Being Thankful in Business is a Good Thing – Brands that GET IT

We’d like to wish our US-readers a Happy Thanksgiving and send a HUGE thanks to all of our colleagues, clients, community and partners. We’re thankful for your support, your business and your respect.

Over the course of the last two decades I’ve been told more than once that appearing too grateful in business can be a negative thing – putting me in a position of perceived lesser power. I disagree. I think being thankful in business – and for business – is a good thing and I am happy to see social media bringing it more to light. Businesses who appreciate their customers are more likely to reap the rewards of loyalty, repeat business, positive word of mouth and long-term success.

Since I went on a rampage about my negative experience at McGee Toyota recently, I wanted to also take the time to highlight some businesses doing well by their customers. I think it’s important that as our customer voices become louder and more viral, we use them to celebrate what brands are doing right as well. So while I recently gave personal props to Jet Blue and Ideeli, I also took to Twitter and Facebook to ask my community what companies have done right by them recently, and why. Specifically, I asked, “When is the last time a company or brand went above and beyond to make you a happy customer? What did they do?” Here are some of the answers – below. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share and respond, and kudos to the brands who agree – being thankful in business is a good thing.

Chris Theisen: My fav personal experience from @brewhouse http://bit.ly/d2VGn4

Greg Meyer: We had an event at @sushisambachi – they made us feel at home, tweeted about the event, and provided excellent service

Shannon DiGregorio: The Apple store at the Cambridge Gallaria replaced a broken (my fault) iPhone 4 for free after AT&T was awful to me! Love them!

Kristina Bobrowski: @ArtVanFurniture went out of the way to meet my budget/timing needs, & responded to my praise on here. @netflix impressed me too.. My DVDs weren’t coming- they sent me 3 at once to tide me over while they fixed it

Chad Northrup: It was @supercuts. Got a bad haircut yesterday, so returned in the evening. They fixed it AND made my next cut free #custserv

Frank Eliason: my former company, Comcast has been working hard to improve (google my name and Comcast). My current company, Citi, is working to improve http://new.citi.com/2010/11/together-we-are-building-a-stronger-citi-for-you.shtml

 

And from Facebook, where I did not include my friends’ names because it’s permission-based (vs Twitter, which is public), here are the replies:

American Express has the nicest customer service people I have ever talked to. Except for maybe Southwest’s. They always say things like “we’ll take care of that right now for you” or “make sure you have a great day.” Sounds simple but stands out.

Nordstroms this morning made my entire day – live chat customer support applied a promo code for me after my order was submitted so I would get free shipping on an emergency pair of new heels since the Web site wouldn’t accept the code.

Jouer Cosmetics! BEST customer service. I ordered some makeup and when it arrived two of the lipsticks were smooshed at the top. I called to let them know about it, without any expectations. I just wanted them to know about it. They sen…t me two more lipsticks for free and I got to keep the ones I already had. The lipsticks were like $22 each. Also, Huggies…we got a big box of diapers and one whole sleeve of diapers was defective. The tape wasn’t long enough and every time we tried to put them on the baby, it would rip. I called Huggies and the woman was so apologetic. She sent coupons-one for an entire box for free. You know how expensive diapers are! I was a satisfied customer on both occasions!

I’m a huge fan of  Boston-based Rue La La. Ordered some resin plates. 3 sets of 4. The freight carrier “dropped” them on my front step. 3 of them were damaged. I photographed which patterns were damaged and their amazing Customer Service specialist hunted them down, replaced them AND gave me a $40 credit for all my trouble.

USAA – the very best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Every time I call, they offer to help me with my investments, or just to review where I’m at financially, just to make sure I am ok. They will give advice, give me suggestions where I should be putting money and once even said WOW – you are doing a great job. They never try to get you off the phone or rush you. They will even call and check up on recent investments. They are incredible.

Great Customer Service Department. UPS driver sees me at the mail box five blocks from my home. Stops next to my car. Shouts out “Mr. Corbett, I have a package for you.” Now that is great customer service and an employee who lives well the brand!!! Kudos to UPS!!! Living the Brand!

