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.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 06/13/11

Tony Hsieh9 Questions: Tony Hsieh, Zappos
Get a quick injection of entrepreneurial motivation from this quick and inspirational interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh on the American Express Open Forum.

Take a Twitter Audit
Chris Brogan provides 10 questions for you to answer that will help in determining how effective your efforts on Twitter really are.

Should all your staff be engaging in social media?
Letting your entire staff engage in the social space on behalf of your brand can be a tough idea to grasp, not to mention implement with success. Gain some insight on how to approach allowing this in your business via this eConsultancy blog guest post from FreshNetworksMatt Rhodes.

7 Ways to Gain Leads Through Social Media Networking
If used properly, social media has the ability to help you gain more leads, close more deals and build more business partnerships. The SEO Agency’s Tony B share some basic tips to help start increasing your business’s lead generation in the social space via this post on SocialMediaToday.com.

Social Media Videos: The Custom Creative Paradox
Poptent President Neil Perry encourages brands to continue publishing video to their social platforms, but first urges some careful and creative planning in the subject matter and usefulness of video-based content creation.

Changing the definition of CRM – marriage, not management

Some companies really get customer relations and service and make it the lifeblood of their culture. Zappos, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines, LL Bean, Amazon, Starbucks and my local Walgreens are a few brands that come to my mind when I think of customer-centric brands. But why do they seem to be the exception rather than the rule? These businesses understand the value in making a customer feel important at every interaction – not just the sale.

Customer service and CRM (customer relationship management) are often described separately in business but in today’s customer-centric organization, service is but one part of CRM. CRM is most often described as a technology process, and many companies – especially small businesses – therefore don’t think of it as applicable to their organization. They may Google the term and be immediately overwhelmed with articles full of terms like software, implementation, SaaS and enterprise. Wikipedia’s definition states, “It [CRM] involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities.”

I like to think that the definition of CRM today goes well beyond technology. I did a recent webinar on the topic of CRM with a panel of really intelligent tech leaders, including a former editor of CRM Magazine, a former CRM analyst and an executive from CRM software vendor, Sugar CRM. These guys are very smart and we covered some great topics – including software, customer service and even social CRM. But we only touched upon the fact that CRM is more than tech.

CRM is the lifeblood of how everyone in your organization manages and maintains relationships with customers.

  • Do you want more customers?
  • Do you care about repeat customers?
  • Do you you want to have a relationship, not just a deal, with your customers?
  • Do you want to see more revenue come in the doors of your business, or higher figures in your next raise as a result?
  • Do you like it when happy customers refer your business, service or products?
  • Do you care when unhappy customers take to social networks like Twitter or reputable business management entities such as The Better Business Bureau to complain about your business?

Then you care about CRM. And so should your employees – not just the sales team.

In that same webinar I suggested perhaps it would help businesses to think of the “M” in CRM as “marriage,” rather than management. What I mean by that is to really think about your customers as a long term commitment. Don’t “manage” them so much as keep wooing them, romancing them with outstanding products and services, and keep the love alive.

To do that successfully, every employee plays a role in treating customers right. Not just sales, not just customer service, not just the cashier at the counter and most certainly not a piece of software. Don’t leave it up to just one department. If the customer is treated poorly by just one employee in your organization, THAT is the experience they will remember. THAT is the experience they will share with their friends. Think of all the marketing, advertising and sales dollars that fly out the door – wasted – when that happens.

Here’s an example. A customer in a retail store is shopping and a salesperson on the floor stops to politely help. The customer spends an hour with the salesperson – finding more than they originally were seeking, but so pleased with the experience that she decides to buy everything that the salesperson has suggested. The customer heads to the cashier and the line is long. There is one cashier. The customer waits longer than she was happy with but nonetheless, makes it to the counter. When she gets there, the cashier is grumpy, rude and impatient, especially when the customer asks if she can have some boxes with her purchase. In response to the rudeness, the customer decides to leave all the items on the counter and walk away from the purchase. She decides that, now that she knows what she wants, she can easily go online and order it elsewhere rather than fork over her hard-earned money to a business who will treat her as though she doesn’t matter.

Another example is an airline. There are multiple exchanges with customers during just one purchase. There is the point of purchase, the airport experience and the experience on the plane. Say a customer finds a great deal on a flight.  He checks in at the airport and sails through security. He’s happy. But on the plane, the flight attendant is snappy and condescending when he tries to order food – and her attitude gets no better, sighing whenever asked for something and generally making him – and all other passengers – feel as though they are an inconvenience. Since he can’t express himself on the plane for fear of escalation, he takes to Twitter and Facebook after his flight, encouraging his 15,000 “friends” that no matter how inexpensive, the experience with that airline isn’t worth it and that they should spend their money with another airline.

Forget what you know and are probably thinking about typical customer behaviors, point of purchase abandonment statistics, or how far reaching (or not) just one customer’s influence is on what percentage of people. Forget about the traditional definition of CRM. Again, instead ask yourself if you care about sales, customers and revenue. Do you care about reputation and brand management? Do you care about the highest return on your marketing and advertising investments?

If the answer is yes, then teach your employees – not just sales or customer service – what CRM means and what role they play in it for your organization. How do you want customers to feel after an interaction with your business? What role does each employee play in making that happen every time? How flexible are policies? What do you want most from your customers and why?

From the point of sale to the marketing department, billing to service issues, every employee is crucial to making CRM work for your business.  It’s about the way prospects find you, why they listen and how they are wowed enough by your business to become customers. It is why your customers become repeat customers. And it’s about the way happy customers tell their friends. As it is in any relationship, you’ve got to keep working at it to keep it great. Don’t take it for granted and make sure you communicate well.

“Customer-centric” just isn’t enough anymore. Technology doesn’t manage relationships on its own. Rather, the best businesses will embrace a new type of CRM throughout their organization – showcasing customer commitment at every level.

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!

Persuasive Picks for the week of 07/19/09

Twitter 101Twitter Launches “Twitter 101″- Step One Of The Business Plan
Still looking for self-help in understanding what Twitter is and how to use it? Now you can get that information straight from the source with Twitter’s new online guide for business.

Nine Marketing Tips from a Six-Year Old’s Lemonade Stand
Jim Lodico guest posts on WebDesignerDepot.com with this great set of marketing tips inspired by his daughter’s lemonade stand.

Why Customer Service Should Be in Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Tamar Weinberg shares this great post that reminds us how important customer service can be when engaging in social marketing strategies.

Deep social media engagement pays dividends
Sally Falkow provides an overview (with links to the source) on the eConsultancy.com blog of a recent ENGAGEMENTdb study thats shows how companies with the deepest and widest social media efforts gained revenue over the last 12 months.

Amazon Buys Zappos, Gives Press the Boot
Amazon and Zappos show that sometimes you can deliver the news on your own terms without the help of the media. It was certainly an interesting move considering the size of the news – and it has been yielding opinions on both sides of the fence. Here’s the video that Jeff Bezos released on YouTube: