and put it right in front of its stores.

And yet, while customers can offer valuable insights, if you’ve spent any time at all monitoring customer feedback, you know that customers can have some interesting opinions. Controversial perhaps. Wacky even. Impossible to bring to market in a profitable way. And occasionally downright bizarre.

So how do you square this circle? Customer feedback is extremely valuable, but customers don’t always know what they’re talking about.

Exhibit A: One Homer J. Simpson. In an episode of “The Simpsons,” Homer find his long-lost half brother, who happens to be rich and owns a car company. His brother offers to give him a free car but soon realizes that none of his company’s cars are what Homer really wants.

Sensing an opportunity, he sees Homer as the proxy for the “average man” and unleashes him with totally authority to design a car. The result — a monstrosity. (“You know that little ball on the antenna that helps you find your car in the parking lot? That should be on every car!”) And a monstrosity that costs $82,000, to boot.

The customer isn’t always right, your customer is always right

Here’s the problem. Homer is not the ideal customer to purchase a new car. If you’ve watched the show, you know he drives an old, beat-up, used car. So while he had lots of ideas, he never would have actually been able to buy the car he was designing.

How do you use customer feedback as valuable business intelligence without ending up having to market an $82,000 automobile with three car horns that play “La Cucaracha”? Here are a few tips to help set you down the right path:

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Customer-First Marketing: Understanding customer pain and responding with action

August 5th, 2016

It’s all too easy to think of our jobs narrowly: “I’m a marketer. I’m in ecommerce. I’m in the apparel industry. I work in tech.”

But what we really do, or at least what we should be doing, is much too big to be constrained by a single job title or industry.

To give you an example, I came across an interesting story while conducting interviews at the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016. As you would expect, most of the interviews focused around hot ecommerce topics like Amazon Marketplace, Snapchat, and funding a startup.

But I had a deeper conversation with Joe Peppers, the Ecommerce Market Sector Leader at The Weitz Company.

But previously, Joe went to West Point and served three tours of duty in Iraq as a Captain in the U.S. Army, before going on to work in ecommerce for Amazon, Apple,, and now The Weitz Company.

I discovered some interesting lessons from military service that can be applied to ecommerce, so we sat down to talk about it…

Personally, I have two big takeaways from this conversation.

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How Integrating Customer Service and Marketing Can Build Successful Consumer Marketing

June 7th, 2016

This week, the MarketingSherpa team is running the official Media Center at the world’s largest ecommerce event – IRCE 2016. We’re interviewing speakers, industry experts and brand-side marketers to bring back ecommerce lessons for you. To get notification when this year’s interviews will be available visit our IRCE 2016 Media Page. Until the videos are up, here’s an interview from last year’s event. 

When you go to a restaurant and your customer experience before the meal arrives is terrible, you’ll most likely refer to that restaurant as being terrible, even if the meal was amazing. Customer service has the power of leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Customer service and marketing now work together more than ever. At the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2015, Courtney Eckerle, Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa, interviewed Katie Laird, Director of Social Marketing,, on how her team was making amazing strides with their customer experience.

Here are a few components to transforming customer service feedback internally to build success in your company.

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Customer-Centric Marketing: Listen to your customers if you want to live

May 12th, 2015

Listen to your customers. That must seem like an obvious statement to most marketers.

However, taking into account the variables under which your performance is judged, how much can you really listen? Time and time again, I have seen many marketers find that KPIs conflict with what their customers really want.

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, we will explore a few key instances from companies in various stages of maturity where focus on customers predominantly contributed toward subsequent success.



The underlying truth of the above statement is profound whether implied in the business sense, the entrepreneurial sense or even the “Terminator” sense from which this phrase emanates. In this day and age, if you want your business to live, you must listen to your customers.


The Customer Voice at Launch: The case of Yelp

As is the story for many startups, (including Twitter, which was originally a podcasting platform called Odeo), the Yelp we know and value today was not what its founders initially intended for it to be.


