Church of the Customer Blog
March 17, 2011, 05:21 PM
Top 5 brands that rawked SXSWi
With a whopping 36% increase in attendees over last year (and 30% increase the year before), the 2011 SXSW Interactive conference was by far the biggest and hottest technology event in the country. Last year was the first year in the history of SXSW that the interactive portion topped the attendance for both music and film portions of the festival.
Big consumer brands outdid themselves this year trying to reach the 19,364 tech-savvy, smartphone-toting, tweeting, Foursquaring, influential, ironic-T-shirt-wearing geeks and geekettes.
Here's my list of the top 5 brands who succeeded in creating good buzz at the 2011 SXSWi:
It captured the majority of the buzz at the conference; no one was close. Not even official sponsor companies. Apple created a 5,000 square foot pop-up store in three days to coincide with the launch of the highly anticipated iPad 2. Lines began to form ten hours in advance of launch in front of a blacked-out storefront in downtown Austin. Once inside, the store looked like any other Apple store with blond wood furnishings and enthusiastic employees. Rumors were that this Apple store had the most iPad 2 inventory of any store in the country except for the Fifth Avenue location in NYC. Official and unofficial news outlets flocked to interview the Apple devotees standing in line. Even yours truly got sucked into the hype and got the last 64MB 3G model.
Photo credit: Augie Ray
One of the primary sponsors of the entire festival, Chevy knew just what Interactive attendees needed: recharging stations and rides. Folks could get juice for their tablets and smartphones from the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge inside the Convention Center. Festival goers could flag down one of 27 Chevy Cruzes to catch a ride to one of the 10 campuses that made up the Interactive festival. Chevy also had brand new Volts, Cruzes and Camaro Convertibles on-hand for anyone who wanted to test drive one... after a breathalyzer test, of course.
Photo credit: Chevy
It spent a cool million on SXSW, which included a huge "playground" on a vacant lot, called the Pepsi MAX Lot. Amenities for tired, hungry SXSWi'ers included games like foursquare, cornhole and ping-pong, live bands, free wifi, couches, BBQ and lots of drinks. Other Pepsi experiences included the Sobe Lizard Lounge Mixing Station and interviews and panels at the Pepsico Plugged-In Stage in the Convention Center, which were live-streamed over the web.
Photo credit: Adrants
The news network took over a 3,000 sq. ft. restaurant, Max's Wine Dive, one block from the Convention Center and turned it into a SXSW broadcast news center. All vestiges of the restaurant were completely gone. Max's sign was replaced with a huge "CNN Grill SXSW" neon, rotating sign. The interior of the restaurant was redesigned with monitors lining the entire space and outlets at every table. CNN brought in famed NYC restauranteur Danny Meyer to create a special menu for people lucky enough to make it inside. The venue was used mostly for CNN staffers, press, and invited guests. Occasionally, the @CNNSXSW twitter id would invite in the "next 25 people to follow and reply." A stage was created out in front of the restaurant for live-streamed interviews. It's hard to imagine how much CNN paid for this space but it had to be a sizable sum to make up for the lost revenue that Max's would have gained for the 10 days of SXSW.
Photo credit: Papermag
GE installed a solar-powered carousel and charging stations in a lot at the corner of 3rd and Congress Avenue. The company painted a 1926 carousel completely white and replaced the original motor with one that ran solely off of energy from 72 GE “thin film” solar panels, which use a cadmium telluride semiconductor to capture sunlight. While attendees charged up their laptops and phones on one of the 12 charging stations, they could take a ride on the carousel that whose motor was completely quiet.
Photo credit: Eco Tuck B.V.
March 08, 2011, 12:25 PM
Two must-read books: Poke the Box, Enchantment
I'm not sure if it's coincidence but two of my favorite authors of all time just released their new books recently:
Poke the Box, by Seth Godin. The first book from Seth's new imprint with Amazon, this book is a manifesto for action. His Baldness implores us to stop talking about what we are going to do and instead just get started. Go. Try something. Experiment. Learn. Refine. What are you waiting for? As with other Godin books, you will want to buy several to give to colleagues and friends. Fortunately for us, there is a handy 52-pack.
