Some of you may have noticed the climate of angry competitiveness that has overtaken the USA in the past, oh, 5 years or so. ¬†It is really coming to a boil of late, especially here on the Interwebs, where opinion run screaming like Banshees with their hair on fire. ¬†(Please note: No Offense was meant to be directed at the Banshee population, nor do I condone the act of running about with one’s hair on fire.)

But really, 84.7%* of all online discussions deteriorate into mean-spirited arguments concerning politics, religion, or lifestyle. (*Statistic courtesy of Make-M-Up Statistics, Inc.)  So ok, if that is what the lunkhead hoi polloi want to engage in on social media, then fine, let them.

But it is not a good idea for businesses, or business people, regardless of the strength of their political or religious beliefs, to bring those beliefs into the game.

Due to the simmering political divide in this country, a business person who visibly steps up to back an issue on one side of the divide automatically loses credibility, if not large amounts of revenue, from most members on the other side. ¬† So, in light of Don Cathy’s recent statements, will Chick-fil-A gain so much support from the Christian Right as to compensate for the loss of business from middle-of -the-road and Left-leaning folks? ¬†Outlook not so good.

And this is my point… this is a business issue, being discussed on a business blog. ¬†So politics aside, I think it is stupid ¬†– really special stupid… stupid with whipped cream and a cherry – for a business to toss their all eggs into one political or religious basket. ¬†You know, at one time in the not-so-distant past, I knew about Chick-fil-A because of one thing: Outstanding Customer Service. ¬†Now, that is something worth being known for, especially in the fast-food industry where franchises are typically populated with disinterested teenagers and weary adults who really wish they were doing something else with their lives. ¬†I never lived near one, so I had never tested that experience, but I had read about them in customer service case studies and anecdotes. ¬†I finally did get the opportunity to visit one in Memphis, and it was fine. I wasn’t blown away, but it was a clean environment and I was treated with courtesy. ¬†And the chicken sammich was decent. ¬†But overall, my experience was fine, and there was nothing to dissuade me from thinking their customer service reputation was justified.

Then Don Cathy has to open his mouth, condemning a segment of the population, as well as another segment that supports them. ¬†Now, these two segments have to think twice about where to go for a chicken sammich! ¬†Many will go instead to another establishment, one that possibly supports the same organizations and thinking that Mr. Cathy supports, but does not drag it into their business profile. ¬†Because once that chicken flies the coop, it ain’t never goin’ back.

Moral of the story: ¬†The idea behind a successful business is to attract customers, and serve them in such a manner that they will return to you, as well as share their experience with friends and colleagues. ¬†Alienating segments of the consumer population by drawing a line in the political / religious sand is not smart. ¬†It is self-defeating, regardless of what side of the line you stand. ¬†A successful business should be apolitical and secular. ¬†People don’t need to get spiritual guidance from a chicken sammich.

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Just read some interesting articles on the concepts of FOMO (fear of missing out) and TMI (sharing too much information), specifically concerning social media.¬† Both articles resonated with me, on both a personal and professional level.¬†¬† Perhaps I will comment more on them later, but out of these articles sprouted another business social media ‚Äúah-ha,‚ÄĚ which is‚Ķ

                Do not underestimate the importance of a compelling title or subject heading.               

By now, most businesses realize that they need to have an online presence, regardless of their industry or niche.  But as the two articles above make clear, there is literally a daily flood of information out there online, and much of it is, in fact, simply noise.

As a savvy businessperson, you have something significant to share with your customers and prospects in the way of content.  You have ideas and opinions and anecdotes.  You have white papers and webinars.  You have blogs and tweets and posts.

So why doesn‚Äôt your stuff get read more?¬† Well, it is competing with a LOT of crap out there on the interwebs.¬† Don‚Äôt get me wrong, there‚Äôs a lot of really good stuff out there, too.¬† Content that‚Äôs better than mine, and probably better than yours, too.¬† And does it all get read?¬† Hell, no.¬† Same problem ‚Äď too much noise out there.¬† That, coupled with people‚Äôs overwhelming need to not miss out on anything cool, means that actually getting someone to read your stuff is really a competitive sport.

