Brand Loyalty, Apologies, Best Buy and More

I like positive customer experiences, but who doesn’t? It’s nice when a brand or company understands you and your needs. It’s refreshing when that same brand or company takes it a step further and reaches out to you—engages you. Simply put—it makes you feel valuable. And with the advent of social media, it’s a no-brainer for brands and companies alike to use powerful social networking sites (ie: Facebook, Twitter, etc) to help build brand loyalty, create conversations, or increase transparency and authenticity. There are numerous other important reasons why the integration of social media is beneficial, but as Christine Perkett, CEO and Founder of PerkettPR, wrote back in 2009 (yes—2009, that’s just how on the forefront PerkettPR is and continues to be), it’s Beating a Dead Social Media Horse.

ZapposWhile some brands are smarter and more savvy than others (@Zappos and @VirginAmerica I’m talking to you), there are still some brands that don’t get it. Brands need to go beyond simply having a Facebook and Twitter account. This is obvious. In fact, brands need to go beyond the infamous social media catchphrase “engagement.” Talk with me, not at me. Engagement is crucial but once achieved, what’s next? Well, social networking has redefined the consumer—and has clearlycreated a new breed of brand advocates. Studies show that at least 40% of a brand’s consumers are advocates and Virgin America90% of consumers trust recommendations from advocates (Zuberance, 2011). Brands need to start turning their social consumers into their loyal brand advocates. It’s one of the most powerful ways a brand can stand out.

This now brings me to my recent consumer experience with Best Buy. Before this experience, I have to admit, my interactions with the retail giant were pleasant. Sure, no brand-consumer relationship can be entirely perfect, but it was nonetheless positive. In fact I considered myself as someone who usually liked and was loyal to shopping at Best Buy (I’ve bought a washer, dryer, and two televisions there). And after much research, thought, and consideration, my husband and I purchased a wall mount for our television from Best Buy.

Without being too long-winded, a quick recap of the events that followed

  • We bought the mount, brought it home, and then a couple of days later Geek Squad came to install it.
  • Upon installation, we were told we had purchased the wrong wall mount (the wall mount we were instructed to buy). We’d have to buy another, more expensive one. Lucky for us, Geek Squad has one on their truck.
  • During installation we were told we would need an electrician to put the electrical cord through the wall, which was the first we had heard of this throughout the process. Didn’t someone at the store tell you, you would need one? Nope.

Even at this point, I felt okay. Things happen. People get confused. It’s fine. We’d figure it out.

It wasn’t until I lugged the old wall mount back to the store to return it that I ran into some issues. There were some financing and coupon issues that made the return tricky. The customer service associate who was very nice made photo copies of my receipts, credit card, and took down my number saying his manager would call me back once it was all straightened out.

Great. Sounded good to me.

Best BuyI waited all day. No call. I followed up that night at 8:00 pm. I waited on hold for 15 minutes before I got a “live person” at the store. She transferred me to customer service where the phone rang, and then I was transferred back to the same person. She transferred me again. And then I was on hold. Again. At some point I hung up and called back. Got the same “live person.” She transferred me. Again. On hold. This cycle lasted for nearly two hours. I finally hung up and tried calling back. The store was closed.

Now I was frustrated. Not only did I waste cell phone minutes, but I wasted my night trying to follow up to see if the billing situation was taken care of. I wondered when it became okay to ignore customers? I tweeted my frustrations to @BestBuy and got a response from @Coral_BestBuy saying she hoped the store picked up and answered my questions. And then the following day, I got a tweet from the actual store @BestBuyDanvers blaming their phone systems, which I didn’t fully believe. Upon receiving this tweet, I called the store and spoke to the person who had tweeted to me from the store. I then had to re-explain the entire situation. He apologized. Said the “live person” I spoke to was new. And that they were understaffed. He said he would call me back in a half an hour with some answers.

In less than half an hour he called me back, said sorry, and put me on the phone with another customer service agent who then sorted out the situation. Issue resolved.

The whole experience left me feeling used and annoyed. A “sorry” just didn’t feel good enough. And when I finally did speak to that person from the store the next day, re-explaining the situation, I pointed out to the associate that up until the night before, I appreciated how nice everyone at Best Buy was to me.