Bonus material: Poke the Box: The Workbook, a free PDF workbook to really help you get your butt in gear.
Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki. Guy argues that in business and in your personal life, your goal is not to merely just get what you want, but instead to bring about a voluntary, enduring, and delightful change in other people. In other words, you can be douchey, or you can be enchanting. Guy says that enchanting wins every time with customers, your colleagues and even your boss.
Bonus material: Find out how GREAT you are with Guy's Realistic Enchantment Aptitude Test.
January 14, 2011, 05:00 AM
How to plan your social engagement success
The third of three posts
As you plan for the year ahead, it's time to consider how social media will change your company or brand in 2011.
Recently, we (Ant's Eye View) unveiled the Social Engagement Journey. Our creation of the Journey is based on having worked with some of the world's leading brands and understanding their challenges in becoming a socially engaged organization. We have observed that the Journey encompasses five stages of how the organization is operating internally as well as externally by connecting with customers.
Success in the Journey first means understanding your company's current stage. We've produced a self-assessment you can use inside your company to determine your stage. While the assessment will give you a stage "score," its real value may be as a discussion catalyst with your team.
Click on the document image below to see/download the assessment. Feel free to print it, share it with colleagues or post it on other sites. This post provides more background about the Journey's five stages and their typical activities.
Let us know in the comments where you reside!
December 16, 2010, 01:55 PM
Dell's Social Engagement Journey
Second of three posts
The Social Engagement Journey, put together by our team at Ant's Eye View, is a 5-stage process that a medium-to-large brand or company goes through while integrating social media into their business. Dell was one one of the earliest companies to go through this process.
They are often held up as a social engagement model, but their journey hasn't been all roses and buttercups. In this post, we outline their journey in the last five years.
In 2005, Dell was in Stage 1, the period in which most companies' engagement with customers is through traditional marketing and customer support channels. Functions and business units are silo'd. They are ambivalent to online conversations. Involvement in social channels is not on the executive radar.
For Dell, 2005 was the year of Dell Hell, Jeff Jarvis' online campaign against the company for their less-than-stellar response to his non-functioning new laptop. "Dell Hell" became an online meme around the web, as customers started taking their complaints to the web en masse. The complaints were rooted in some major problems in the company related to poor quality products as well as frustrating customer support. Dell was largely unaware and unresponsive to the online complaints. There was no monitoring of online conversations and no team in place to handle them. Dell’s online focus was ecommerce and esupport via Dell.com.
In 2006, Dell had moved to Stage 2, where silo'd teams start to dabble in social media. There is some online conversation monitoring but no standardization of tools. Executives become aware of what is going on in social media, but are not committing resources or budget to social engagement activities. Maverick teams are forced to bootstrap people resources and money to get anything done.
After the Dell Hell meme gains momentum and is the subject of some mainstream media stories, Dell begins to engage in a few social initiatives:
- Executive support: CEO Michael Dells asks a small team to help bloggers with technical issues.
- Customer support: A community outreach team is formed. The team begins by listening and monitoring conversations to see what is being said. The tech support experts are hand-selected for their tech problem-solving expertise and superior interpersonal skills.
- Marketing channels: Dell launches Direct2Dell a corporate blog, with chief blogger, Lionel Menchaca.
- Conversation monitoring: The customer service and PR teams outsource this to an agency to find customer issues that were being voiced online. Dell used the agency to find conversations, but company employees, not the agency, did the outreach/engagement with customers needing help on the social web.