Bingo.  The best tool you can use to get read is a really, REALLY compelling title or subject heading.  And don’t go all high and mighty intellectual.  Remember, in this age of social media and online communications, you are no longer simply competing against other businesses in your industry.  Oh no.  You are now competing with EVERYTHING.  ALL the TIME.

Yes, one of your greatest competitors for people’s attention may be cute kitten photos with cleverly misspelled captions!  And if you work for, say, a venerable financial institution, that may be hard news for you and your management team to swallow.  Doesn’t make it any less true, though.

So don’t be afraid to take some chances with your titles and subject headings.  Loosen the knot on your tie, Don Draper!  Go ahead and say something outrageous, and then use the article or blog or post to explain it.

I realize that many old-school marketers will see this as sort of beneath the dignity of their craft, but the world of business has changed, and the best practices must change along with it, lest ye get drowned in the flood of info-noise.

Oh, and here: 

Excited to be headed to Tampa tomorrow to this Social Media Boot Camp http://ow.ly/9RUsF – where should I go to eat at night in Tampa?

Thank You!

Posted: February 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Not a blog entry, or a rant about service…

Just a big shout out to my friends Jaime, Tara, and George, and all the good folks at AMASNE… a sincere thank you for having me speak to your organization about various aspects of social media. ¬†It’s always a pleasure seeing y’all, and I look forward to the next time.

And while I think of it, I want to say that Jaime, Tara, and George are each very talented and experienced marketers, but they are also deeply involved in a movement to feed the hungry in Providence, RI.  In addition to utilizing their marketing savvy to promote the organization, they are there on the front lines, making and distributing countless sandwiches, buying  and distributing cases of bottled water, helping out some fellow humans in need.  Check out The Elisha Project.  These are some good people.

In this day and age, in an economy that is showing signs of staggering back to its feet, in a world where competition for the entertainment and hospitality dollar is wide and varied, it is amazing to me that establishments that cater to the public can provide ridiculously poor service, at any time.  But when poor service is mixed with bad attitude and stupidity, that my friends is the golden trifecta.

My colleague Jaime is president of the American Marketing Association of Southeastern New England, (AMASNE) and in the role, frequently hosts networking events with a substantial number of people who, not surprisingly, market for a living.

So an event is held at STATE Ultra Lounge, apparently one of Providence’s hot spots for the late night dance crowd. ¬†When Jaime called that morning to confirm, they asked if she would, umm, reschedule her event. After Jaime gently but firmly convincing them to honor their agreement and open for the sake of preregistered guests, STATE ¬†charged Jaime’s group an outrageous sum of money for less-than-exquisite hors d’oeuvres such as¬†chicken fingers and pigs in blankets that could have easily been purchased from BJ’s for $20. Jaime told me “As a business owner and marketing professional, I am bewildered and appalled.”

And here is that three-way intersection of crap service, attitude, and ignorance. STATE was mad that they had to open their doors when they otherwise would not.  AMASNE had a small but dedicated following who had already registered, but apparently not a big enough group to satisfy STATE so they gouged on the food deal.  Duh. Not exactly a smart way to treat a room full of marketers.  People who influence buying decisions, for a living.

So because of this incident, it goes without saying that AMASNE is not planning on any further events  at STATE, nor will any of the group of marketers who attended the event likely be spreading any good words about the Ultra Lounge.

Now, I’m no genius (you’ve probably noticed), but it seems to me that if a restaurant / lounge / bar / whatever… is reserving a room for a group of marketing professionals, you might want to do something to ensure that they have a great freakin’ time. ¬†Because if you DO ensure that they have a great freakin’ time, then they will send traffic your way. ¬†Not interwebs kinda traffic – real traffic! ¬†People with money traffic.

Let us consider for a moment that a personal recommendation is twice as influential as even the best advertising, and even an impersonal recommendation (from a stranger) is 50% more influential.