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How Automation Transformed a Distributor’s Online Business

March 17th, 2015

When you’re running a small online business, what’s the fastest, easiest way to grow your business and save money? Automation, according to Lenny Kharitonov, President of Unlimited Furniture Group, a furniture retailer.

Kharitonov says his company was among the first in the furniture industry to automate the online order fulfillment process.

“The furniture industry in general is not very technology savvy,” he admitted.

The Unlimited Furniture website markets products from a variety of manufacturers that ship them directly to the customer. Before automation, the Unlimited Furniture team and its vendors handled every aspect of the transaction manually using a combination of spreadsheets and Google docs. Now customers can order online, and the details are instantly sent to the vendor. Once the vendor ships out the product, Unlimited Furniture automatically receives all of the information about the shipment and updates the customer without any manual involvement.

This automated process:

  • Prevents mistakes. “When you do things manually, it’s subject to human error,” Kharitonov said. “For instance, somebody could put in the wrong quantity or wrong color; it could be done on our side or the vendor’s side.”
  • Eliminates duplication of effort. Before automation, Unlimited Furniture would enter a purchase order manually then send it to the vendor, who would enter the same information manually.
  • Saves money. Automating order fulfillment has slashed Unlimited Furniture’s administrative costs 40%.
  • Speeds delivery. Orders are processed real-time now, instead of waiting for someone at Unlimited Furniture and the vendor to manually process it.“The quicker the service you give the customer, the more likely you’ll get repeat business,” Kharitonov said.

“We want to grow the business. We don’t want to spend all our time processing orders,” he explained. “In this day and age, it’s assumed that’s automatic, but it’s not. I know a lot of our competitors are still doing it manually.”

Watch the full interview and find out more about the power of automation here:

  Read more…

How a B2B Company Used Live Chat to Speed up the Sales Cycle

February 6th, 2015

Online chat is far more than a way to respond to customers. It’s an opportunity to optimize website content, pinpoint customer needs and even close sales, according to Brooke Beach, former Marketing Manager and current Marketing Director, Kevy.

Kevy enables businesses to connect and synchronize data to cloud apps. It’s a new industry, explains Brooke, so customers inundate the company with questions. Before live chat, Kevy responded to them via email. She admits the back and forth, full mailboxes and the time it took to clarify the issue via email dragged out the support and sales process.

So they took advantage of the immediate response of live chat and discovered it provided a much better solution by:

  • Optimizing their website. Brooke instantly found out which pages communicated effectively and which didn’t. Specifically, there were consistently two pages that people used chat to ask questions about. She revamped those pages based on the chat discussions, and the questions dropped by 75%.“I’m working with content all of the time, and I can have a false expectation of the level of understanding others may have,” says Brooke. “The immediate feedback enables us to cater the website content to better fit (customer) needs.”
  • Closing sales faster. “The beauty of chat is it gives a personal, human element to a flat website … you can get to know a person and what they’re looking for and immediately figure out the right solution for them,” she points out.In fact, almost immediately after Kevy installed live chat, a prospect used it to inquire about pricing structure. A sales professional was able to close the deal in a single conversation.

Watch the full interview and find out more about the value of online chat for B2B:

Read more…

Why You Should Consider Customer Service to be 1-to-1 Marketing

November 7th, 2014

Some retailers only see customer service as an expense.

They view it as a cost that needs to be ruthlessly cut to the bare minimum by incentivizing call center reps to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible and push customers to self-service portals instead of providing easy contact information.

Yet, a major challenge retailers face is that many are resellers and the products they sell are commodities.


If a customer can buy the product in many places, why should they buy from you?

Since the products are the same, retailers need to create a unique value proposition for their store.

One unique element of value can be your store’s customer service. According to data from the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study, customer responsiveness correlates with success.

Stop thinking of customer service as a cost center and start thinking about it as an investment in one-to-one marketing.

Let me show you what I mean by using a customer journey as an example.

