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Now, it's my pleasure to tell you about a few examples of great customer service that I enjoyed recently and the valuable takeaway to keep in mind.
Story #1: A Little Extra Effort
Two of my kids and I were eating lunch at our hometown Chipotle.
I walked up near the cashier's side of the counter to get some extra sour cream – because, yeah, I consume too much sour cream.
The entire crew was very busy serving the lunch crowd. So, after waiting maybe a minute for an opening to talk with the cashier, I went back to my table, realizing that she would be tied up for a while.
Within a couple of minutes, Caroline the cashier came up to our table and said, "Hi, I saw you standing near the counter. Can I help you with something?"
I don't believe I had ever experienced that type of proactive service in a restaurant before. Caroline had an awareness of me as a customer - even though she was very busy - and then followed up as quickly as possible to see how she could help. And she did it with a sincere smile.
That may seem like a little thing, but so often with so many other types of businesses, I've seen much more obvious customer service opportunities pass by without a staff member seeming to care.
Story #2: A Very Valuable Effort
My wife called me one day in January to let me know that her van had just made "a serious noise" and that it didn't want to move.
Broken rear axle.
We had it towed to a shop that a few friends recommended - Continental Service. John from Continental called me an hour later with good news: our vehicle had been recalled a few months before we bought it because of the axle issue.
John's research - and his commitment to helping his customers - saved us $1,100.
He saved us an additional $300 when he realized that another problem with the van was likely caused by the tow truck. The towing company agreed and paid for the repair.
By that point, I was falling head-over-heels in love with John.
A few weeks after repairing our vehicle and saving us a load of loot in the process, we received a card from John thanking us for our business.
An actual thank you card! From an auto repair shop! Have you ever even dared to dream of such a thing?
Both Caroline and John went above and beyond to help me. Yes, one "just" brought me a cup of sour cream and the other saved me $1,400, but I wrote this blog post about both of them. I've told friends about both. I contacted Chipotle Corporate to share the story about Caroline, and I offered to work with John on some of his marketing free of charge because I wanted to help him as he had helped me.
Outstanding customer service is so rare these days that it's almost shocking to those who experience it. It can produce in people an instant lifelong connection with a brand. And in the two examples above, the extra effort didn't cost either company a dime.
Marketing and advertising are essential for your business, but even the best marketing and advertising won't guarantee your success. Make sure those efforts are always driving your audience to a positive, memorable customer experience; one worth talking about! That's what'll keep your customers coming back and perpetuating the best advertising of all: great word-of-mouth.
RELATED POST: Are You Delivering Cold Drinks?
Thirty years ago I used to go to a little Sunday morning flea market down the road from my home.
There was a man there each week who sold old books.
One Sunday, I walked up to his table and began looking at one of his items. He hurried over to me and began telling me all about the book and why it was such a great piece.
After a minute or two of interesting conversation, I put the book down and told him that, as nice as it was, it was a bit out of my price range.
Just as quickly as the book man had approached me, he walked away. Our "conversation" was immediately over. He was upset that I wasn't going to buy the book, and, presumably, that I had wasted his time.
Three decades later, I can still see the sour look on his face.
I went to that flea market for many years after that incident, but somehow never managed to get around to his table ever again.
Sure, you want to sell what you have to sell, but not everyone's ready or able to buy from you, at least right now.
But if you can give your best effort and attitude to even casual shoppers, you'll engender positive feelings that are likely to pay off down the road in the form of purchases, personal recommendations and positive reviews.
Talk with your staff about serving people wherever they may - or may not - be in the buying cycle. Remind them that every encounter is a chance to grow a relationship, though it might take months or years to bloom.
And if nothing comes of an encounter, at least your brand won't be the source of a sour-faced memory.
Isn't it great when you can turn a negative into a positive?
Putting your callers on hold, for instance. You know that none of them want to be on hold, but so often you don't have another option.
The good news is you can choose to make the time your callers spend on hold more enjoyable.
Look at some of the things people have said about Humor On Hold from BusinessVoice:
- "You actually want to wait on hold and hear what is said next."