I also think TMobile has done some serious investment in training their reps. I used to think they were awful, now its almost a pleasure to call in. They make you feel like they are on your side – they say things like “yeah, that would make… me mad too” or “that would definitely not fly with me.” You can’t even get mad because they are so helpful now. I’ve been having major BB issues & the third time I called in the rep said, “well, this is ridiculous that you’ve had to call three times, after you get this replacement, *I* am going to call YOU”See More

The Ritz-Carlton has the absolute best customer service in the world. No matter the property, it is top notch. Bali, Jamaica, etc. – all superb. No one comes close.

Zappos. Order something at 10:00 at night and it’s on your door the next day for free with free return shipping if needed . . . Great example of a company that built it’s culture based on customer service from the day it started as a way to differentiate itself.

Pizza Hut in Big Rapids, MI………..awesome service and the C.J.’s special cannot be beat.

USAA is the best. They go above and beyond every single time.

I have to say that Spectrum Health in Reed City has an outstanding policy for good customer service. If someone asks for directions the employee won’t just point and explain. They escort them to the place with a smile on their face! And during parking lot construction they provided men driving golf carts who were at the car before it stopped to pick you up and take you to the door! Way above and beyond is their policy. They tell employees, “Surprise them (your customer). And they do in a good way.”

I third USAA

Readers – if a brand or company has done right by you lately, won’t you help spread the word and thank them here in the comments? Thanks for reading!

Brand Haiku for You

I was invited by my industry colleague and friend, Aaron Strout of Powered Inc., to participate in a fun experiment this morning. He asked me and a handful of other amazing marketing folks to share a brand haiku based on a recent experience we’ve had – good or bad. (Remember, a haiku is: 5 syllables, 7 syllables 5 syllables.)

Well, if you follow me on Twitter and were on this weekend, you likely heard about my recent experience with Toyota and specifically, McGee Toyota in Hanover, MA. It wasn’t pretty. So here’s my haiku for you based on my weekend – if you’d like the full story, read my blog post about the experience – and why it’s crucial for your sales team to understand that customer relationships are way more valuable than customer deals.

Toyota was wrong
Happy customers tell friends
Angry ones tell all

Now that the negative one is out of the way, here are two positive ones – because happy customers should share loudly, too.

Jet Blue I love you
Thanks for TVs and smiles
You get customers

Ideeli is cool
They sell lovely things to me
And they engage me

Follow the brand haiku to Bryan Person and his tribute to Nike, and see more haikus from those amazing marketers by watching Twitter for the hashtag #brandhaiku.

Thanks for the fun, creative and great idea – and invitation – Aaron! Readers, if you have a brand haiku, please play along in the comment section and on Twitter.

 

BDI’s Social Convergence & The Enterprise – Advice, Insights & Lessons Learned from Jet Blue, Unilever, Century 21 and more. What’s Your Best Social Advice?

On Wednesday we attended and moderated two round tables at the Business Development Institute (BDI)’s Social Convergence & The Enterprise event in New York City. I was happy to attend an event with the not-so-usual suspects – fresh networking and opportunities to expand our community are always exciting.

The speakers at the 1/2 day conference ranged from companies such as Harvard to Jet Blue, Unilever to Century 21. Attendees held positions in HR, marketing, business development and other areas of business. I have to say that, having attended a lot of networking and social media events over the last few years, the topics can grow tired. The presentations can all begin to look the same – even infamous Tweets, photos and charts are often reused. But, for the most part, this event was a fresh take on a much-discussed subject: social media in business. I would definitely attend again and encourage others to check out BDI’s events.

The format was three hours of case studies followed by two sessions of round tables where attendees sat down with moderators and discussed pre-determined subjects. I found this of interest because often the attendees have interesting insights and lessons learned to share as well, and typical conference formats don’t usually provide the opportunity for an extended, interactive discussion between panelists and audience. Allowing a few questions from the audience is much different that sitting down with each other after the presentations and really digging into the topics. And, asking the presenters for case studies is a good way to ensure they’re sharing insights and lessons learned – not just observations and opinion like so many of today’s speakers on social media.

Some of my favorite tidbits from panelists included:

- How Jet Blue opened up its communications – and rebuilt its brand – after a crisis in 2007. Speaker Jenny Dervin shared interesting insights into their culture (“we all help clean the planes”) and how they handled customer communications more proactively thereafter – despite knowing it would frustrate in the short run but build loyalty in the long run. Strategies included a video message to crew members and customers from the CEO, as well as a letter to every customer who had ever flown Jet Blue – all in the name of “We’re sorry… please give us another chance.”

