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.

Embrace Your Geekness Day

Yeah, ok, so I’m not sure who came up with this, but as a tech PR firm, we’re all geeks (are we bragging, according to this description? Sure, maybe!). And we’re proud of it. We’re celebrating on our Facebook page by showcasing our favorite geeks. Come on over, “like” us and check out the geeks who’ve stolen our hearts. If you’re inspired, post your own! Because after all, we all know by now that Revenge of the Nerds was just a glimpse of the future!

http://www.facebook.com/perkettpr

A Week of (Soggy) Marketing & Social Media Learning in Boston – Join us online or at IMS at 1 today!

If you’re in or around the Boston area this week, you already know that it’s a big week for new marketing, social media and business professionals. A flurry of events are taking place as IMS 2010 and FutureM are in full swing. If you can’t join live, be sure to watch the numerous sessions on livestream via The Pulse Network, catch the chatter on Twitter (hashtags: #futureM and #IMS10) or the many blog posts being written by attendees.

Today, you can catch PerkettPR’s Claire Russell presenting “The Power of Reel” at 1 p.m. EST at IMS. She’ll be partnering with Bettina Hein, Founder & CEO of Pixability, to showcase how easy and powerful video is – and how it can help you to not only tell your story but create stronger relationships and impact in your social marketing efforts. Case studies will include work and campaigns from businesses such as Old Spice, Livestrong, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and more.

Not in Boston at IMS today? Then considering joining me at 1 p.m., along with the American Marketing Association, Conduit (a PerkettPR client), John Jantsch, Author of Duct Tape Marketing and Sally Falkow, as we present “5 Must Dos for Social Media Holiday Marketing.” Focused mainly on how SMBs can use social media to successfully – and easily – expand their holiday marketing efforts. Not convinced social marketing is for you? Check out these facts from the press release:

  • More than 50% of the 500 million Facebook users log on to Facebook every day.  In total, they spend over 700 billion minutes per month on the service.
  • People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube; every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to the service.
  • Users spend 22.7% of their time online on social networking sites.

I hope we’ll see you either at IMS, FutureM or on the webinar today. Looking forward to sharing insights, learning from others and continuing to merge our online and offline relationships.

Happy marketing!

 

Spin PR— Spinning Out of Control

This month E! premiered the reality show “The Spin Crowd” which follows celebrity publicists Jonathan Cheban and Simon Huck and their Hollywood PR firm Command PR — self-proclaimed as one of the ‘most visible’ PR firms in the country. When I first tuned into the show I wasn’t surprised by the overuse of stereotypical, shallow LA behavior, but I was disappointed at how little of this show was actually about PR. If you’re interested in good ‘ole mind-numbing reality TV, then The Spin Crowd’s overacted, overly dramatic, oversimplified depiction of celebrity publicity may be right up your alley.

I, on the other hand, was hoping for a real look at the behind the scenes world of celebrity publicity —which is seemingly chic and glamorous and something I’ve always been interested in. Instead of getting insight I could sink my teeth into —I got shallow, poorly acted Hollywood drama queens. I can’t help but feel let down as I was, in fact, hoping that this show would stand apart from its predecessors and really dive into celebrity promotion, publicity strategies and best practices.

I wanted to see how the firm handles big name events, the ever-changing celebrity social media landscape and maybe a crisis or two (and we know there’s plenty) for their superstar clients.  I wanted to see the day-in-the-life of a tireless PR maven — who would share new ideas and insight into the inner workings of the Hollywood PR scene.  But the more I watched, the more frustrated I became. The show loses complete focus of what PR truly is— connecting with others in a valuable and meaningful way—and who PR is truly about—the client. Instead Command PR chooses to take us down a rat hole of wasted money, poor self-images and bad attitudes.

Aside from the lack of PR focus—the show portrays one of the most ridiculous work environments I’ve ever witnessed. 99.9% of those of us in PR have never been exposed to anything like the office environment or behavior this show depicts. In the first episode, Cheban makes and pays for a lip injection appointment for one of his new employees—and when she refuses to get the permanent procedure—he bluntly states “you’re homely — no offense. But this is, like, Hollywood. You need to step it up.” Cheban also spends part of the episode stressing over his own physique — ultimately trying to “freeze” his back fat off.  Absolutely ridiculous. I guess when there isn’t enough drama in your reality show you have to create it and that’s seemingly what they are doing with The Spin Crowd.