So this was what the young folks call “an opportunity” ¬†for STATE. ¬†A really nice one, served up on a silver platter.

And they blew it.

Happy NEW Year, y’all!! Goodbye and good riddance, 2011… and as my dear, departed Mom used to say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”

I just read this article about Best Buy’s holiday debacle, and feel the need to weigh in¬†pile on with my own thoughts on this topic.

  1. Over-promising and under-delivering… never a good thing for any business. ¬†But for a zillion dollar big box store, it is pathetic! Add to this mix the fact that the economy still sucks, and that it is the holiday season where millions of people are trying to cobble together a decent holiday with limited resources. ¬†And now, a few days before Christmas, Best Buy tells MANY of its customers, “Ummmm, ya know that stuff you ordered and paid for back in November in our great Black Friday sale? ¬†Funny thing… we don’t seem to have enough of those things that we can ship it to you in time for the holiday, although we do have them in stock in our stores for full price. ¬†But those ones on sale? ¬†We ain’t got. ¬†In fact, we ain’t gonna get, either. ¬†So we’ll just cancel your order, and ruin your Christmas. ¬†Have a nice day!”
  2. Best Buy should realize that this is NOT just a slightly embarrassing situation.  Not only have the ruined the holiday for a lot of people this year, but they run the risk of losing a LOT of business FOREVER.  Many people have long memories when it comes to big businesses treating them like crap.  Your humble blogger, for example.  I still will not use Target.com because of an experience ten years ago, where a similar situation occurred.
  3. I am very interested in how Best Buy will try to¬†resolve¬†this matter. For the orders that will simply be late, I wonder if they will expedite the delivery. ¬†I wonder if they will knock off some of the price. ¬†I wouldn’t expect that they would outright refund any money already spent, but will they throw in a gift card or two to make up for their blunder? ¬†And for those poor bastards that simply had their orders unilaterally cancelled, how exactly do you go about winning back their trust?
  4. We know that in every crisis, there is opportunity. ¬†We also know that customers who have had a problem successfully, swiftly, and courteously resolved tend to end up being more loyal than the customer who has never experienced a problem with a business. ¬†OK, so you and I know this… it will be interesting to see if Best Buy gets this. ¬†Or will they simply paste on a smile and act like it never happened?
  5. I’m thinking this is a make or break situation for Best Buy. ¬†They have an opportunity to do something wonderful to try to make up for this blunder, and show their customers, the buying public, and the media that they really do care about their customers’ happiness. ¬†Or, they can make it easy on themselves, and just give a shrug and a weak grin, and hope that it doesn’t happen again, and hope that no one really carries a grudge. ¬† ¬†Best Buy! ¬†The eyes of the retail world are on you!

I was very surprised, and very disappointed, to read today that last Monday, a flight attendant on Southwest Airlines saw fit to kick two women off of a flight because they shared a small kiss as they boarded the plane. ¬†By all accounts, they were not tangled up in a hot make-out session, but just a quick “I love you” peck. ¬†However, a flight attendant saw this as a flagrant violation of her moral worldview, and told then that their actions were not acceptable, because Southwest was a “family-oriented” airline. ¬†As opposed to what? ¬†Those other airlines that cater to perverts, homicidal maniacs, and drug dealers?

Oh, and in addition to being a family-oriented airline, Southwest is also¬†the official airline for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). ¬†How’s that for irony?

I, personally, have always liked Southwest. ¬†Aside from their annoying commercials, I always felt they combined great service, great performance, and a sense of humor. ¬†And, by virtue of being the titular “official airline” of GLAAD, there must some folks in Southwest’s management who were not horrified at the thought of same-sex couples. ¬†However, their reluctance to apologize for this incident, or to publicly chastise its homophobic flight attendant, the company has drawn a line in the sand.

This is like the Montgomery, Alabama transit service of the 1950’s calling itself the “official bus line” of the city’s African Americans, provided, of course, that they sit at the back of the bus. ¬†But then that pesky Rosa Parks had to ruin it for everyone by insisting on sitting in the middle of the bus! ¬†How dare she! ¬†Well, history buffs, how did that work out for the Montgomery bus system? ¬†About as well as this incident is going to work out for Southwest, unless they get a clue, and get it quick!