Even when I had to return the wrong mount. Even when no one told me about needing to hire an electrician. Even when the sales associate couldn’t fully process my return. Even when no one called me back. Even when I waited on hold for almost two hours. Even after all the missing information and empty promises, I did appreciate the kindness of the gentleman who sold me the mount, the Geek Squad technicians, and the customer service associate who tried to do my return.

But to my surprise, the associate told me it didn’t matter how nice people were, because these events during this transaction should not have happened.

He was right—they should not have happened. Although I did appreciate Best Buy’s quick response to me on Twitter and “engaging” with me, I did tweet back saying I’d have to rethink other retail options for future purchases, to which I got a reply:

@BestBuyDanvers

It was yet another “sorry” which, I didn’t respond to because I was ready to move on.

But a couple hours later @Coral_BestBuy tweeted me—she wasn’t about to give up on me as quickly:

@Coral_BestBuy

I sent her my email. And we’ll just see what happens next.

I understand companies, large and small, are going to disappoint their consumers at times, but it’s how the company reacts to those failures which ultimately determines which consumers will stay loyal and which consumers will go.

So my fellow social consumers— I want to know about your negative retail experience and how a company successfully handled it?  How did they win you back? What did they do right? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE:

@Coral_BestBuy called to follow up with me. She appreciated my tweets and blog post about my shopping experience. Coral asked me if she could use them to share and educate the Best Buy corporate team about how to handle future transactions and issues that may arise. I, of course, agreed because after all—the purpose of this outreach was to help Best Buy while alerting my fellow social consumers.

She then offered me a $75 Best Buy gift card which is a nice sentiment, considering it will force me to have to enter Best Buy again and make another purchase. Or maybe, just maybe– I will save myself the frustration and gift it to someone else.

Seeking PR Influence? Read. Share. Think. And Make Your Own Rules.

This past week I participated in our Founder, Christine Perkett’s (@missusP) ReadyTalk (@RTWebSem) webinar titled “PR Experts as Influencers: How social media has changed the PR landscape forever – and what it means for you.” She discussed the importance of PR professionals using their connections, relationships and influences to help positively influence others or drive awareness (or directly drive customers) for their clients. Also, she shared the ins and outs of how any brand—personal or company– can adopt and achieve value in social media effectively. In Christine’s words: Successful PR is all about you.

Some insightful points I noted from her webinar:

  • We’re tastemakers — we’re all consumers who help dictate styles and trends. It’s important to share your brand experiences (positive and negative) in a way in which you can also share insights for other brands or clients. Turning your experiences into a helpful marketing or PR lesson helps raise your profile as a smart marketer and brand influencer.
  • Read every single day. Then use social media (ie: Twitter, Facebook, etc) to show your community what you’re thinking. This will help elevate your expertise in the areas in which you specialize. Don’t just share links – provide commentary on each piece.
  • Don’t ignore the opportunity to build your personal brand because it lasts forever — it’s like a live resume.
  • Be authentic — there’s tremendous opportunity via social media to “do what you do and do it well” – that is, showing reporters, clients, prospects that you are paying attention, engaging, and have valuable insights so share.
  • Speaking of sharing — make sure to tie in business marketing or PR lessons to elevate content and position yourself as a smart marketer. You want to be an influencer not just a participant.
  • Make your own rules — social media provides a great testing ground because everyone is exploring. Encourage your company or clients to try some innovative new marketing or PR ideas by testing the waters yourself. Post a thought provoking question that you know will spark debate. Write an unexpected blog post. Involve customers in a marketing campaign. Take some chances and share what you’ve learned to encourage your marketing team to innovate.

After the webinar, I started really thinking about Christine’s thoughts — about how convoluted PR and social media have become (and how much it doesn’t have to be). PR isn’t changing — it’s already changed. And will continue to change. Social media has the power to drive authenticity and build brand loyalty, but you need to fully understand how to effectively use social media as a PR tool — a communications tool. Bottom line: PR and social media need to be giving a lot of strategic thought. They don’t just “happen,” at least happen well, by signing up on a popular network. And a PR agency with the know-how, skills, and proven success is just the thing to assist a brand in doing so.

And then I made a connection.

I immediately thought of a company I “liked” and have been following on Facebook for the last few months after reading a feature article on Boston.com. This brand has not only enthused me daily, but has been one of the most creative fashion brands I’ve seen on Facebook — EmersonMade. As stated on her Facebook page’s company overview: EmersonMade offers a one-of-a-kind and compelling shopping experience that believes in celebrating the uniqueness of the individual, the joy of being alive and all the smallness that makes up the Big Beautiful.

