Monday, May 16, 2016

Secrets to Get Your Brand in Lights!

As Walter Landor once said, "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." So how much effort does your business or nonprofit allocate toward branding? If you don't spend time and effort building your brand, you won't be the Nike, Disney, or Coca-Cola in your industry.

I recently met Bill Ellis on Twitter, and since we share a passion for branding, we had an interesting discussion. Here's a brief introduction before the highlights below: Bill works with business owners and professionals who want to increase their value to better serve others and achieve stratospheric success. His experience, perspective, and insights drive powerful results including clarity of purpose, executable strategies, business growth, and personal fulfillment. As the principal of Branding for Results, Bill works as a coach, speaker, and thought partner and is a certified Go-Giver speaker and coach. Connect on Twitter @WCEllis, Instagram @wcellis, LinkedIn, and visit his website Branding for Results. 

What is a fearless brand, and why should a brand desire to be one?
BILL ELLIS: Let me start by defining a brand. First, it’s important to understand that the meaning is the same for a personal brand, a company brand, a product, or a service. Your brand, a brand, is the value that you offer. A brand is the value proposition which is defined by the combination of purpose/passion, skills/assets/attributes, and relevance.

A fearless brand is built on a base of authenticity and is one which has complete conviction in its value and relevance. A fearless brand accepts both its strengths and shortcomings at face value, is committed to growing its value, and keeps its focus on the needs of the people it serves.

It's very important for brands to conduct audits on a regular basis. How do you define the three stages of a brand audit?
BILL ELLIS: The purpose of a brand audit is to obtain an impartial and expert assessment of your brand. Think of it similar to an accounting audit where an independent CPA is brought in to review your books, to verify and validate your financial situation, and to identify areas of improvement or concern. Your brand is your most valuable asset so it’s important to treat it as such. My brand audit has three overlying stages – the 3D’s of my brand audit:
* Discovery – This phase is comprised of learning, investigating, inquiring and seeking. Speaking with the business owner, key stakeholders to understand how they define their brand and its current messaging.
* Development – Phase II begins with a deeper dive into the brand via interviews across a broader slice of stakeholders – including employees and customers both past and present.
* Deliverable – The final phase of my brand audit is defined by my assessing all of the information, connecting the dots and then providing recommended actions which fall under one of three headings – Start, Stop or Continue. Discussions then take place to address any questions or strategic needs the client may have.

You've established something called the "Seven C's of Branding," what are they?
BILL ELLIS: I developed my Seven C’s of Branding as the result of my transformation from a marketing executive at Anheuser-Busch to a solo provider of business services. I present the C’s in a linear fashion, yet all seven of them interact and occur simultaneously.
*Control – Determine what can and cannot be controlled in order to make the most from one’s efforts – and to avoid wasting energy and time on those things which will not yield tangible results.
*Clarity – Perhaps the single most important “C,” clarity is where the work is done to identify purpose and passion and then talents, assets, and skills in order to identify the most effective value proposition. It is here that the work is done to validate what is the brand’s relevance and to whom.
*Conviction – It is at this stage that a brand knows that it is optimized – that it has become a fearless brand.
*Conversion – The intangibles of the first three C’s need to be converted to tangibles which define and communicate the brand’s essence.
*Communication – Determining what the correct message is, how to best package it and which delivery channel(s) are most effective.
*Connections – Creating connections with customers, prospects, and brand advocates.
*Consistency – A critical “C.” Consistency does several things, notably, it reinforces the brand’s value and message at every single touch point and it builds trust. Trust leads to more repeat customers, more referrals, and an expectation that the value sought from your brand will always be delivered.

You spent many years at one of the most well-known brands in the beverage industry. What three brand tips can every brand learn from Anheuser-Busch?
BILL ELLIS: I learned a great deal during my 25+ years in brand management at Anheuser-Busch so narrowing it down to three is a challenge.
*Know how your brand meets the needs of those you will serve.
*Be flexible in your strategy as the market dictates.
*Avoid change for the sake of change.

What's your favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: I’ve reviewed and written about and worked on so many brands I can’t select just one. I’ll just point out the two most ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ brands I’ve featured on my Building Fearless Brands blog. Those are Judge Judy and Jack Daniel’s…draw your own conclusions.