 

- “You cannot be successful in social unless you involve the whole organization – let employees engage in social media” – from Paul Hernacki of Definition6. He advises that the entire company needs to be on board for success.  He asks, “Are your employees fans of your brand?” And suggests, “Eat your own dog food – social and the digital lifestyle needs to be part of your company DNA.” He also implores CIO’s to help make it happen by stop blocking of social sites and blogs. “You’re not solving the problem by blocking.”

- “We don’t own our brands anymore, consumers do.” Stacie Bright of Unilever talked about how to handle this new Wild West frontier of social media. “There are good conversations and brand conversations – but we can choose to be a part of those conversations.” Amen. Ignoring the conversations and not making social media part of your business is like my 5-year-old putting a towel over his head and telling me I can’t see him. We also found ourselves nodding in agreement when she said “Have a calendar [for social media initiatives] – anyone can be a one-hit wonder.”

- Consumers want engagement, so humanize your brand – let your employees have real conversations with your customers (what a concept!). From Matt Gentile, Director of PR and social media content strategy for  CENTURY 21. Another great thought from Matt – and one that we have always used with PR campaigns: “‘Measure for success and then adjust for optimization.”

After panels, I moderated a round table called “The Rule in Social Media is that There are No Rules.” Of course, this isn’t completely true – as Doug Chavez, who leads digital marketing for Del Monte, recently told me: “I believe thereare rules. First is that a brand has to listen, second is to engage when appropriate and [value] additive to the conversation, third is that brands need to always be transparent and authentic.” Ok, so he’s right, there are some rules, but the genesis of the “no rules” sentiment is that some companies get too caught up in the rules – instead of thinking about what’s right for their company, they try to find a pre-written playbook or follow only the basics (I don’t know what we’ll do but we must be on: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook). They fail to create a strategy based around their business goals and often forget that social media is still so new – that while there may be guidelines, the results are still largely unproven. And thus, any “rules” could change tomorrow – or change today if you’re the company willing to take that risk (an example: Ben & Jerry’s abandoning email marketing in favor of just using social media. Will it work out for them in the long run? We’ll have to wait and see).

If you’d like to listen to the panelists and their full presentations, you may do so at BlogTalkRadio.

If you’d like to hear what some of the attendees and online followers have to say about social media, visit our Sweet Marketing Advice site, created to capture advice not only from the attendees of the BDI show, but of our network as well. We wanted to share our offline experiences today with our online community as well. And, as a thank you to those who took the time to share their best tips, we created a voting mechanism for the community to choose the “Sweetest Advice” – the author of the advice that the community votes as the best by 5 p.m. Friday, July 23, wins an iPad. So please visit the site to not only learn some great tips, but to vote on your favorite. You can submit your own advice too, if you’re so inclined, and see what the community thinks of your expertise.

As an aside, we listen to our community and some of the early feedback on our Sweet Advice Contest is that it was just another Twitter popularity contest. That was disheartening to hear but we re-evaluated our contest rules and text after this feedback. Let me be clear that the intent was to open up the experience for those not in attendance, to capture a variety of “best tips” to share with all of you, and to learn not only from the panelists and speakers, but from the attendees themselves. We thought it would be fun – but also useful – to have both the BDI attendees and our online community share their best social media convergence and marketing ideas, and to have the community vote on which advice was best. We changed the auto-tweet button on the site to share each tip as part of the Tweets – in an effort to make the Tweets more valuable.

Of course, entrants are also inclined – and yes, encouraged – to ask their community to vote for them if they like the advice, and they may choose to write what they want in order to get them to do so – but our intent was to entice people to give advice, aggregate it in one spot, ask the community to vote on the best advice and offer an iPad as both an incentive and a thank you for sharing. The advice voted the best – highest number of votes by Friday at 5 EST – will win an iPad from us, and the community benefits from an aggregated spot of great social media and marketing advice. Enjoy.

Special thanks to BDI and Steve Etzler for the wonderful conference and the opportunity to participate. We learned a lot and met some really great people. Great job on the conference.