- "Funny (and effective) stuff."
- "We have even had customers ask to be put back on hold to finish hearing the message."
Negative into a positive? You bet!
Read more quotes, and learn about the "dangers" and rewards of using humorous marketing content in the blog post "Why You Should Risk Being Funny."
Have you noticed that it takes three minutes for the weather guy on the morning news to tell you that it's going to rain today?
By the time I try to process the excessive information and dizzying array of graphics in the average forecast, I've missed the answer to my simple question: Do I need to wear a coat to work?
So, consider these questions when you're crafting marketing messages.
1) Is the content you're providing visually overwhelming for your audience? Is the copy too long? Do the colors or images or video editing style detract from what you want people to remember?
2) Will your message be presented to a distracted audience? People too busy to notice your TV spot because they're getting the kids ready for school? Drivers passing your digital billboard on a busy stretch of road that requires their attention?
3) Does your audience even want or need the information you're providing? Frankly, I couldn't care less about WHY it's going to be cold tomorrow, just that it is.
I'll admit that my attention span and memory are shrinking by the quart, but also, I don't want to invest a relatively large amount of time to get a simple piece of information, like the hidden phone number on a website.
In an attempt to wow their audience with forecasting technology, TV stations have made it tougher for many of us to get the simple information we need. Don't make the same mistake with your marketing and communications.
As is so often the case, less is more.
How will you become a more effective marketer in 2016?
Which skills will you develop?
How do you hope to improve your company or the ways you serve customers?
Here's how a few of our staff members answered those questions.
Charley Hobbs, Lead Developer: "I want to learn more advanced coding techniques and strategies. That will help us expand our dynamic web capabilities and allow us to provide more solutions for our clients."
Andrea Poteet, Creative Consultant: "I'd like to sharpen my humor writing, and then find new ways to use humorous content."
Valerie Likens, Executive VP of Fulfillment: "I would like to continue to learn about communication to improve our organization. Effective communication is essential to help departments run smoothly and keep our clients and employees happy."
Michael Deffely, Project Manager: "Overall, I want to create, serve, learn, and grow as much as possible this year. Specifically, I'd like to optimize our processes and create a more refined work flow. I also want to improve my knowledge of server and hosting issues."
Jessica Miller, Content Strategist: "I want to find more ways of producing engaging, valuable content that work with our clients' budgets."
Cody McCloskey, Creative Consultant: "I'd like to fine-tune my humor. Being funny has always been a part of my life, but since I joined Mad Ave Group I've been able to use humor as part of my work for clients, so it's even more important to me."
There's always more to discover about marketing and advertising. So we encourage you to keep learning. Please let us know if we can help in any way in 2016, whether you need a marketing partner, want specific services, or would just like some input on a problem you're facing.
Happy New Year from all of us at Mad Ave Group.
Two recent posts to the BusinessVoice Blog are based on questions or objections that we hear from current and potential clients.
They may be questions or objections you've had, too.
If you think your company doesn't put callers on hold long enough to justify using On Hold Marketing, this post will give you a different perspective to consider. Read "Short Average Hold Times?"
And if you're an IT professional or in charge of vetting OHM providers, read "Common Technical Questions from On Hold Marketing Buyers." It should put your mind at ease.
By the way, if you'd like to hear a few of the ways On Hold Marketing can be used, check out the videos on our On Hold Marketing of the Month page. You'll hear a sexy take here, a sensitive approach here, and examples of humor here, here and here.
You can't control what your competitors do, but you can control how you react when your market starts to get a little crowded.
Our SensoryMax agency refers to it as adding "layers" to your brand. It doesn't involve changing your product or service; it's more about enhancing the experience consumers have with your environments and what you sell, as well as making it easier to remember your brand.
Abe Lincoln: Marketer?
Maybe not in the way we think of marketers these days, but the 16th president sure knew how to get an important idea across to his audience.
Today - November 19, 2015 - marks the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and it occurred to me that there might be a few valuable lessons about crafting marketing messages that we can take away from it.
