Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Don't Ignore Unhappy Customers - Part 2

Following completion of my blog post shared on July 12, 2019, (link provided at the end of this post if you missed it or want a refresher), that detailed three incredibly negative experiences entitled, "Ignore Unhappy Customers at Your Own Peril," I shared the link in several Tweets on Twitter to Lowe's Customer Care (@LowesCares).

Days went by as I wondered if the brand monitors its social media accounts with costly tools or free Google Alerts.

Two weeks passed, and I still had not received any response. When a manager of the local store called me, he left a voicemail. I returned the call five minutes later and was transferred three times because the manager could not be found, and I was finally placed on hold. After waiting about five minutes, I hung up.

The manager called me again the next day, and after trying to convince me that the delivery company THAT LOWE'S HIRED AND PAID to deliver my gazebo was at fault rather than Lowe's, I told him that I did not want to file a claim against the delivery company since I was Lowe's customer - not the delivery company's customer. He hung up on me.

Another week passed. I couldn't believe that senior leadership at Lowe's would teach this kind of customer service and endorse this type of customer experience. I was unable to locate an email address for Lowe's Chief Marketing Officer - you would think that someone in that role would want to maintain a pulse on customer comments. Heck, the CMO for IBM has an active Twitter account (@michelleapeluso), as does the CMO of General Electric (@LindaBoff), and the CMO of Cadillac (@DeborahWahl), to name just a few.

But I did learn that the CEO of Lowe's has a Twitter account, so I sent him a link to my blog post that detailed my three #servicefails. In less than 24 hours, I received two responses on Twitter, and later that day, I received a phone call from a different manager at the local store. This different manager again tried to place blame on the delivery company hired by Lowe's, but I quickly put an end to that discussion.

I explained, "Thank you for calling. Since I don't want to waste your time or mine, and I am tired of hearing that everything is the fault of the delivery company, and I do not want to file a claim against the delivery company, you need to make this right some other way. I suggest that you offer me a gift card for a future purchase."

After a few seconds of silence, the manager offered to deduct $250 from the price of my nearly $1,600 gazebo that started this chain of events. While the offer was not a free BBQ, at least, this way, I did not have to visit the store. But, will I be a repeat Lowe's customer again? Time will tell.

According to Stefan Thomke, the William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, "When it comes to providing the type of experience we gush about to friends, many companies are falling down on the job. A survey found that 65 percent of customers are likely to speak negatively about their experience, and 48 percent who had negative experiences shared them with 10 or more other people, according to a study in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article. Only 25 percent were likely to say positive things, and only 23 percent with positive experiences told 10 or more others."

“When a negative experience gets management’s attention, they immediately get nervous and move in and want to shut everything down by tightening controls, focusing on process, and taking autonomy away from their people,” Thomke said. “Because they’re worried about the negative experience, they make sure customers get what they expect. But when you get exactly what you expect at a restaurant, you won’t remember a week later that you were at that restaurant.”

Thomke further explained, "In contrast, exceptionally great experiences stand out, create memories for years, increase loyalty, and lead to a massive multiplier effect when one customer shares the details with others in today’s super-connected consumer world. We forget that the things that really stick, the things people talk about years later, are not the average experiences, but the outliers on the other end of the spectrum."

What if I had not Tweeted my blog post to Lowe's CEO? Would there have been any answer to my outreach? What can your brand learn from this series of experiences?

Image Credit: Twitter.

Articles referenced in this post:

Ignore Unhappy Customers at Your Own Peril

Lessons from the Classroom: How to Design a Better Customer Experience

Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers

The World’s Most Influential CMOs 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

Ignore Unhappy Customers at Your Own Peril

I read a Gartner Research article* recently that began, "Many marketing leaders today are responsible for customer experience and customer retention in addition to traditional marketing activities oriented to awareness, consideration, and acquisition. As a result, they're not only asking what makes customers buy products in the first place, but also why customers leave."

This quote has stuck with me since I recently had the third and final customer experience at a major home improvement retail chain (you would recognize the name instantly), and as a result, I have left this particular retailer for good. The sad thing is, no one at that retail chain - not senior leadership, not the marketing team, and not the customer service department - cares that it lost a repeat long-term customer. Here's what happened.

Last December, I purchased a new refrigerator/freezer, washing machine, and dryer. When these three items were delivered to my home, the freezer was missing two shelves, which, if the only problem, would have been a minor matter. I returned to the local store and requested two replacement shelves. A salesperson took two shelves from the floor model and gave them to me. Strike One.