PR industry outsiders they wonder — is this what PR is all about? An industry so far removed from reality, common sense and respect? An industry where your looks count for everything, you don’t need to be professional, respect others, work hard, think on your toes or strive to impress your clients? Let me answer for all of my fellow colleagues and the other 99.9% of PR professionals out there – THIS IS NOT PR. At PerkettPR, we work tirelessly for our clients – we know it’s about them, not us. We think. We listen. We ask questions. We constantly look for more ways to innovate. We challenge ourselves with new projects and ideas. We consistently measure our worth in how happy our clients are, how much respect we garner from the press and how our results stack up at the end of each quarter. And we work in a healthy, encouraging, and motivating environment.

So fellow PR professionals, if you had the bad fortune of tuning in and wasting a half-hour of your lives— tell us what you think about the show. Please share your thoughts so we can dispel some of these complete myths about our profession. We are especially interested in hearing from other celebrity PR firms. Do you think this is the way celebrity publicity should be depicted on TV? Are you offended or OK with it? Is there any truth to this? Anything redeeming about this program we missed behind the self-tanner?

Empowering Yourself in the WorkPlace and Beyond

The Lululemon community blog is one that I read regularly – it, along with others like Athleta Chi and The World According to OmGal, inspires me to use physical activity as a way to combat stress, set goals, and realize that a healthy balance between work and life can make me better at both.

PerkettPR employees seem to manifest this thinking and we have several marathon runners among our ranks, in addition to hot yoga addicts, belly dancers, skiers, Karate and Taekwondo enthusiasts and triathletes.    

This particular community post by Olive, who is spending 30 days living the Lululemon manifesto, made me pause – and then take action.  Olive writes, “Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself (for real this time).”

Maybe a certain client or reporter has you questioning your value and ability despite your best efforts. Maybe you’re still beating yourself up after eating another slice of pie. Maybe you’re too busy to work out, sleep enough, read a book, and grow a garden.

Add your (probably too long) list here of the things that sap your positive energy – that you’re not good enough at, or that you wish you could do better at.

That’s enough of that. To be successful at our lives, as well as our jobs, we have to start by accepting ourselves – a never-ending process – but one that’s worth the time and effort.

Here are a few things Olive has learned that are worth sharing:

  • Loving yourself means committing to participating in your own life.
  • Learn to forgive and grow from perceived failures (we often forget that these feelings pass).
  • Identify flaws and what you are doing with or about them.
  • Learn to interrupt my inner voice, especially when it starts going on those long-winded rants about you not being good enough, or in control, or perfect (you know the usual cycle of darts you throw at yourself).
  • I learned that I can talk myself in or out of anything. Someone once told me that you can rationalize and justify all day long, all life long and do nothing to live a better life. Or, you can begin to realize that you actually hold the secret within you to take your life or at least your attitude towards life in any direction you choose.

After realizing only you can empower yourself, the next step is about goal setting. In PR we’re all about this – we develop a thoughtful, forward-thinking, strategic PR plan that aligns with our clients goals. We benchmark against is regularly and make adjustments as those goals or strategies change. Why don’t we all do that for ourselves in our personal lives? Maybe you do. But if you don’t maybe now is the time to start.

Write down your short and long-term goals four times a year. Two personal, two business and two health goals for the next 1, 5 and 10 years. I am in the process of setting these goals for myself. I ran my first ½ marathon in June and completing it has inspired me to keep running and to formalize some other goals I have. I’ve heard people say that running is a mental sport and I agree. In my experience, my body will do what I ask of it if I train properly, and fuel it well. It’s my head that keeps holding me back saying: you can’t finish this run, you’ll never be fast enough, you’re crazy to try this, you’re not good enough, etc.

This video, Jessica’s Daily Affirmation, always gives me a boost. I especially like when she says, “my whole imagination is greeeeeat!”

I’m pretty sure most things in life are “mental sports,” so setting goals and checking in on them is a good way to keep those negative thoughts at bay. Do you already set goals? How do you track them? Do you keep them private or share them? We would love to hear your thoughts on how you empower yourself in the workplace and beyond.