In this case, the customer journey is one I intimately understand since it was my own. (Please Note: I am overdramatizing it for effect and to highlight different decisions that go through the buyer’s head. In reality, some of these journeys may happen in a matter of minutes and many happen at a subconscious level for the customer.)


My customer journey

In my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., it has been raining and hot and cold and dark and bright and buggy and all sorts of other excuses I could come up with for not going running. I needed a fool-proof method for exercising.

After doing some pain-point-level research, I discovered a recumbent exercise bike would be the solution I was looking for, since I could comfortably catch up on HBO Go while exercising – just the motivation I needed. Some product category research led me to the Marcy ME 709 Recumbent Exercise Bike.

Now that my product search was complete, I had to decide where to buy it. This was a commodity product with the same exact model available at many retailers. A quick foray into a shopping search engine identified 38 online stores that sold the exact same bike.


One-to-many marketing

There were price differences, and that helped with store selection. But another factor that helped with store selection was one-to-many marketing.

With so many selections, there were various stores I trusted thanks to their overall advertising and branding campaigns, print ads, newspaper circulars, content marketing, a physical presence in my hometown and many other tactics I would consider one-to-many marketing.

This branding, combined with my overall experience with these stores in the past – even excellent branding can’t outweigh negative customer experiences – caused me to prefer some stores over others.

However, there were still many stores to choose from.

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Why Social Media is the New Customer Service Hotline

October 15th, 2013

Buying your first house is a big milestone in American life.

There are two entire HGTV shows, “My First Place” and “Property Virgins” centered around the experience.

Every episode follows basically the same trajectory:

Overly anxious buyers, with expectations that far exceed their budgets, hoping to find the “perfect” dream home to live happily ever after with no problems.

“Oh honey,” current homeowners say pityingly, as they shake their heads knowingly.

Good luck to whoever has those expectations. The really difficult (and least interesting) stuff happens once you move into that glorious, shining home.

Take a friend of mine for example – she recently made that big step into adulthood and bought her first home. Closing went fairly well, so she was feeling good when she finally moved in.

Then, like most first-time homeowners, she looked around and realized how much needed to be done, and how much stuff she didn’t have.

All at once the chaos of happily ever after began to unravel in a series of rescheduled deliveries and insanely long waits on the customer service lines. The real breaking point came when she was trying to schedule the delivery of her washer and dryer.

The company-that-shall-not-be-named rescheduled her delivery four times, and upped her backorder wait time from two weeks to six weeks. After being stressed out by multiple phone reps and receiving no responses to her emails to customer service (she’s still waiting for a reply, in fact), she decided to take the fight to social media.

She was shocked to see the company’s Facebook page promoting the backordered machine that had caused her so much trouble five weeks after purchasing. Not only that, but the website was making the dubious promise that people ordering five weeks after her would receive their washers only three days after her machine was scheduled for delivery.

In spite of posting her concerns, the only interaction she had was with other customers – the brand never commented or attempted to help.

The truth is, many large companies are still not placing enough importance on social media as a customer service channel that more customers have come to expect.

But, there is hope as some big brands are starting to use social media to truly enhance the customer service experience.


Social media is the ultimate opportunity to connect with customers

For example, Cisco is a large company that focuses on meeting customers in the social media sphere. Kathleen Mudge, Social Media Marketing Manager and consultant, Cisco, has previously spoken with MarketingSherpa about her views on different social media platforms.

Kathleen consistently embraces social media as the ultimate opportunity to connect with customers.

“Providing customer service can be an entry point to an ongoing relationship,” she said, adding customer service is a great opportunity for conversation and connection with the brand.

Because Cisco is such a large company, Kathleen said it can be “daunting and confusing for customers when an issue arises.  I love delighting customers with quick replies to questions, issues or concerns they post through their social media channels,” she said.


Make customers feel heard

Cisco’s social media channels are monitored year-round, Kathleen said, and her goal is to consistently be “extremely responsive to our communities.”