What's your least favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: Any brand which is disingenuous, deceptive, or has just awful marketing – sadly there are far too many to list.

Most businesses have added to their C-level suite with a Chief Talent Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and even a Chief Customer Officer. When will businesses create Chief Branding Officers?
BILL ELLIS: I don’t foresee the majority of companies creating the position of Chief Branding Officer…nor should they. What I would rather them do is adopt a philosophy of providing the greatest value possible to their customers, vendors, and most importantly, their employees. I would hope they learn to focus more on the human brands that are at the core of their success.

A big thank you to Bill for appearing on my blog!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leadership Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Whenever I think about leadership, I think about Eric Jacobson. Today, I would like to welcome Eric back to my blog. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog twice as a featured guest and countless other times with quotes. Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. Eric’s passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire. Recently, Eric and I had a conversation about the changing nature of leadership, and highlights follow below. For more about Eric, visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter.

QUESTION: I had a discussion with a fellow customer experience colleague (@AnnetteFranz) and she mentioned that heads of businesses should refer to themselves as executives rather than leaders. This comment has remained with me. Why do you believe there is such a lack of quality leadership today?
ERIC: There is a lack of quality leadership for a couple different reasons. Often, people who excel at a technical level within an organization are promoted to a management position only to discover that they either have no desire to be a leader and/or lack the skills to effectively lead. They hold the “executive” title but aren’t effective leaders. At other times, individuals who start out as effective leaders become less effective when they focus their attention on meeting the needs of Boards and investment bankers rather than their employees. These often conflicting situations keep these executives from truly LEADING their businesses.

QUESTION: There's a new book entitled "Superbosses" by Sydney Finkelstein. The book received the following praise from Millard Drexler, Chairman and CEO of J. Crew Group: "A smart leader surrounds himself with smart people. Through the book, Finkelstein showed the surprising ways leaders actually find, develop, and grow a team of curious, talented individuals." What are three ways YOU think a super boss grows a team of talented employees?
ERIC: Here are my three:
1. Ensure that each team member clearly understands his or her role on the team and understand the team’s mission. Discourage any one team member from “being a hero.”
2. View disagreement as a good thing and allow team members to constructively express their viewpoints. Encourage the team to steer away from groupthink.
3. Ideally seek to allow each team member's success dependent on another team member's to foster collaboration across all functions.

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer): “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
ERIC: This is a great quote and such important advice for leaders. To me, it means trust your employees and get out of their way so they can do their jobs. Don’t sidetrack them from getting their most important work done by injecting tasks that don’t support the primary task at hand. Allow them to take risks and to fail. Then, use those situations as learning opportunities. It also means to me, remove obstacles within the organization. Remove outdated and no longer needed policies or processes. And when it comes to being trusted as a leader, do what you say you will do. Deliver on your commitments. And, don’t promise something you aren’t going to provide.

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.” What three tips can YOU provide to create this type of leader?
(Here's the link to my post about this news:
ERIC: Here are my three:
1.  Listen to all sides of an issue and provide individuals with a safe environment to express their opinions.
2.   Help educate and inform those you work with so that they, too, can understand the fullest spectrum of the collective viewpoints.
3.   Share and explain how coming to a consensus nearly always wins out over making no decision.

QUESTION: How can a CEO/President define or set the direction for his or her company's culture?
ERIC: Explain it. Believe it. Be it. Live it. In other words, walk the talk. Lead by example. Clearly demonstrate your support of the culture.  Fully support the employees who, and the actions that, contribute to the desired company culture.

QUESTION: What have you learned from your three favorite leaders?
ERIC: From my favorite workplace leader, I learned to listen to both sides of an issue because the truth is likely in the middle of the two sides. From a fellow Rotarian, I learned to lead with a “can-do” attitude. That positivity and enthusiasm is contagious. It drives success. From all leaders who do this, I learned to be decisive. Make decisions. Don’t stalemate yourself or your employees by being indecisive.