And the brand delivers just that.

 

If social media is an opportunity for a company to break the mold and create unique content (content being the key) — EmersonMade achieves this. She makes her own rules. Her updates are interesting, fresh, and relevant. She has tapped into what her followers want and keeps doing it. From Facebook to Twitter to her company blog—she not only leaves me wanting her beautiful products, but I always find myself marveling her creativeness, thinking, how did she come up with that?

And there is absolutely no comparison with big fashion brands like Zara, BCBG, Madewell (to name a few). Their approach is, well, boring. They seem to not understand that social media is not about how many fans you have or just showcasing your products — it’s engaging your target audience. Not in an average way — but in an ingenious way. A way we have never been afforded until now.

Christine’s final words of her webinar have stuck with me: Be an innovator. Thinking outside the PR box. Adopting social media in ways to support innovation. Trying new ideas. Taking a chance and making it pay off because as Christine stated, this will lead to greatness.

So my fellow tastemakers — what are your secrets to influencing your social communities? Do you have a favorite brand that nails it? Or is there a brand that you wished could give you more? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks for reading!

The Art of Listening in Client Service

At the risk of stereotyping myself, and my peers, it seems to me that most PR personalities are talkers, spinners and strategists, but rarely are they quiet listeners or observers. This observation is based on my own experience in PR over the last decade or so. I also speak from that rare position of listener.

Yep, I’m a listener. One of the ‘quiet ones,’ I buck the PR stereotype. I’m an introvert; shy to the point of pain in my youth; and though I have gotten over the pain part, I can still think of 100 things I would rather do than interject myself into a conversation with someone I just met.

Not surprisingly, this has caused some angst for me from a professional standpoint. In the client service business, we must prove ourselves every day – to our clients, colleagues and managers. In PR, this often takes the form of strategic counsel and creative ideas shared verbally in a meeting or via a conference call.

Fortunately, I’ve had some excellent guidance and support here at PerkettPR and have overcome most of my fears about voicing my ideas. Despite these strides, I still believe wholeheartedly that my ability to listen has benefited my teams, my clients, and me in countless ways – perhaps in more important ways than my verbal observations ever will.

Good customer service begins with listening

I’ve heard time and again, “if they don’t hear from you, they don’t know you’re engaged.” I’d argue that good client service is as much about listening as it is about presenting, counseling and verbalizing ideas. Listening is another form of engagement.

I’m surely not the only one who’s come across a verbose PR pro who doesn’t know when to be quiet. You know, the one that cuts you off, interrupts the client, pretends to listen, but then continues talking up his or her idea. Sure, they can talk about their ideas and offer advice on the fly, but it’s the listeners who actually hear and understand what the client really wants. Everyone wants to be heard, especially if they’re paying someone to listen.

We cannot provide excellent counsel without first listening and understanding what our clients have to say. Listening goes far beyond remaining silent while someone else speaks. Listening is about paying attention to the nuances of the conversation, recognizing what isn’t being said, and then applying what you’ve heard to the matter at hand.

Social Media – talking or listening?

As our business – and the world around us – evolves, listening is becoming more important than ever. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Whrrl and countless other social networks encouraging brief status updates, we’re overrun with one-way conversations. It seems everyone has something to say, but is anybody listening?

Christine Perkett has spoken about the importance of listening as part of the social conversation for some time. In a 2009 blog post, she commented, “One of the most effective ways to connect with any audience is to show them that you care. One of the easiest ways to show someone that you care is to listen.” This still holds true today, with even more noise entering the market daily.

More recently Gartner’s Michael Maoz shared his thoughts on the lost art of listening. He notes that many of his clients who are introducing social capabilities to their businesses are reaping big points from their customers by simply demonstrating their willingness to listen. Brands that are most successful with social media are those that understand it is a two-way dialogue, and an opportunity to listen to their customers – just on a broader scale.

Listen up

Granted, in the day-to-day life of your average PR professional, social listening is only part of the job. Our clients look to us for ideas, strategy and counsel delivered verbally or otherwise. And we’ll provide it (even those of us that are more natural listeners, than talkers ;-)) but, first, we’ll ensure we’ve taken the time to listen to their needs and concerns carefully, and offer thoughtful advice that helps them to reach their business goals – not just a knee jerk reaction or response.

