Archive for August, 2009

In marketing, don’t claim to provide “24/7 customer service” if you can’t deliver

Marketing won’t work when what your promise doesn’t deliver. Your marketing promise doesn’t deliver when –

  1. advertising backfires
  2. promotion ideas don’t sell
  3. customer service fails

Of the three, customer service failure seems to be the most difficult to reverse, and probably the most detrimental to any business brand.

Customer service representatives are the frontline soldiers of any brand or company, they are the first to be called when customers need help with a product or service, report issues or provide feedback; they deliver the first and an important impression of a brand in customers’ minds besides the product or service itself. But how often do we get good customer service when we want to inquire about a product? How often do we get all the answers we want when we’re reporting a problem? And how often do we get our problems resolved satisfactorily through customer service?

If the company, service or product is a “monopoly” in its category or geographical region, the marketing/customer service experience tends to be worse, to the point of even being schizophrenic. Schizophrenia happens when a company makes all the promises it wants on TV, in print or online, but customers are feeling disconnected and disengaged when they interact with the company through repeated product/service failures to perpetually bad customer service. (This is when customers started using Twitter and Facebook to share bad experience with companies, products or services.) I think these companies know who they are.

Marketing won’t work in any case with these companies because the fundamental principle of good marketing has been violated – marketing dollars can only be justified and delivered by great customer service. You can spend millions on a TV campaign telling stories of how good a product is, how environmentally concerned a company is, or how lives have been changed through its service to the community, but if customers call and all they get is a “What?”, “I don’t know what you mean”, ” Sorry there’s nothing we can do”, “You gotta calm down ma’am” type of responses, I don’t think these companies will ever get anywhere with their marketing, and they simply cannot justify their marketing spending. Instead of creating a facade of goodwill, diversity, social responsibility or whatever it may be, these companies should seriously dedicate resources to re-training customer service, re-tuning infrastructure, and refining its business philosophy — create a long-term, growing commitment to its customers.

I’ve been placed into a perpetual queue by calling into a utility company‘s 24/7 customer service hotline for almost 45 minutes now…

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Should CEOs blog?

UberCEOThis seems to be a decade-old question since the inception of weblog and the wider spread of blogging during 1999.

Whenever I’m asked whether a company should have a CEO blog, images of the CEOs I’ve worked with would flow into my mind. My response is always: yes for some but no for others.

I’ve worked with a handful of CEOs over the last eight years, mostly in roles with direct accountability. In working alongside them, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with their counterparts – CEOs in other companies. Most CEOs are open, visionary and inspirational. And some are particularly engaging and dynamic. They take time to listen to their staff and build strategies with full support from them. They inspire employees to become “little hearts” of the company and transform the workplace into Magic Kingdom – fun, professional and happening. (Type 1 CEOs)

But there are also CEOs who simply don’t engage or inspire. Their focus is on themselves and personal success. Their ideas and decisions come down on their staff like blazing fires – consuming everybody’s energy and focus. (Type 2 CEOs)

Type 1 CEOs should start blogging if they haven’t already, but I wouldn’t recommend Type 2 CEOs to blog because the voice of their blogs will come off the same way, burning off every bit of interest in their readers.

Why? Because blogs are powerful tools – they penetrate the deepest thoughts and enliven your thinking into visual images. Successful bloggers create positive images, empowering messages and empathetic viewpoints. The most popular blogs are always painfully honest, honestly incisive and incisively inspirational.

I have trouble reading CEO blogs that simply aren’t believable. Their tone and content tell me how interested they are in people’s lives and what other people are thinking. Yes, Seth Godin will tell you “no one cares about you” (they only care about what they’re going to get out of you). But if I’m reading your blog, I’d somewhat care about you as a person or the impact of what you’re saying will have on me and others. I may not be aware of your company or brand right away, but I’d certainly be aware of your tone, your actions and how your experience impacts my thinking about your company and brand.

Don’t just blog because you have to, be good blog material first.

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What the heck with the hackers? Twitter and Facebook got hacked this morning.

This was no Live Free or Die Hard starring Bruce Willis, but some large-scale hacks took place this morning on both Twitter and Facebook. The exact time the two sites went down was unclear, though Facebook was back in business much sooner than Twitter. My routine in the morning is to log into Tweetdeck while I wait for my work emails being uploaded. After several failed attempts to load tweets up on the deck this morning, I tried log into www.twitter.com but the site was said to be not found. Damn those hackers! Surprised and confused, I moved onto my emails but felt unsettled about the “denial of service” of two of the world’s largest social networks at the same time.

I looked up “hackers – computer security” on Wiki: A hacker is a person who breaks into computers, usually by gaining access to administrative controls. The subculture that has evolved around hackers is often referred to as the computer underground. Proponents claim to be motivated by artistic and political ends, and are often unconcerned about the use of illegal means to achieve them.

As I read on, I discovered a few things I didn’t know about hackers before, quoting Wiki: Several subgroups of the computer underground with different attitudes and aims use different terms to demarcate themselves from each other, or try to exclude some specific group with which they do not agree.

So great! Hackers disagree among themselves that means we have both good and evil hackers. There are the “White Hat” hackers who are non-malicious hackers who hack to test their own computer security systems…I can bear with that, since all major corporations employ professional “hackers”, otherwise known as computer/network secruity experts, to safeguard their business infrastructure and critical data.