My sincere gratitude to Eric for sharing his leadership insights again on my blog. Check out his two previous appearances at the links below:

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Friday, April 29, 2016

Five #PR Lessons from the Kelly and Michael Drama

Recently, the on-air talent for the morning television show “Live! With Kelly and Michael” experienced some unwanted publicity. A change in personnel was announced, and very unexpectedly, the two stars BECAME the news. ABC apparently informed Kelly about Michael’s departure from the show just minutes before the public announcement. Naturally, Kelly was upset and angry and opted out of appearing on the daytime talk show for four days. Upon her return, the two presented a united public face, but there may be tension behind-the-scenes. As a result of this public drama, we can all learn some valuable lessons about public relations.


Think about Kelly’s complaint about being blind sighted by the news announcement. Whether you work in a mom-and-pop store, a small business, or a nonprofit, how news is communicated can be just as important as the news that is being communicated. Therefore, assemble the people who will be most impacted by the announcement and share the news one-on-one. Let people digest the news and answer all questions at that time before announcing the news to the entire company – or to the public.


Was ABC’s announcement made at the best possible time? When you plan a significant announcement for your business, consider the day, the time, and the month. It might be best to make an announcement at the end of a month or the end of a quarter. Perhaps, your business has reached a financial milestone, so an announcement makes sense at that time. But whatever decision you make, implement a timing strategy for your announcement.


Think about the content of ABC’s announcement
a change in personnel hasn’t happened too often over the years, so it was bound to attract media coverage but certainly not the HOW and WHEN of the announcement. When a new announcement is made, employees and the outside community often look at the announcement by placing it in context with your company’s past news announcements and/or product/service launches. Therefore, does the latest announcement seem in line with the direction of the company, or does it seem like it came out of left field? Don’t confuse your audiences or stakeholders.

Think about how Kelly took a few days off to think about her reaction. She then returned to the show with a smile on her face. If unexpected things happen upon making a public announcement, your executive or leadership team must be prepared to admit a lack of judgment or erroneous information. They need to be comfortable in front of a camera and dealing with members of the media. Your company’s future could be at stake, so your media preparation is critical.

Immediately upon hearing the announcement, many social media channels lit up with the hashtag #KellyandMichael with all types of comments. Upon hearing unexpected news, don’t immediately rush to your favorite social media platforms. Remember that once something is posted to the Internet, it takes on a life of its own, and you cannot take it back or delete it. Therefore, keep your comments to yourself. If you have to tell someone, tell yourself in a mirror at home – not to the receptionist at your workplace – and definitely not on Twitter or Facebook.

Lastly, remember that everything your business does is in some way reflected outside your workplace walls. Even if you run a small business or small nonprofit, you have an audience, customers, constituents, and stakeholders. Since you want your news announcements to be met with a positive reaction, think strategically before publicizing your news to avoid as many surprising reactions as possible.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Poor Customer Service Can Seriously Damage a Brand's Reputation

Recently, I visited a restaurant in Southern California that's part of a national chain. While the restaurant has linen napkins, it doesn't have table cloths. So it's somewhere between a McDonald's and a restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.

After my friend and I were seated, the waitress walked by our table a few times without acknowledging us. When she finally stopped at the table, I asked what the soup of the day was. Unfortunately, my question served as a distraction and stopped her from being able to deliver her standard script, "Hello, I'm (her name), and I will be your server. Can I offer you something to drink while you look at the menu?"

I ordered a cappuccino, but she said that she thought the espresso machine was not working. This seemed odd, especially since it was a sunny Sunday in Southern California, which meant that everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. How could there not be a repair person working on the restaurant's espresso machine?

The waitress said she would check on the espresso machine and let me know. I had to stop the waitress twice as she walked by my table to inquire about the machine. No surprise, it was not working. As the customer, though, I should not have had to ask for this information. The right thing to do in this instance was to apologize on behalf of the restaurant for a non-functioning espresso machine and then offer something comparable to drink. Perhaps, she could have said, "We've got these delicious fruit smoothies, we'll provide one on the house if you'd like to try one." But the server didn't think outside the box at all.

And this was not the end of my poor customer experience. The food was delivered, but I had asked for butter and jelly to accompany my English muffin when I ordered - not a crazy request. No butter and jelly arrived with my scrambled eggs. I asked the person who delivered the food. A minute passed. Then another, and another, and finally my eggs were gone. The English muffin remained and was now cold. Since no one ever returned to the table, I walked over to the food prep area and requested butter and jelly. When the waitress finally returned to the table, she said, "I have other tables you know."