During off-peak times, when one of Cisco’s events isn’t ramping up or in progress, she said customers may expect a response within 12 hours, “but normally within the hour during the week.”

During events however, social media is in overdrive, and customers receive a response time that local emergency crews would envy – within three minutes or sooner.

Kathleen credits proper staffing to this feat, a necessity when “event conversations explode, as they did last June [during the Cisco Live event] with 46,000 total social mentions.”


Use complaints as an opportunity

Responsiveness is especially key when dealing with a complaint or upset customers, and addressing the issue immediately will keep the issue in check, Kathleen said.

“I may not have the answer, but I want to let them know I am aware of their issue and I am seeking an answer or solution or whatever it is they may need,” she said.

The same principles of customer service via phone, email or in-person are true in social media (perhaps especially important since it’s available for other customers to see) and making sure a customer feels seen and heard is paramount.

If there isn’t a timely response, “they will most likely continue to get more frustrated and their complaints may multiply, causing a very negative situation for the brand,” Kathleen said.

A complaint handled properly is an opportunity to solve the same problem for other customers who may be following the conversation.

“We can’t always provide a resolution that is what the customer is requesting. No brand can be all things to all people,” she said. But letting a customer know you are aware of their situation and troubleshooting it, “that does a lot to ease the aggravation.”


Use and promote positive interactions

Sometimes customers are using social media as an outlet to voice their excitement for an event or their overall experience with the company, and those positive updates, “truly make my day and are the favorite part of my job,” Kathleen said.


When Cisco customers post positive updates on Twitter, for example, Kathleen retweets it from the brand in addition to responding to them.

“When I see that I can make a positive difference for someone online through communication with the brand, I am absolutely thrilled and I want to amplify their update by a retweet on Twitter or a ‘like’ and response on Facebook or another channel,” she said.

Cisco’s events are also provide a great opportunity to  flaunt those positive customer interactions – as updates may appear on the big screen during a keynote in front of 20,000 attendees, as well as being available for their virtual audience.

Singling those comments out works for both parties: “They love being recognized and we love highlighting their comments,” she said.

  Read more…

‘Do Not Contact Us’ Forms

April 6th, 2010

As a reporter, I will contact a company through any means necessary. I prefer using a phone number or an email address for a specific person — but sometimes I’m stuck filling out a ‘contact us’ form.

I’ve filled out more contact forms than I’d like to admit. I really dislike them. About a quarter of them do not work, and I’m never sure if my messages reach my intended audience: the marketing department.

Some common problems I’ve seen:
o Errors after clicking ‘submit’
o Tiny message length limits (such as 200 characters)
o Bounced emails in response
o Claims of ‘improper formatting’

Even worse is after receiving an error, you can lose your entire message. I learned long ago to write messages in a separate program and to copy-and-paste them into forms, in case I need to resubmit.

I’m just a reporter trying to get a marketer on the phone — can you imagine if I was a dissatisfied customer? My frustration level would skyrocket. If I was a potential business lead, I’d likely leave and never return.

‘Contact us’ forms are similar to social media in that they provide a way to receive customer feedback — which is very valuable. Broken ‘contact us’ forms send a clear message: “we don’t care about your feedback. Don’t contact us.”

But I’m sure that’s not true. You must care about your customers’ feedback. Their satisfaction keeps you in business.

So if you have a minute, check your website’s contact forms. Make sure they’re flexible, easy to use, and most importantly, that they work. A small effort can go a long way in preventing customers from walking away for good.

List of Tweeting Brands May Push You off Fence

January 22nd, 2009

More marketers are testing the world of Twitter and shaping their strategies. Last week we reported how a unique discount retail site, Woot, is using Twitter to promote products.

Then I came across the mother of all lists of brands on Twitter. The list has more than 200 links to feeds run by fast food companies, manufacturers, hoteliers, eretailers, airlines, publishers and many more. The companies are as large as GM and as small as online startups.

Read more…