The next day, I smelled something odd in my laundry room. Apparently, there was a gas leak as a result of the incorrect installation of the dryer, so I had to call Southern California Gas. The installer had not put a seal between the valve and the hose, so the So Cal Gas repairman had to visit my home and install one immediately. Strike Two.

This summer, I returned to the home improvement store to purchase a gazebo for my backyard. When the 750-pound box was delivered, the deliveryman used a forklift to attempt to put the large box in my garage, but he scraped my driveway with the forklift. Had he said there could have been damage to the driveway from the forklift, I would have instructed him to place the large box in front of my house, but I did not get the chance. Now, because I want to repair the driveway as soon as possible, I have to hire a contractor to visit my home and repair the driveway. Strike Three.

I looked up the email address for Customer Service on the retailer's website and sent a detailed email. Within a day, I received a response that said, "(Store name) will be happy to help you." The email continued by saying that I needed to speak to the store manager where I purchased the items. I was told that I could not speak to anyone in the corporate customer service department. Strike Four.

A week after my email, I spoke with the local store manager on the phone. He again stated that he wanted to make things right, but when I explained that I resolved both the missing shelves issue and the gas leak issue back in December, and the only remaining issue was the damaged driveway, he said that he would have to file a claim with the delivery company. He explained that the store hired a company to deliver items, so the store was not responsible for any issues resulting from the delivery company. Strike Five.

I said that I did not want to wait for a claim to be filed, an investigator to visit my house to personally assess the damage, and then wait for a decision if a repair would be approved. Guess what happened? The manager hung up the phone on me. Strike Six. If you're a baseball fan, you know that there are too many strikes in this story.

On their own, these instances were disappointing. But taken together, they represent a lack of understanding of customer service and even worse, a total disregard for customers. At any point during my interactions - email, phone, in-person visits - anyone who represented this retail store could have taken ownership for my series of bad experiences and attempted to make things right.

They could have offered:
*A $250 gift certificate
*A free BBQ since it's summertime
*A $250 gift certificate to be used in the garden center

I am reminded of Bill Gates' timeless quote about the value of unhappy customers, and even if nothing had been offered to me, I would have remained a customer if someone from the store had simply acknowledged my concerns and agreed that changes had to be made so that these actions were not repeated for other customers.

Since no one did anything, I have no choice. I'm no longer a customer of this home improvement store - but will now only go to the competitor (whose name you'd also immediately recognize). What would you have done if you had been in my shoes?

*Here's the article that inspired this post:
"Why Customers Leave - and What to Do" by Frances Russell of Gartner Research

Image Credit: Quote from Bill Gates.

Monday, July 8, 2019

True Leaders Are the Best Brand Ambassadors

Twitter serves as an amazing water cooler in today’s social media era, and thanks to Twitter, I met Bob Burg due to our passion for leadership. We recently discussed a number of aspects of leadership, and highlights follow below Bob’s bio.

Meet Bob Burg. He is a Hall-of-Fame speaker and coauthor (with John David Mann) of the “Go-Giver” series of business parables including The Go-Giver, The Go-Giver Leader, and The Go-Giver Influencer. Total sales of all of Bob's books are well over a million copies. You can follow Bob on Twitter @BobBurg, learn more about him on his website at, and check out his books on his Amazon page at

QUESTION: You recently Tweeted "For a true leader, getting results is more important than getting credit" That reminded me of a sign that President Ronald Reagan kept on his desk in the Oval Office, "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." Do you have a work experience that resulted in your inspiring quote?
BOB BURG: Everything *about* my work experience has resulted in that quote because without the people I’ve had on my team throughout the years, I simply wouldn’t have been able to accomplish near what I have accomplished. Of course, I’ve also had a lot of failures, but those have been due to my not utilizing the strengths of those around me. But the successes? Indeed, it’s been with the support, ideas, help, suggestions, and actions of those around me. And not only is giving credit where it’s due the *right* thing to do (which is the most important aspect), it's also what continues to keep people on your side. After all, can there be anything more discouraging than putting your heart and soul into a team effort and then having the one in the public eye accepting all the credit. GROSS!