- Employee competency: Only a handful of employees are skilled in social engagement
In 2007, Dell moved into Stage 3, in which most companies formally organize for social engagement by creating an empowered team run by a S.P.I.C.Y. leader. Social channels may have proliferated so there is move to edit down to the most impactful ones. There is a focused effort on training and education of more employees on social engagement. Tools are consolidated. A baseline framework for measuring social engagement is proposed.
Dell had put more emphasis on social engagement, building on the positive results from 2006 initiatives:
- Business operations: A centralized team run by Bob Pearson and Sean McDonald (now with us at Ant's Eye View) is formed.
- Risk mitigation: First set of social media policies and governance are put into place
- Tools: The team standardizes on Visible Technologies for online conversation monitoring. Dell operates blogs and forums for dedicated customer engagement topics.
- Marketing channels: Dell joins Twitter with a number of ids.
- Feedback and innovation: Ideastorm for customers to brainstorm new ideas and features for products is launched.
- Resources management: Dell did not have dedicated shared services, so the centralized social team borrowed resources from multiple teams (IT, online) to move quickly to test and launch social engagement tools and websites.
- Strategy and planning: Formalized strategy is developed and refined for executive buy-in
In 2008, Dell advanced to Stage 4, the period in which a central team still exists but more work is being pushed to business units. Channels start to yield real results. Employees are competent and are actively engaging socially with customers. More rigor is being put into measurement which becomes part of business units' business plans.
During this time, Dell has become a Stage 4 company in nearly every aspect:
- Marketing channels: By May 2008, Dell outlet on Twitter achieves $500,000 in sales. A blog for the channel community is launched and gains awareness. Social content now appears on Dell.com (homepage navigation, product pages with ratings & reviews)
- Advocate engagement: Online communities are launched for Dell's environmental efforts (called Regeneration) and technophiles (called Digital Nomads)
- Employee competency: Community managers are named for each of these markets: channel, small business, consumer, and enterprise. Roles are formalized for listening and resolution, content planning, technology testing and planning, and measurement.
- Customer support: Proactive outreach on Twitter and blogs
- Measurement: Formalized dashboard with set goals and monthly reporting
- Conversation monitoring: Online listening is brought in-house to the central team, standardizing on the Radian6 toolset.
Dell has actually regressed to Stage 2 or 3. Events have interrupted the company's progress through the Journey. Alternately, events can also accelerate a company's journey, too.
In 2009, the recession was in full swing and pressure was on the social media team to scale operations by reducing headcount. A change in marketing leadership slowed down social engagement initiatives:
- Strategy and planning: With departure of the incumbent CMO, the social engagement strategy was started anew and lost some corporate knowledge and momentum.
- Employee competency: The two key executives running the social engagement team left Dell, as well as a number of community managers. The new people brought in to replace these folks did not have the same level of competency. With loss of some key people and volume of people, social engagement knowledge resembled stage 2-3.
- Feedback and innovation: Ground was lost on Ideastorm due to the departure of the employee who was running it. Without dedicated resource, Dell was slow in responding to customer ideas and comments on the site.
- Marketing channels: There was too much proliferation in creating social engagement properties so blogs were consolidated. Revenues from Twitter approach $6.5 million.
- Business operations: With the departure of key market community managers, business units began to take on this work.
For Dell, 2010 was year of regrouping and establishing a foothold back in stage 4. New initiatives were put in place to move the company back into stage 3 and Stage 4 in some areas.
- Executive support: Manish Mehta was named the new leader of the social engagement team and fills gap from departed team members. Manish retained the great talent of Richard Binhammer and Lionel Menchaca, both early pioneers with Dell’s social media operation.
- Strategy and planning: An updated, comprehensive social strategy is put into place
- Conversation monitoring: A new role, Chief Listening Officer, is created who will work to get insights gleaned from online conversation monitoring integrated back into key company processes. A Social Media Listening Command Center is opened.
- Advocate engagement: The CAP, or Customer Advisory Panel, is started. Its goal is to bring key customers to Dell HQ to former tighter bonds with key advocates and understand their delights and frustrations.
- Business operations: Business units still playing a key role in social engagement efforts
Dell's travels through the Journey are a solid example for how social media is transforming companies to be more customer-centric. Dell's experience shows it's not always a smooth pathway. Internal and external factors can cause a company to jump ahead a few stages, or in Dell's case, move back a few stages, but it seems to have the momentum now to reclaim its place in the social engagement pantheon.Tweet
December 08, 2010, 10:15 PM
The Social Engagement Journey
First in a series of three posts
It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote a post entitled "Social Media 2010: it's time to get boring."
I'd suggested that marketers and business leaders see past the social media hype and begin integrating it into business functions and processes, to go beyond the viral video.
A year later, companies seem to be on a journey in integrating social media into their business operations. By observing some top Fortune 1000 companies and how they transformed into more customer-centric organizations by integrating and operationalizing social media, we and our team at Ant's Eye View have mapped out a 5-stage transformation. We call it the "Social Engagement Journey."
Stage 1 of the journey is traditional command and control. One-way communication with customers is the norm, and the various functional units in a company operate relatively independently.
Stage 2 usually involves 1-2 individuals or teams who begin experimenting with social engagement. These mavericks can appear in any part of the organization but are often in marketing or support groups. There may be multiple mavericks in a company, but they are not yet connected to each other. Teams in this stage emphasize direct customer engagement, likely breaking or bending internal rules to make it happen.
Stage 3 is when companies begin getting serious about social. A formal team may be empowered to help operationalize social engagement, or there are informal internal communities that drive progress. At this stage, companies emphasize training, policies, measurement frameworks and common engagement platforms.
Stage 4 usually means social engagement is delivering real business results. Executive support is broad, and engagement efforts are built into forecasts and annual plans. Customer listening is the norm, and multiple individuals within business units and functional groups are empowered to engage directly with customers and prospects.
Most companies would feel very satisfied reaching Stage 4, but we believe there is a higher stage of engagement.
Stage 5 is probably nirvana given that many of the tools to achieve this stage don’t exist yet for enterprise-level companies, but we call it the Fully Engaged Enterprise. In it, companies experience breakthrough business results based on deep customer engagement. Customers say things like “You know what I need before I do” and “my life is better because of you," or “I trust you.” That said, there's a lot of foundation work to do in Stages 1-4, regardless of technology.
What do you think about the Journey? What stage would you say your company is in?Tweet
October 08, 2010, 01:50 PM
5 questions about your company's design competency
The mini-disaster around the Gap's logo redesign is a good backdrop to understand that today's marketplace practically requires design competency. It can no longer be a relegated function but should start to become a core company competency.
Umair Haque has a relevant piece about what it means for a company to lack design competency. He posed five questions to gauge whether your organization is taking design seriously:
- Do designers have a seat in the boardroom? How often does your CEO talk to a designer?
- Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
- Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to "real" business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
- Are designers seen as mechanics of stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow's big ideas?
- How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?
October 04, 2010, 03:00 PM
Spreading the word offline
Marketers may be obsessed with social media these days, but spirits marketer Maker's Mark continues to use offline tactics to build loyalty and help evangelists spread the word.
I've been a Maker's Mark Ambassador for a few years, and last week I received a personalized note card along with a stack of business cards with my name on them as a reminder of my ambassadorship. They are the same cards you receive when you sign up to be an ambassador. The note was signed by President Bill Samuels Jr. It's very old-school from a company with a lot of old-world charm.
We interviewed Bill back in 2006 and he told us stories of customers at bars who offer to buy Maker's for new friends they just met, throw down their Ambassador card on the bar, and say "I'll get this round. I'm part of the company." When you give loyal customers the tools to spread the word, and if the opportunity arises, they will.
Listen to our full interview with Bill Samuels and his concept of "marketing without fingerprints" by clicking on the podcast icon.
August 16, 2010, 02:17 PM
Has your product jumped the shark?