So, I have two things to say about this, one is from the heart, and one is from the brain:

1) People, this is 2011. ¬†We are 11 years into the 21st Century. ¬†For the sake of all that you hold dear, isn’t it time we, as a people, finally got over ourselves, and realized that the world has changed (whether we like it or not), and that we need to reevaluate many of our long-held beliefs? ¬†There are still so many people who want to drag us back to the “good ol’ days” of racism, sexism,¬†religion-ism, and all the other “-isms” that claim one group of people to be superior over another. ¬†Are we as a people really that insecure that we need to impose our worldview on everyone?

2) It’s bad enough when individuals show their bigoted side. ¬†But when businesses do it, it is just plain stupid. ¬†Especially in an economy that is as shaky as what we’ve been experiencing the past five years. ¬†I mean, how smart is it that a multi-million dollar enterprise would risk sacrificing a significant source of its revenue, because one of its employees was appalled at the idea of two women in love, sharing a kiss. ¬†Yeah, that’s a problem… too much love in the world today. ¬†Knock that crap off, people. ¬†We’re trying to run an airline here! ¬†I’m sure the bean counters at Southwest don’t mind taking the money from the gay and lesbian community. ¬†And money, ultimately, is what businesses are all about. ¬†So here’s a tip, folks… treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect that you would give to people of your own race, religion, or sexual orientation. ¬†If you can’t do that, perhaps you should not be in business.

If you want to take a stand on this matter, click here and sign a petition, demanding that Southwest step up to the plate and apologize for this incident.

Since attending an interesting ¬†¬†meeting a couple weeks ago, on the impact that real social¬†responsibility has on business today has been rattling around my brain. ¬†Not the BS-made-for-headlines “socially responsible” crap that BP put out after they polluted a sizable portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

No, we heard from the real deal; a couple of New England companies of global scope, who actually walk the talk. ¬†Not only have they made effective use of resources to produce quality products, they have managed to save considerable amount of money in doing so! ¬†My eyes were opened to the enormous amount of waste that companies of all sizes burn through, often because they just don’t think of it.

Our host,   and our guest speaker   , both demonstrated social responsibility, not only in the products they produce and how they produce them, but also how these principles translate into the day-to-day business practices of these organizations.

I’m not gonna lie and say I’ve suddenly caught the “green fever.” ¬†It’s hard to overcome one’s lifetime’s worth of disengagement in one day’s worth of presentation and discussion. ¬†But it is not an exaggeration to say that my eyes were opened a bit to this matter. ¬†Let’s just say, I have a new-found respect for companies that put the effort into doing the right things, and a new-found scorn for those business that do not. ¬†I notice this stuff now.

And here is something I learned today that kinda pretty much sucks, anyway you look at it. ¬†Still lookin’ for the silver lining 0n this one, folks, so if you can help me out, much obliged.

To wit: “Those little boxes that usher cable signals and digital recording capacity into televisions have become the single largest electricity drain in many American homes, with some typical home entertainment configurations eating more power than a new refrigerator and even some central air-conditioning systems.”

I’m not going to prattle on with the details here; I ask that you read the article. ¬†But I will break it down for you:

  • We as a culture, have become addicted to the medium of television.
  • In its effort to meet our demand for both immediate gratification AND complete control of ¬†viewing of broadcast content, cable providers give us a¬†ubiquitous¬†box or two which drain our resources considerably.
  • We pat ourselves on the back for being¬†conscientious¬†when we remember to turn out the light when we leave a room, yet 24/7/365, the beady little light from our cable / DVR boxes shows that it is ready to serve us, any time, day or night. ¬†But not without a cost.

Apparently, energy-conservation is sort of an afterthought here. ¬†Oh sure, we might be interested in seeing¬†some of that energy-saving stuff, but our concern is really limited¬†here to “does it do what our technology-crazed customer base demands?” and… “how much profit can we make by providing it?”