TWEET THIS: Not only is giving credit where it’s due the right thing to do, it's also what continues to keep people on your side. -@BobBurg #LeadershipTip

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
BOB BURG: For the answer to this question, I consulted my great friend, Gary Campbell (@Impact2Lead on Twitter), an amazing (and award-winning!) leader and CEO of Lynchburg, Virginia-based Johnson Health Center. I believe that his response truly says it all: 

"In order for a President/CEO to become an organization’s number one brand ambassador, she/he must be 100% committed and passionate about the products/services offered and lives that are touched throughout the process. This includes employees, customers, vendors, business partners, shareholders, stakeholders, etc. For example, when Tim Cook of Apple stands in front of the world to talk about the latest release in the Apple product line (and before him, Steve Jobs), you can sense the passion - and this connects people not only to the offering but to the CEO as well.
For me at Johnson Health Center and when I speak nationally in the federally qualified health center circles, there is no confusion of the brand that our health center promotes – an exceptional place to work that has promoted unprecedented growth while providing great care as shown from year over year improved outcomes. I believe in the purpose and my ‘why' drives the passion around our brand. In my community, people see me, they also see Johnson Health Center, and when they see Johnson Health Center, they see me."

QUESTION: What are three things a President/CEO can do to establish a corporate culture that all employees will enthusiastically follow?
BOB BURG: Here are my three.
1. Create/Cast the vision. While that is two things, please allow me to include both because I believe that in order to effectively cast that vision, it must be created with help and buy-in from as many people as possible. How many will somewhat depend on the timing, the context, and the unique situation itself. Is the President/CEO starting from scratch or having to turn around an unhealthy and dysfunctional culture, etc.?
2. Hold the vision. Really, anyone can come up with a vision. That’s  the easy part. The hard part is the *holding.* Keep seeing in your mind’s eye where it is that you (and your entire team) are going, even when nobody else does. Make that, *especially* when nobody else does.
3. Live it. (See Gary Campbell’s response in previous question.) Before people will totally buy into your vision, they must first buy into *you.* And they’ll only buy into you to the degree that everything about you is congruent with that vision. They realize that the very embodiment of that culture is *who you are* and because it’s who you are, it’s what you do. And *that* they’ll enthusiastically follow.

QUESTION: I noticed that you include "Animal Lover" in your bio on Twitter. What do you think about "bring your pet to work" days, and how can they improve the overall employee experience?
BOB BURG: I’m all for it! LOL! Seriously, it can improve the overall employee experience because our pets are part of us, and to know they are welcome says…*you* are welcome.

QUESTION: What is your favorite book, and why?
BOB BURG: Ahhh, so many books - so little time. Very difficult to answer that question as there are lots of books that have added to my life in significant and positive ways. Perhaps the most important one (in my opinion) in terms of overall success (personal and business) is The Secret of Selling Anything by Harry Browne. Written in the mid-1960’s and published posthumously (originally in a paperback edition) in 2008 after his widow found the two small manuscripts, it was sold to an independent publisher who titled it and introduced it to the public. And those who’ve read it are much better off as a result. Much more than just a book on sales, it’s really a book on understanding human nature and working effectively within that context in order to obtain success both for yourself and for everyone whose lives you touch. To read a review on the book I published on my blog, here's the link:

QUESTION: What book should every leader read, and why?
BOB BURG: Again, so many that choosing one for me is almost an exercise in futility. If I can only recommend one, it will be Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman & Raj Sisodia. The Chair & CEO of Barry Wehmiller, a large St. Louis, Missouri-based manufacturing company, Mr. Chapman embodies everything great about what a leader should be. And he’s created a culture like few other leaders have. Most importantly, his book illustrates that when you treat people right and genuinely create a sense of family and belonging, your company’s profitability will soar.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that quote mean to you?
BOB BURG: That’s a fantastic quote by Mark! It highlights, really, what leadership is actually all about. Once the vision/mission/culture/ has been established, now the leader is there strictly to serve their team members. Sometimes that means simply getting the heck out of the way and letting them do what they do best. Other times, it means (as Mark so aptly put it) blocking and tackling, clearing the field for them. And, of course, other times coaching them through an issue. In a sense, great leadership is about creating the environment where those on your team can thrive. Because when they thrive…the sky’s the limit! Oh, and regarding the part about being “the smartest person in the room” I love what my friend, Dan Rockwell (a/k/a @LeadershipFreak on Twitter) says about this: “As a leader, if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”

TWEET THIS: As a leader, if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. -@LeadershipFreak via @BobBurg #LeadershipTip

My gratitude and appreciation to Bob for appearing on my Blog and sharing his inspirational leadership insights. And don
t forget to add the Twitter voices mentioned in this Q&A to your Twitter stream: @BobBurg, @Impact2Lead, @LeadershipFreak, and @NewParadigmer.

Image Credit: Twitter and Bob Burg.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Some Brands Can Score Monumentally During July

July Fourth is the American celebration of independence from England in 1776. But many retail stores have “Independence Day” sales that last more than just one day. And how many car sales are advertised on TV and radio that are called “Independence Day Sales” but start in June and last throughout the entire summer?

The reason behind this advertising extension can be explained by a simple fact. Businesses want to capitalize on the buzz of the moment. In the case of June and July in the United States, that buzz is Independence Day.

Consider these well-known brands. During the months of June and July, they can take advantage of the “America” or “American” portion of their brand names for a myriad of advertising and promotional opportunities:

  • American Airlines
  • American Apparel
  • American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
  • American Express
  • American Greetings Corp.
  • Bank of America

If your brand had “America” or “American” in its name, what would you do during June and July to capitalize on Independence Day or the entire month of July? Certainly, product or service discounts are an option, or maybe, the launch of a new product or service, or perhaps, the implementation of a new loyalty or referral program. But whatever announcement your business makes, you will definitely have an audience.

Another spin on this topic is if a portion of your brand name is tied to a national park, national monument, theme park, hotel resort, etc. There is no doubt that your brand has a head start on brand awareness if the name of your business is Mt. Rushmore Cement Company or Yellowstone Coffee or Liberty Bell Music Store. In all of these scenarios, the first goal of all marketing campaigns has been achieved. There is immediate brand recognition.

However, don’t lose sight of the strengths of your individual brand and the competitive positioning that you’ve worked hard to achieve.

Image Credit: Chevrolet.

Monday, June 10, 2019

How Inviting Are Your Brand's Surveys?

Most brands conduct market research and send surveys to customers, fans, and other stakeholders on a regular basis. There is a simple reason why. We all want a pulse on our products and services. Are we hitting the right target audiences? Do they like what we offer? Do they want to make either minor or major changes? Do they want us to introduce sub-brands? There is something, though, that most brands forget when they distribute survey requests: How do you inform someone that they don't qualify after you already asked?

In today's online and social world, most survey requests are distributed by email or text and contain a link to the actual survey. This is because it's very easy to create a survey using a free or competitively priced online tool, such as, SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, SurveyPlanet, etc.

The initial request may even offer something of value to the recipient which makes taking the survey attractive. There may be a guarantee of something of value, or in most cases, there is the possibility of winning a gift card, an Apple product, etc.

The offer of something of value may entice a recipient to spend the time taking the survey, but the likelihood of completing the survey depends on the number of questions, the level of detail, and the amount of time necessary. The likelihood of having a survey of five or fewer questions completed is much higher than a survey of 20 questions and multiple screens.

Anyhow, most brands don't spend the time to consider what happens when a possible survey taker does not qualify to take the survey. This recipient of the "ask" email or text receives the ask and responds with a click to the actual survey. He/she is then asked to answer one qualifier. That question could be "What is your occupation?" or "What is your age?" or "Where do you live?"

If the recipient does not answer the qualifier question correctly, then he/she does not fit into the demographic group that is desired for the survey. So, what happens at this point? Most brands may have a screen that says, "Thank you, but you're not part of the demographic we want to answer our survey." Or, even worse, since the initial ask may have indicated, "Your Opinion Matters," apparently that is not the truth - and your brand may lose a customer or annoy the stakeholder.

This situation presents an amazing opportunity for the brand to talk directly to a customer, fan, or stakeholder BECAUSE YOU ALREADY HAVE SOMEONE'S ATTENTION:
1. The brand could introduce a new product or service
2. The brand could share a testimonial
3. The brand could share an interview with the President/CEO
4. The brand launch a new loyalty program
5. The brand could promote a partnership with a community nonprofit

So, remember, surveys should be considered another element of your overall customer experience, and important touchpoint in your customer journey. What did your brand do with its last survey? Chime in and share.

Image Credit: Touchpoints Research.

Friday, June 7, 2019

What's in a Name? Everything!

You've probably seen or heard the latest marketing news about a brand's name change. To be honest, the brand simply shortened its name. No, this news is not about Dunkin, which dropped the word "Donuts" from its name back in September of 2018 (read my blog post by clicking here). The latest news is about a beverage brand: Jamba Juice has become Jamba.

According to the company's press release:

Jamba Juice started out in San Luis Obispo, CA in 1990, as a little juice shop with a big idea: that eating better should be easy. For nearly 30 years, Jamba Juice has led the way in creating and defining the smoothie and juice category as we know it. Now, as the category continues to mature and grow, Jamba Juice is ready to evolve to stay one step ahead.
Starting June 6, Jamba Juice is simplifying its name to ‘Jamba’ with the tagline ‘Smoothies, Juices and Bowls’ to reflect its wider array of offerings. It’s one of many steps to support the brand’s renewed commitment to more balanced ingredients that will include expanded plant-based options and reduced sugar selections among other innovations. The brand is also launching new store designs, improved digital platforms, and upgrading the in-store experience to delight guests, all while offering the convenience of delicious goodness in a cup at an everyday value.