While everyone has a bad day now and then, when you work with people - and depend on people for your business in the hospitality industry - you cannot afford to treat customers rudely. It will come as no surprise that I spoke to the manager following this experience. He agreed that the level of service was sub-par, and he paid for my meal and my friend's meal. But, as many of us in the customer experience marketing sector say on a regular basis, I would be much happier to pay for a meal that accompanies quality service than receive a free meal as a result of an awful experience. How about you? And as you can imagine, this restaurant has lost a customer.

Friday, April 1, 2016

When Creating a Product Name, ONE WORD Can Make a Difference

On International Women’s Day in March 2016, a famous company known around the world for one of its products became THE NEWS as a result of a new product launch announced earlier this year. The company is Mattel, the product known around the world is Barbie – and the new product’s name is “Interim CEO Barbie.” From a marketing perspective, why would a company made famous by its adult woman doll launch a professional businesswoman doll and add the word “Interim?” This product name seems rather odd.

Before we analyze the reasons for this move, we need to take a walk back through history. In 1945, Ruth and Elliot Handler started their company, Mattel, combining Elliot's name with the last name of their partner, Harold Matson. In 1956, the Handlers took their two teenage children, Barbara and Ken, on a trip to Europe, and during the trip, they saw a doll that looked like an adult woman. This doll was much different from the baby dolls that most little girls played with back in America.

Ruth was inspired, and three years later, Mattel’s version of the adult doll, which she named after her daughter, debuted and became a big success. The Barbie doll also had a wardrobe of outfits that could be purchased separately. In 1960, the Handlers took Mattel public, and Barbie quickly became an icon, with a wardrobe and career options that mirrored women’s changing goals.

Ruth Handler said in a 1977 interview with The New York Times, “Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future. If she was going to do role-playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave the doll beautiful breasts. And Barbie kept pace with the times. During Camelot, she sported a Jacqueline Kennedy hairdo. During the 1970’s, her career choices and outfits begin to change to include a doctor, astronaut and veterinarian, among others. My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, a girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

According to the BBC News, “Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising, which has been copied widely by other toys. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.”

So, with all the emphasis on career options and women’s choices, why would Mattel create a new Barbie with the name of INTERIM CEO? According to Heidrick and Struggles, a recruiting firm, women now hold 20 percent of corporate board seats among Fortune 500 companies, up from 19 percent in 2013 and 17 percent in 2009. If those numbers are correct, it will take 28 years before women comprise 50 percent of corporate board seats. While the percentage of female Fortune 500 board leaders is still staggeringly low, it's nearly twice that of female CEOs, who make up just 4.6 percent of those companies (as of June 29, 2015).

Back to Mattel’s decision for this new doll’s name. Who wants to grow up to become an INTERIM CEO? How does that title motivate a young girl or teenager who sees the new doll on the Target or Walmart shelf or on More importantly, how would a parent explain the title to his or her child so that the child understands this individual’s role and value in a business? Above all, why would a young adult want to grow up and become an INTERIM CEO?

Renee Chanon, former President of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and a retired public affairs consultant, explained, “Mattel may want us to believe that the new Barbie is empowering girls, but it’s really telling them to settle for second best.”

But wait a minute! Have you checked your calendar today? Yes, that’s right, it’s April 1st, and that means it’s April Fool’s Day. So, if you had doubts that this story about a new doll from Mattel with the name “Interim CEO” was fake, you would be correct. While Barbie has been a football coach, dentist, yoga teacher, veterinarian, United States Air Force jet pilot, UNICEF summit diplomat, firefighter, police officer, architect, chef, astronaut, architect, film director, and ballerina, she has never been an “Interim CEO.”

However, on March 8, 2016, this story was reported in the Los Angeles media by a well known and very respected business reporter. After learning that this story was fake, I reached out to the reporter, the radio station’s news desk, and Mattel. Unfortunately, I did not receive any email or letter from the reporter, the radio station, nor Mattel – and I sent a letter to the CEO, the President, and the media inquiry office.