What are your thoughts on the art of listening? Are we in danger of losing this crucial skill? How do you ensure you’re really listening to your customers? We’d love to HEAR from you in the comments.

Help for those “Vote for my SXSWi Panel” headaches

If you’re in technology, business or entertainment (music, film), you’ve certainly been exposed by now to a steady stream of “Vote for my SXSW panel” messages, blog posts and Tweets. With thousands of entries, not only is the noise deafening from your social buddies, but the time it takes to truly read the panels and give them the “thumbs up” is nearly impossible. (Bless the panel – they are certainly going to be doing a lot of reading.)

Why is everyone asking for your vote? Well, because votes – the community’s opinions – account for about 30% of the decision of who gets the much-coveted speaking slots. The Advisory Board (40%) and Staff (30%) make up the other percentages. SXSW is held every March in Austin, TX and is THE place to be to create new relationships, learn and share with the social media, business, tech, and entertainment crowd. It lasts a week, with a divide between interactive, music and film. You can read all about it, here.

With the deluge of panels and all the posts about them, you’re likely just to vote for your pals and they’ll vote for you and once again, popularity – not necessarily quality – will prevail. But one thing we’ve noticed that’s missing from a lot of the recommendations is the WHY. Why vote for these panels other than a friend asks you to do so? Seems a lot of the promotion is leaving out that crucial detail. So, we’ve chosen a few of our favorites so far, below, and a reason why we believe each is worthy of you clicking that “thumbs up” button. We kept our focus on the interactive side, FYI.

We’ll try to add more as we find them but feel free to leave your favorites - don’t forget the why – in the comments. There are so many, we’d love to learn about more great ones that we haven’t yet heard of, and from people we might not yet know (isn’t that what’s great about social networks?!).

  • Because we’re “inspired women who want to inspire other women,” we vote for Breaking Glass Ceiling(s) – Fearless Women Entrepreneur by Amita Paul, ObjectiveMarketer. We’re not crazy about the title but get past that and read the content – are there really only 13 women at the top?!
  • Turns out Carla Thompson of Sharp Skirts sees women everywhere – in startups, that is. We’re always interested in the gender gaps in business and again, empowering women. So we give a “thumbs up” to Where are the Women in Startups? Um, everywhere! and hope you will, too.
  • Noticing a theme here? Yes, we are all about supporting the ladies. But, this one is truly unique – focused on African American women and their use of the Internet for activism. Cybercrusading for Women by Gina McCauley, Blogging While Brown.
  • Speaking of powerful young women on the Internet, we’ve got to give a shout out to our industry colleagues at Sevans Strategy. They’ve got a PR panel – and as big proponents of ensuring a brighter, smarter PR industry – we highly recommend it for any PR executive. Spin Doctors: PR Best Practices for Social Media includes founder Sarah Evans, Jason Kintzler of Pitch Engine and Ryan Osborn of NBC News.
  • Sarah is also a part of this panel – which intrigued us as we continue to research the impact of social media globally ourselves. The Global Online Community – Improving Cross-Cultural Relations also includes Andrew Kneale, of the British Council.
  • Another woman we’re proud to know is Alicia Staley of The Staley Foundation. Alicia’s got an amazing story to share and we love her panel because it combines her personal experiences with cancer and the timely topic of crowd sourcing. Crowd Sourcing Cancer deserves a thumbs up because it’s got a higher purpose and can truly help many people above and beyond this event.
  • As PR executives, our daily work revolves around story telling – and story shaping. So we were interested when we read Storytelling in an Age of Industrialized Content by Upendra Shardanand of Daylife. We’re all story tellers now – do you know how to keep ‘em human?
  • And finally, we wouldn’t be very good PR professionals if we didn’t also ask you to give our panels a thumbs up. In The Networking Conundrum, I’ll analyze how people and businesses are building communities online and off – and whether or not both are important. Are they inclusive of one another? Why or why not? What if you live in a rural area – can you still build influence online as successfully as your city-dwelling competitors? And what behaviors are most effective in each? We think this is an important topic as social networks continue to grow and thus the world seems to simultaneously get smaller.
  • Our EVP Heather Mosley will take a look at who’s already done well in this vein – and what you can learn from them – in Dissecting What Really Works in Social Marketing Campaigns. What companies are doing it right and what have the results been? Is it possible to take elements of their successes to build your own – why or why not? She’ll help you understand what’s worked, why, if it can work for you – and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t.