Be brief. The address was only 271 words long. President Lincoln took less than three minutes to deliver a speech that, arguably, has resonated more than any other throughout American history. And that was during an era of long-winded orators. (The speech before Lincoln's lasted two hours!)
Be humble. There was no hyperbole in his address. In fact, Lincoln told the attendees that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Okay, so he was wrong on that account, but the point is he wasn't tooting his own horn or overstating his case. Resist any urge to exaggerate your product's benefits or only talk about your company. Instead, speak authentically about how you can solve your audience's specific problems or make their lives easier.
Be inspirational. "It is for us the living," Lincoln said, to make sure that "these dead shall not have died in vain" and that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Now THAT'S a call to action! What are your messages inspiring your audience to do? Whether it's visiting your website or changing their corner of the world, make sure your words provide the proper motivation.
(NOTE: The blog post above is 271 words long - the exact same length as The Gettysburg Address. I did that purposely so you can see at a glance just how quickly Lincoln made his points, while delivering a message that moved - and still moves - our nation.)
You market to your target audience to encourage them to buy your company's products or services.
But are you marketing to potential employees to encourage them to work for your company?
I was invited to speak to that question at the 2015 Seasonal HR Association Conference earlier this month. The attendees are in charge of hiring people for jobs at national parks, resorts and other places that provide seasonal employment.
I had never addressed that specific subject before, but it occurred to me that these HR professionals - and you, as well - could attract top talent by applying a few of the same marketing concepts you may already be using to win customers.
Reach Out Year 'Round to Potential Team Members
First, embrace the idea that marketing to prospective employees is not a quick fix. It's a long-term, multi-channel effort. Placing a single newspaper ad in January won't attract a year's worth of customers. It won't help you reach the right employees on an ongoing basis either.
What's Your Story?
When the economy is stronger, recruiting gets tougher. That's why it's important to share your company's true, unique story as often as you can. What makes your work environment what it is? What are your beliefs and values and passions? What defines your company culture?
It may take a lot of effort and frank conversation among your team, but you must define your story before you can create authentic, engaging messages that separate you from other employers.
Share Your Brand Personality
Think of all the touchpoints you can use to make an impression on the people you want on your team: your website, business cards, email signatures and footers, packaging, invoices, online and on-site video, and On Hold Marketing to name a few. Use those opportunities to give glimpses into what makes your brand and your work environment unique. The cumulative effect of all those touches can provide interested talent with valuable insight about your organization.
Build a Storytelling System
Start by dedicating a section of your website to your future team members. Then, on a regular basis, add new content that tells your employees' stories and showcases your brand personality. Over time, you'll paint a rich portrait of what it's like to work for your company.
A few types of content you might create:
1) Capture video of your happy, successful employees talking about what it is they value most about your company. By showcasing their strengths, you'll also communicate your quality standards to prospective employees.
2) Encourage workers to tell their own stories in a dedicated blog.
3) Create recruiting videos that feature your management team speaking about specific employment opportunities.
4) Share your team's professional victories on your social media channels.
5) Maintain a database of people you'd like to have working for you, as well as recruiters and others who have access to talent. Send them monthly email newsletters about your current opportunities, stories about your company culture, and other positive news.
Yes, defining your story and building a storytelling system will take time, but since they both will lead to robust content that can attract qualified employees for years to come, it'll be time well spent.
Many otherwise successful technologies have their drawbacks. VoIP technology is no exception.
VoIP - Voiceover Internet Protocol - allows telephone calls to travel via the Internet rather than through traditional land-based transmission lines.
While VoIP systems can reduce the cost of individual telephone calls, they can also be a factor in the lower quality audio your callers experience. Read "Why Does Some On Hold Marketing Sound Bad?" in the BusinessVoice blog.
Also, an I.T. professional is often needed to upload On Hold Marketing files to a VoIP telephone system. That can cause a headache or two for a company's marketing team. Read one such story in this BusinessVoice post: "VoIP: A Potential Problem to Consider."