This Barbie story caused me to reflect how businesses respond to crisis communications. Do most businesses have crisis communications plans in place? Do they respond in social media? Or do they disappear under a rock with the hope that a bad news story quickly disappears? Certainly, a bigger news story will push fake stories away from reporters’ desks, such as, international terror attacks or plane crashes, but reporters should take ownership for their goofs and admit when they get a story wrong.

Reporters are brands – just as products and services are brands – and they must realize that their reports are representations of their personal brands. So the next time I hear a report that sounds odd, I probably won’t even question it, but will instead, go with my gut and know it’s too odd to be true. If I had been able to discuss this story with Ruth Handler, she would have known immediately that the Los Angeles reporter had been wrong – because of one word in the product’s name!

Original Report:   

Obituary of Ruth Handler in The New York Times:

List of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies 

Image Credit: Photo of Dr. Barbie by Debbie Laskey.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why Should You Care About Your Brand's #CustomerExperience?

Thanks to social media, the world is definitely getting smaller. Every day, we meet new people through our social channels, whether we’re connected to them directly or via our first or second level connections. Recently, someone from 3,000 miles away viewed one of my Tweets and made a kind comment. I responded, and we realized that we’re both enthusiastic "customer experience marketing" ambassadors. A conversation followed, and highlights are featured below. 

I would like to introduce Kevin Leifer to my blog. Kevin is passionate about retail, specifically aligning a brand's expectations of its customers' experiences with consistent execution in-store. With expertise in leading clients toward a transparent omnichannel (online, in-store, call center, and mobile) experience, Kevin and his company work with clients to define the desired customer experience and use a suite of tools (including Mystery Shopping, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, and Customer Intercepts) to measure that experience. I recommend you follow him on Twitter @KevinLeifer – and you can also find him on LinkedIn and on his website.

And now, highlights of our conversation…

[1] How do you explain the difference between customer service and customer experience?
KEVIN: Customer service refers to the interaction between customer and brand/associate. Customer experience accounts for all touchpoints that a customer experiences in interacting with a brand, including leading up to a purchase, the transaction itself, product use, and any service or post-purchase interactions. Much has been written about this over the past couple of years, as many people were interchanging these terms. They are distinctly different, in that customer service is one of the MANY elements of the entire customer experience.

[2] What are the three things that every employee should learn so that he/she provides a memorable and positive customer experience in the retail space?
KEVIN: Creating a positive memorable experience is part art and part science. While there are many skills necessary to do this correctly and consistently, I would narrow them down to the following:

Listening: It is imperative that associates listen to customers to truly understand their needs. Otherwise, it’s extremely difficult to satisfy those needs. This goes beyond keeping quiet while the customer is speaking. Active listening is a skill that includes confirming what has been said, asking additional questions to obtain more details when necessary, and ensuring the customer has completed his/her thought before moving on. Active listening will not only help the associate understand the customer's shopping mission, but also gain the customer’s trust early in the interaction, as the customer will appreciate that the associate is focused on the engagement. This rapport is necessary to drive the conversation and create a memorable experience.

Product Knowledge: Nearly every brand has a website (or many) dedicated to the product details for every SKU they carry, mostly accompanied by photos/videos of these products in action as well as customer reviews. Customers come to brick-and-mortar stores because they need more than what they can find online. Associates need to be well-versed in the products in their stores, having personally used them whenever possible. Once an associate understands a customer's needs via active listening, he/she will need to match those needs to the most appropriate product in the store. Without the knowledge of the store's inventory, including how items differ from each other, it will be difficult to match customers with appropriate solutions.

Suggestive Selling: Building the sale is a skill that is vital to retail, regardless of the channel a customer uses. When done well, it’s mutually beneficial. The transaction value grows, and the customer benefits from a more complete solution. While recommending the best solution, associates have many opportunities to increase the sale based on the addition of complimentary items, i.e., various accessories for a phone/camera (electronics), a belt to go with pants (apparel), low-salt Swiss cheese to go with store-baked turkey (deli), etc. The potential pairings are endless. These obvious and appropriate pairings are far different from offering every customer the random promotional/push item of the week. The conversion rate of suggestive selling greatly increases when the customer views it as a natural part of the conversation and in line with their needs (versus the associate attempting "to sell" something).