Later in the article, an industry guy was asked why making energy-efficient equipment has not been a priority, he shrugged and said, “nobody asked me to.” ¬† Brilliant. ¬†I used to use that same excuse as a thirteen year old, just before getting smacked in the head by a family member.

But apparently (sez them), it is our lust for anything bigger/better/quicker that drives conservation to the back-burner in the minds of the device technology¬†manufacturers. ¬†Just givin’ you people all the toys what you want. ¬†Can’t be expected to preserve your “environment,” too! ¬†If we start building eco-friendly cable boxes, we may not be able to give our customers that all-important instantaneous access to the old movies or episodes of reality programs that they require round the clock! ¬†From there, we are on a slippery slope… to… umm, maybe considering a new technology to help conserve. ¬†Just a thought. ¬†Read the article.

You may have already heard or read something about¬†‚ȧ15%¬†a bunch of shitty tips, the blog written by a disgruntled food deliveryman, where he “outs” poor tippers to his legion of followers.

Now on the one hand, here is a fellow who is not happy with his work. ¬†Obviously. ¬†But more importantly, this guy just don’t get it. ¬†The customers ain’t the problem, bub.

First, let’s explore the concept of “tip.” ¬†How’s this: http://www.investorwords.com/4990/tip.html¬†– it refers to the OPTIONAL payment, over and beyond the required payment.

Businesses that offer delivery to their customers do so as COMPLIMENTARY (or low-priced) courtesy.  Any tip or gratuity involved is a show of appreciation regarding how the service is rendered.  NOT simply that it was rendered.

I know, life sucks. ¬†Like it ain’t bad enough you’re stuck in this sucky job, but then ya gotta put up with cheap bastards that have plenty of money to stuff their faces, but sorry pal, not much left to tip ya with. ¬†Catch ya on the rebound, yo!

Rebound, indeed.

Angry customers.  Angry service providers.  Chicken versus Egg.  Which came first?

Hell if I know, but Business versus Customer – who came first? ¬†Trick question! ¬†It doesn’t matter which came first, because the fact is, and always will be, that the business without customers is not a business, it is a hobby. ¬†An expensive hobby.

But a customer without a business? ¬†Hey, that’s somebody’s customer, just waiting to be wow’d by something. ¬†The best thing you can wow her with is service. ¬†It takes so little to provide a pleasant experience to for a customer, and most of them will be inclined to pay for that. ¬†Again and again. ¬†Service businesses have only operated like this for thousands of years…

The thing I like about the tipping part of certain commerce is that it gives me the opportunity to pay for performance. ¬†It’s not like I look for bad service experiences, but when I encounter them, I do spread the word. ¬†However, as a self-proclaimed customer service critic and chronicler, I also really like shining the light on businesses that GET IT. ¬†I like to point out what makes them good (or what makes them suck). ¬†And I tip accordingly. ¬†I try to tip generously in any case, but within my own personal framework, there is a range of 15-20% for good service. ¬†Great service gets at least 25% but the sky’s the limit. ¬†Really.

But poor service?  Hate to break it to ya, sport, but <15% means the service SUCKED.  However you presented yourself and your product to this customer, you failed.  You did not do a very good job.  The customer was not compelled to give you a bigger tip, because when you deliver sub-par service, most people with a brain will give very little, if nothing, in gratuity.  For crappy service rendered by a sloppy, whiny man.  Or woman.

See, I’m not callin’ out the dude with the web site – I say good for him for using the tools at his disposal to get his message across. ¬†But I don’t¬†sympathize¬†with the message, because good tips gotta be earned!!

Now, I don’t know this guy with the blog… But like Charles Barkley says, “I could be wrong, but I doubt it.”

Think about the level of service that YOU, as a customer, want to receive from businesses you patronize.  Is that the level of service you DELIVER to your customers?  Tell the truth.  At least to yourself, if not your boss.

Businesses… treat your employees well, so that they will want to treat your customers well.