“We’ve been offering balanced ingredients on the go for almost 30 years and must continue to evolve to meet our guests’ ever-changing definition of wellness,” explained Jamba’s President Geoff Henry. “We’re staying true to our heritage as an innovator in the space and refreshing the brand to stay focused on how we can make it easier, better, and faster for guests to live a more active lifestyle. We’re proud to have launched the smoothie and juice category three decades ago and can’t wait to join our guests’ wellness journey for decades to come.”

The press release continued, "Loyal fans have been calling us Jamba for years, but the name change officially kicks off today with updates to our website and menus. Guests can expect to see new packaging and store signage beginning later this summer...The new logo and whirl is a modern interpretation of our classic Jamba logo and features clean, handwritten script, new emerald green brand color and our evolved “Whirl” that draws from the beautiful hues of the fruits and vegetables we use every day."

And to improve the brand's digital footprint, "Jamba is revamping its e-commerce platform to be more responsive, easier to access, and faster than ever. Jamba is releasing an all new mobile-friendly website and mobile app geared to the on-the-go guest who is looking to access Jamba anywhere. The new app, available for iOS and Android, has been built from the ground up to include the customization and personalization features that our guests have been asking for, including order ahead capabilities, nutritional preferences, integrated gift cards, and an all new loyalty program powered by the Punchh platform. Jamba is making our guests’ on-the-go wellness journey even more rewarding than ever before."

What are some key take-aways of this brand transformation? The name emphasis on juice and beverages may be gone, but the possibility for new products looms on the horizon. And it is clear from everything the top leadership team has said that the brand values its fan base and understands its passion for its products. But a name change is still a name change - just think back to the surprise name change by IHOP last year, when it changed its name to IHOB to shift its emphasis from pancakes to hamburgers.

So, what branding lessons can your brand learn from the Jamba name change?

Image Credit: Jamba

Monday, May 13, 2019

Does Your Brand Walk in Your Customer's Shoes?

Call me a little old-fashioned because I may be one of the last remaining people on the planet who still use a printer, and specifically, a color printer. The reason is simple: sometimes, I encounter documents that I want to keep or re-read at a later date. But to do that, I need a printer. For those of you who may be concerned, I support the environment and always use recycled paper. Recently, I had an in-store experience at office superstore Staples that was not worthy of clicking the brands “easy button.”

I wanted to purchase new ink cartridges for my printer, and I needed four: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Unfortunately, the store only had the individual cartridges for my printer. Normally, the four cartridges come in one single package at a lower price than each individual cartridge. Each cartridge costs about $20 for a total of $80. But when the four cartridges are sold as a set, the cost is somewhere between $60 to $70. So, there was a difference of $10 to $20, that I was now going to have to pay.

At the check-out counter, I explained the price difference to the salesperson and mentioned that there were no sets on display. So, I asked if Staples could match the price of the set and charge me the lower price – instead of charging me the total of four individual cartridges.

The salesperson adamantly shook his head and told me that my request could not be honored. He did not even attempt to find a manager or ask any other employees. He made the decision immediately.

So, since I had items to print and didn’t really have time to waste, my hands were tied. I purchased the four individual ink cartridges and left the store, but as I walked to my car, I wondered about the amount of customer service training provided at this particular Staples store. Was the Staples mantra of every customer interaction being easy, or a click of the Staples “easy button,” merely words? Do the stores only carry limited products to force customers to spend more? Would the salesperson have treated members of Staples
leadership team the same way if they had been customers and secret shoppers? And finally, did the salesperson realize that he was providing a lousy customer experience?

Had I been the salesperson and not been able to match the lower price item, I would have responded in one of the following ways:

  • “I’m really sorry that we don’t have the set you want to purchase in stock. How about if I order it online for you and expedite shipping to you at no cost?”
  • “I’m so sorry that we don’t have the exact item you want in our store. I’d like to make your next visit a better one, so here’s a ten-dollar gift card with no expiration date.”
  • “I’m so sorry, but I’m unable to price match. But here’s a free ream of paper for you.”

If you had been the salesperson, what would you have done to avoid alienating me – and making sure I go to Office Depot the next time I need ink cartridges or any other office supplies?

Finally, a reminder from Shep Hyken (@Hyken on Twitter), “When I refer to amazing customer service, I’m not suggesting that every interaction you and your company has with a customer has to be an “over the top” experience. The key is that they are always at least a little better than average. (Always is not easy). ”

Image Credit: Jenn David Design (