The goal of any retailer is to create a great experience today so customers come back the next time they have a need and, in the meantime, tell friends and family about their positive experience (which will drive even more traffic to the store). Consistently delivering an experience that incorporates all of the above is key to this cycle.

[3] When consumers think about customer experience marketing, they often think of a visit to a Disney theme park or a visit to their local Starbucks café. But how can other retail venues, such as, clothing stores, car dealerships, gas stations, etc., create similar experiences?
KEVIN: Both Disney and Starbucks have mastered incorporating emotion into the customer experience. Disney's messaging focuses on the magic and the lifetime memories they help create, almost always incorporating family into their imagery. Starbucks was at the forefront of the experiential economy, creating a "third place" that was neither home nor work, but a place to go to escape, if only for a short time. Both of these brands have positioned themselves as destinations by focusing on how the customer benefits by visiting them.

Other retailers can move in the same direction if they consistently deliver a unique brand experience. Defining the expected customer experience must begin with a brand promise: What can customers expect from your brand? It is critical for retailers to link the brand experience to the brand promise. Making promises you can’t deliver (or deliver consistently) is setting your business up for failure.

Apparel stores can focus on how customers feel when they wear the brand’s clothes, or convey the experiences customers should have in the brand’s clothes. Car dealerships can craft the customer experience based on their target market, i.e., sports cars, luxury cars, etc. and get customers thinking about the destinations they will reach and the memories they will make in the specific brand cars. While a stop at a gas station (typically a very transactional interaction) may never equate to a Disney visit, the intent would be to up-level the customer engagement in a manner that would promote repeat visits.

The in-store experience should then parallel and reaffirm emotions evoked through the brand promise. It all comes down to the associate, who personifies the brand. Remember, the staff (also known as Cast Members) at Disney theme parks plays a very large part in the magic felt in their parks.

[4] Bill Gates is quoted for saying that an upset customer is an opportunity to create a long-term customer. How do you interpret his quote in terms of the Microsoft brand?
KEVIN: Customer feedback is a gift. Aside from the hundreds of thousands of data points we collect through mystery shopping each year, ICC/Decision Services receives 3 million customer surveys annually from our clients' customers. Not all of this feedback is positive, nor would we want it to be. When a customer tells us about an experience that differs from his/her expectations or previous experiences, we have an opportunity to correct that experience for all the customers that follow. This feedback also allows our clients to make the situation right with the customer. It would be very easy for an unhappy customer to move on to the competition, never to return. Not only are we saving the lifetime value of the customer, but we’re also helping the client create a very positive experience from one that did not begin that way. This gives the customer a much better story to tell about the brand, encouraging more people to use the brand, shop at its stores, etc.

[5] I recently visited a well-known store in California and when I attempted to make a purchase, I was told, “Our computers are down. You’ll have to come back.” Well, my car was parked in a garage where the clock was ticking and charging by the minute. I did not want to come back to the store. I wondered why the clerk didn’t offer me a discount on a future purchase or even offer to order the item for me from the 800 number. Bottom line, I walked out disappointed with the belief that I would never buy from that store again. How would you have handled this situation?
KEVIN: There are so many options available to that associate, regardless of the systems issue at the time. My first recommendation for the associate would have been to order the item via a mobile device (while you were in the store) and have it shipped to arrive at your home the next day. While I’m certain that the associate must have felt helpless due to the systems issues, management must ensure that associates are aware of all the options available and BE EMPOWERED to make the decisions necessary to meet customer needs. Asking that customers "come back at a later time” is inviting them to shop the competition. The key is to find a way to capture the sale while the customer remains in the store not only eases the situation for the customer, but also protects the revenue for the business.

[6] What is your favorite customer service story?
KEVIN: My favorite personal customer service experience was with the kitchen staff at Disney World. My wife and I took our then 5-year-old son, Aidan, there a few years ago. It was my wife’s and son’s first visit. Like many great planners, I was on the Disney site making dinner reservations months in advance. During the reservation process, the Disney employee specifically asked for any special requests or food allergies. This alone gave me a great feeling of safety, as my son has an allergy to tree nuts. We carry an Epi-Pen at all times and are very careful with his meals.