From our good friend Tom Fishburne:
"In the rush to maintain momentum, there is huge pressure to "jump the shark." Jumping the shark attracts new attention and feels necessary in the game of competitive one-upmansship. But the volume of attention is far less important than the caliber of the attention. And more important than grabbing fresh attention is the maintaining of those already buying.
The risk of jumping the shark isn't getting eaten by the shark. It's leaving your loyalists behind."
More on Tom's take on jumping the shark here.
July 13, 2010, 06:10 PM
9 ways Groupon leads the online coupon industry
In the discount world, lowest price is king.
In the online discount coupon world, Groupon hopes to be king via customer service.
Since launching in November 2008, the Chicago-based deal-a-day website has sold over 7 million online coupons in 70 cities. Its success has spawned competitor sites such as LivingSocial, Townhog, and Homerun, and it's betting that fanatical customer service will keep them leading the pack.
During a recent trip to Chicago, I spent some time at Groupon's headquarters hoping to understand what makes this fast-growing company tick. What I found were the nine ways Groupon focuses on customer service in a price-competitive market:
- Promote the fine print. Groupon features terms and conditions in large type in a clearly labeled section right beside the deal highlights. You can't miss it.
- Put a phone number on every coupon. If you are at the location of the merchant and have any issues, you can call Groupon HQ to resolve them. Try to find the Amazon.com customer service number. I dare you.
- Anticipate and diffuse frustration. If you click to unsubscribe from Groupon's email alerts, you are taken to a web page with what looks like a live video feed of Derrick, the Groupon Guy. A button says "PUNISH DERRICK." Once clicked, a guy walks by and throws a drink in Derrick's face. A message appears saying "That was pretty mean. I hope you are happy. Want to make it up to Derrick?" Another button says "RESUBSCRIBE." Fun fact: "Derrick" is actually Groupon CEO Andrew Mason.
- Apologize. Groupon is fanatical about vetting good merchants, so when a merchant went out business after hundreds of coupons had been sold for it, Groupon gathered the entire team together holding a sign that said "We're sorry." They sent the picture, along with a refund, to all of the customers who had purchased a coupon.
- Have an iron-clad guarantee. If you are not happy with the Groupon experience, the company will refund your money, even if you have used the coupon. They call it "The Groupon Promise" and the company told me a very small percentage of customers ask for refunds.
- Let customers discuss your products on your property. Every Groupon deal has its own discussion thread in an online forum. Prospective customers can ask questions about the deal before they buy. The thread stays active forever so customers will often go back and add feedback about their experience with the merchant. No other competitor has this.
- Use two-way ratings. Groupon's success is predicated on happy customers and happy merchants. Customers can give awards to merchants that they like or flag a merchant for a poor experience. Merchants can also rate loyal customers or good tippers, and can flag unfriendly customers.
- Treat the call center as a customer loyalty touchpoint. Groupon customer service reps don't have scripts. There are no pre-set time limits on calls. Reps are trusted to solve a customer's issue on the first call.
- Hire for outside-the-box skills. About 70% of Groupon's customer service reps are connected to the local theater scene. Joe Harrow, Groupon's head of customer service says theater folks are a great fit. They are high energy, friendly, outgoing, quick on their toes and fun people. Plus, they need day jobs. On my recent visit to Groupon HQ, Joe showed me a wall in the customer service area decorated with pictures of team members. He mentioned that you can tell who the theater folks are by their professional head shots.
June 21, 2010, 10:10 AM
After the brainstorm
"As we return to the realties of our day jobs at the end of a brainstorm, we run into road blocks, inertia, committees and other hazards that can water down ideas or shut them down entirely. That's what organizations do well. They are designed to minimize risk. Bringing an idea to life can feel like making it through a circuitous maze. So much emphasis with innovation is placed on the up-front brainstorm, yet the real acid test is in the day-to-day shepherding of the idea through the organization..."