Then there are the “Grey Hat” and “Black Hat” hackers. As their names suggest, they’re either borderline illegal or outrightly illegal by committing vandalism, credit card fraud, identity theft, piracy, or other types of harmful activity.

The last but not least category are the “Hacktavists” – who are probably most closely associated with this morning’s attacks on the two world’s largest social networking sites. Though unconfirmed at this point, this type of large-scale attacks reportedly began occurring back in July when a series of cyber attacks were launched against computer networks in South Korea and the U.S. by North Korean hacktavists, i.e. cyberterrorists. Today’s attacks on Facebook and Twitter were alleged to be instigated by cyber warlords between Russia and Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state).

I’m not trying to speculate who the hackers are out there and what their motivations are (although one may find on Twitter today some Tweeters making speculations and calling out hackers’ names), but be darn clear that our lives are never the same as before – Twitter and Facebook have become an integral part of our social and global identities and we’ll band together to fight for the freeodm to say what we want to say and when we want to say it on those sites.

I never realized until this morning that my life has never been the same ever since Twitter and Facebook. When I couldn’t connect with my fellow marketers and friends, I felt attacked…but victory sided with the open and just. Thanks to the hard work by our Twitter and Facebook guardian angels, who quickly brought the sites up again after a couple of hours. You guys did a heck of a job!

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Tested Google Voice today and am loving it!

Google Voice Call MeYeah, I received my first Google Voice phone number, or GV # in short, in my Gmail account today. Logged onto the GV home site and began testing it right away. The startup was as easy as 1-2-3: recorded my name, a personalized greeting and forwarded my calls to my cell phone number. (I questioned myself whether I was making the right move – making myself accessible to anybody wherever, whenever with a single phone number.) But oh well, I took the step of faith and have been relishing the cool features and new web-voice experience since then. 

Besides given a global phone number (with a local area code and a choice list of some dozens of phone numbers), I can make unlimited calls for free from the GV #. Friends and colleagues can also make unlimited calls to this same number. What’s cool about it is that now I can really screen calls. Phone numbers are actually read to me and the system alerts me of any incoming call and asks if I want to accept or decline it or transfer to VM. (Personal assistance at its best!) Love it.

Here’s more. One feature I haven’t quite started using yet though I know it’ll come in handy one day, and that is I can tag spam callers and block them out from all future calls and voicemails. No more “Sorry, wrong number” callers or spammers. Spammers will get filtered into a spam folder and Google will run spam reports across all users to identify global spammers and block them out once-and-for-all. Love it! 

As if that’s not cool enough, voice messages get transcribed and can be read (or listened to) online anywhere, anytime, saving me tons of “checking voicemail” airtime fees. Love it!

As I checked the “Discussions” tab, I realize some users are experiencing a few serious bugs. Just like any new product and technology, bugs affect user experience and leave some users feeling “duped”. (You should read some of the threads – some sound peculiarly offended on an amusingly personal level…as if they’ve forgotten they didn’t pay a dime for this new technology nor were they coerced to use it.) For me, everything is still as cool as school. And if I get hit by a bug, I’ll do what needs to be done like any new product peer tests – report the bug to get it fixed. If it doesn’t, I’ll just move on – continue to use it if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, or simply drop it. For me, chances are I’ll stick with it and await improved experience. 

After all, ain’t that the spirit of open source and peer production. Everybody pitches in to tweak and refine, ride out the storm and reach a better place together.

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On Marketing…Inspired by a 21:9 Cinema Proportion Online Ad

Go to www.cinema.philips.com for the full view of Philips’ 21:9 online ad titled “Carousel”.

When you have a great product topped with a brilliant marketing plan, it’s a sure-win. This isn’t just another webisode I want to share with you – it’s Philips’ viral commercial to launch its 21:9 Cinema TV. That’s right, not 16:9 but 21:9. For your home theater, this TV allows you to view the widest screen possible giving the fullest gratification of being in an instant cinema. The benefits aside, let’s talk about the commercial.

The approach for the commercial is unique – having actors and actresses wired and frozen in action as the camera glides slowly across the hallway and up the stairs of a building that’s under the attach of anarchistic clowns. Explosions, gunfires, murders and fights were seen “real-time” in one smooth, uninterrupted shot. One may think it’s nostalgic of The Dark Knight in 2008. I can’t help but marvel at the superior level of precision and creativity of the production – by Tribal DDB Amsterdam and Stink Digital. Unrivalled, the movie sweeped the Film Grand Prix for long-form Internet film at the Cannes Advertising Festival several weeks ago.

This is the second year in a row that an Internet commercial bested other award-worthy TV spots. If audience attention to commercials is moving away from TV to the Internet, then what does it mean for marketers like you and me? There’s not much of a doubt that a seismic shift is taking place right now where commercials are exploding and consumers yearning for a heightened level of creativity and experience online.

If you haven’t yet considered the possibility of engaging your customers and clients online, think again. Think how much more often you can join in their conversations, get their feedback and plan your business accordingly; think how many more consumers you can touch over a relativley short period of time, and think how much more scalable your marketing can be when content, people and time are in your hands.

There’s a Chinese wisdom saying that goes – success comes where time, location and people are harmonized. In our terms – if the stars are lined up.

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