We’ll continue reading through the panels and let you know what else catches our eye. What have been your faves so far?

See you in Austin!

 

Actually, Pay Attention To That (Wo)man Behind the Curtain

Last week Hubspot – via Twitter Grader – highlighted the The 100 Most Powerful Women On Twitter which included a lot of influential and interesting women I expected to see there, such as Ann Handley, Jennifer Leggio, Beth Kanter, and Charlene Li, and a few surprises that I wouldn’t have readily thought of, but are very interesting to follow nonetheless. Happily, we also noted that our CEO, Christine Perkett@missusp was also included within the Top 25 women on this list – of course, we’re not surprised because we know how hard she works to keep on top of the industry, as the PR and social media landscape constantly changes. But we are very proud and impressed nonetheless. (Is this a good time to ask for a raise?)

After the initial hoopla on Twitter about the list and congratulating the women we know personally, Christine asked on Twitter, “so what does it all mean.” I’ve thought about this before when lists like this come out – do they really mean anything, and if so, what? Does the general public really care who is influential on Twitter? Are these people really influential or do they merely appear to be, to those of us who are really ingrained in social media?

After thinking about it for awhile, I’ve come up with what this particular list it means to me – I would love to hear your thoughts on what it means to you or to the rest of the world.

  1. PR professionals – from “flaks” to influencers – when I started in PR, those in my profession were completely behind the scenes – like the Wizard of Oz sitting behind the curtain pulling the strings. We are in the business of making our clients stars, so naturally, we don’t make the story about us, nor should we. However, along the way, we learn a lot – about our clients, their business, the market and how it changes. We have to learn about new technologies, trends, products, and publications, giving us more than a layman’s knowledge of many different industries. The rise of social media, however, has given us a voice and has allowed us to highlight our expertise and the value we can offer to others without being overly promotional. Certainly, our clients are still the stars – we still devote 95% of our time to them, but a handful of smart PR folks are now also seen as experts who have influence in the industry. And you know what – our public influence is being asked about more and more by prospects, and evaluated by clients – if we are selling the ability to influence audiences and teach our clients how to become more influential in their industries, it makes sense that we should be have our own strong industry credibility.
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  3. Journalists and PR professionals can play nicely together – Take a look at those on this list and the other “Twitter influencer” lists that are posted regularly. They now contain reporters, bloggers and PR professionals (among others) – and because of their involvement in social media, a lot of them know and respect each other more than ever. For every blog post that fuels the journalists vs. PR “flacks” debate, there are hundreds of social media interactions every day between the media and PR that help bridge the gap and help the two get to know each other better and more personally. When you can see each other as people/friends and not the enemy, it is easier for everyone to do their job. Watching Christine joke with several of the other “top influencer” bloggers and journalists on Twitter after this list came out really drove this home for me.
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  5. PR professionals are trail blazers – at least in the tech industry. Many years ago, Christine told our staff that we needed to “figure out what these blogs are all about” then a few years later that we needed to start figuring out what social networking was all about – Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Whrrl, etc. – so that we could evaluate how it should be used in our business and for our clients – and if it should be. Christine always takes the reins for our company to ensure we try out and experiment with new technologies for ourselves before we try them for clients. Often people think that it’s only the “techies or the journalists” that are first adopters of technology, but many smart PR companies are the first to appear on new social sites and are among the first with the new gadget or toy because we pay attention and have close relationships with those influencers shaping the market. If we’re doing our job right, we realize value and ROI before the public does – thanks to being privy to many start ups and innovative new advances by existing companies, working early with the reporters and influencers who evaluate them and their products, and paying attention to where the tech industry is headed. Also, because we’re responsible for counseling our clients on how what works, what doesn’t and where they should pay attention. In fact, we’re often involved in product direction and development discussions because we have a pulse on where the industry is headed.

Our discussion about this list on Twitter prompted Hubspot to offer to sponsor a meetup for the top 100 women on this list – PerkettPR is considering organizing this event, but we want it to be more than a Tweet-up – we would like it to offer value to attendees and to maybe even benefit a charity. Would you attend an event that offered insight from the Top 100 women influencers on Twitter? If so, what would you like to get out of it? Tell us here and help us create a fantastic event!