When we arrived for dinner the first night, the chef came out to our table, greeted us, and introduced himself as the executive chef for the restaurant. He proceeded to walk us through the different food stations throughout the restaurant (it was a buffet style restaurant), pointing out the specific items we should avoid as well as those that were completely safe for Aidan to enjoy. The chef also described several of the food-prep processes the staff follows to avoid cross contamination in the kitchen. The restaurant experiences for the remainder of our trip closely followed this same depth of caring, which we completely appreciated.

We had an early dinner reservation toward the middle of our trip, followed by a dessert party at Tomorrowland Terrace, which provided an amazing view of the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle. The chef brought Aidan a plate of desserts he knew to be nut-free, showed him a binder that listed all the ingredients for each of the desserts, and asked if there was anything else he would like, offering to get it from the kitchen. Aidan asked for a brownie, which the chef hurried off to retrieve. He returned about 10 minutes later with a brownie wrapped in plastic. The chef apologized for the delay, saying he had to run across the park to get it from a different restaurant because his kitchen had run out of brownies. This was truly an above-and-beyond experience on top of very high standards set by the various on-site restaurants throughout the week. Not only did the employees go out of their way during each meal to let us know they were aware of Aidan’s allergy, but they treated Aidan like a king.

My sincere thanks to Kevin for sharing his customer experience marketing insights. What have you learned to improve your brand's customer experience?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Has Twitter Impacted Your Brand?

Image Credit: Twitter
With the recent celebration of Twitter's 10th anniversary, there are some in the mainstream media and especially the financial media who question Twitter's impact. The financial value may not be as strong as that of other social networks, such as, Facebook and LinkedIn, but there is no doubt that Twitter has become an influential item in the marketing tool box.

If your President, CEO, or entire leadership team questions the validity of Twitter and why you should develop a presence on this social platform, here are five ways that you can use Twitter - no matter what your industry is - to build your brand.

[1] Customer Service
While a common use of Twitter may be customer upset over airplane delays or poor restaurant experiences, the ability for a customer to interact with your brand in real time cannot be surpassed by any other social network. There is a recognized hashtag #servicefail used by many in the Twitterverse (Twitter universe) to indicate displeasure with a customer experience - and the appearance of this hashtag in a Tweet makes it guaranteed to appear in any search for poor service. And when a Tweet is included in a search, others in the Twitterverse will see it. You don't want your brand or company name to be included in these types of searches!

[2] Brand Listening
With a few short and easy-to-remember words or phrases - or even taglines - you can monitor what customers, prospects, and the media say in real time about your brand. Hashtags with your brand or brands, business name, or even your tagline if it's short (think #JustDoIt for Nike) will create easy-to-follow search threads.

[3] Event Promotion
Whether you're a for-profit business or a nonprofit organization, event attendees like to talk about events leading up to an event and also during an event. Think about award ceremonies, technology tradeshows, and galas. You can create a hashtag for the event and then watch the comments. Think about the #SuperBowl, the #WorldSeries, and even #2016PresidentialRace - these are just some of the events that create real time opportunities for discussion.

[4] Tweet Chats
Twitter has a unique capability called Tweet Chats. You can set a time and create a hashtag, and for 30 or 60 minutes, host a virtual discussion. These Tweet Chats exist for nearly every subject and are hosted by many brands. You can attract potential customers and make new connections for your brand - and easily feature an expert from your company or invite an industry expert to participate on behalf of your brand or business.

Check out this schedule of Tweet Chats:

Learn the basics for hosting a Tweet Chat:

And lastly...

[5] Competitor Research
Have you ever wondered what was happening with your key competitors but didn't know how to find out before a new product or service launched? NOW you can easily find out. Follow your competitors on Twitter, and you will learn all the news that they share in real time. If there are hashtags for unique products in your industry, then searches using these terms will automatically find them. And with Twitter, your searches are not shared with the world - as opposed to LinkedIn, where your searches and activity can be tracked.

So if you haven't yet jumped into Twitter, create a strategy about the content you will share, develop a distribution schedule, and join the conversation, or convo in shortened Twitter lingo. You may even attract new customers, but you won't know until you try. Above all, respond to Tweets in real time - or as soon as possible - don't leave a fellow Tweeter hanging - it's similar to not returning a voicemail or email.