Sheridan Orr

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Customer Experience Lessons from the NBC Olympic #epicfail

In Brand, Customer Experience, Retail on July 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm

What retailers can learn from viewer frustration at NBC Olympic coverage.

I watched Bruce Jenner before he was a Kardashian.  I cried when Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect ten.  I ran the school track barefooted because Zola Budd rocked.  Therefore, I eagerly anticipate the Olympics.

With this joie to vivre, I opened a jar of hummus and a Pabst Blue Ribbon (I’m patriotic too) at 4:00 on Friday.  I anxiously scanned 2000 channels only to find that the opening ceremony was tape delayed.

Moreover, I was blocked from the BBC live coverage because of the agreement with NBC.  After consulting with my tech friends, I downloaded Tunnel Bear and tried to watch it that way to no avail.

My frustration at being blocked from live coverage was compounded by the fact that Twitter and other social media were buzzing with images and comments from the ceremony—a ceremony that I could not watch for another three hours.  I returned the hummus to the frig, but kept the PBR out to nurse the agony of defeat.

A New Hash Tag is Born

Once the broadcast started, my annoyance erupted to frustration.  The commercials were overwhelming, the commentary made even my 13-year-old son say “They really don’t know much do they, Mom?” and many poignant parts of the ceremony were edited out in favor of commercials and interviews.

Two hours into it, I gave up but not before seeing that I was not alone. Twitter was no longer buzzing.  It was flaming and the most popular hash tag was #NBCfail.

As a businessperson, I understand that NBC paid $1.2 Billion for the Olympic coverage and needed to recoup that investment.  However, the way they treated me as a customer, made me dislike the brand, abandon the coverage and lose my enthusiasm for the games.

Some of the problems that NBC had with the Olympic coverage are not unlike things that retailers do to annoy their customers.

Real Time in a Social Media World

For the past year, the 2012 Olympics have been touted as the “first social media games.” As such, NBC should have figured there was an expectation for real time data.  In a globally connected world, ‘now’ is the norm.

A delay of three hours feels like an eternity.   In that amount of time, the meme is old and something else is trending.  Because of this fast transmission of information, consumer patience is at an all-time low.

The competing demands of modern life make time a precious commodity.  If you don’t value your customer’s time, then they will go elsewhere.

Don’t Dumb it Down

Because of easy access to information, Gen Y might not be able to name all the state capitals.  Instead, they’ve become very adroit at looking things up.  Moreover, they are worldly and politically astute

Jokes about the names of countries or saying how Sudan has that genocide thing sorted do not endear you to customers no matter the generation.

This is especially true because there were many interesting things that could have been discussed.  For instance, the success of Tubular Bells actually launched Virgin Records.  Why did the commentators feel the need to focus on the vapid rather than the relevant and interesting?

Today’s consumer is sophisticate and craves information that is factual and in context.  If you try to be gimmicky you will alienate rather than endear your customers.

Over Restriction Causes Revolt

Because NBC blocked me from seeing content in other avenues, I went out of my way to circumvent them.  Moreover, I’ve only watched one bit of coverage since then—the women’s gymnastics.

If Nadia Comaneci was competing in this year’s Olympics, I’d surely have missed it because the camera was trained only on Americans.  Isn’t that the fun of the games?  To see the diversity?

Because I felt so restricted as a consumer and viewer, I opted out.  Instead, I get my coverage from other sources.  If you are too restrictive in policies, then your customers will seek ways to avoid engaging with you.

Quid Pro Quo

Part of the bargain of network television is that you get free content and they get to market to you.  Likewise, your customers know you need to make money in order to remain open to serve them.  However, they expect things to be reciprocal and in balance.

Unfortunately, NBC quit respecting my time and interests by airing a commercial every five minutes and eliminating coverage—like the tribute to the London bombing victims in favor of Ryan Seacrest.

In addition, NBC did their advertisers a disservice.  I was so bombarded that 1. I can’t remember any specific advertisement and 2.  I was irritated with the abundance of commercials and that had a transitive effect on the brands presented.

When you lose sight of why your customer is there and instead focus on your own objectives, you risk alienating them.  Customers understand you need to make a profit.  However, you need to ensure that they never feel victimized as you do so.

More commercials than content made viewers abandon NBC coverage.

Summary

NBC had an opportunity to create energized customers for themselves and the brands they represent.  Instead, they spawned two popular hash tags #NBCfail and #NBCsucks.   Some steps you can take to ensure that you don’t end up as the unpopular meme of the day are:

–       Ensure that you respect your customers’ time and provide them with the data they need when they need it.

–       Realize the clock has sped up and that means customers expect things ‘now’. Design your systems and processes with that in mind.

–       Recognize that today’s customer is sophisticated and resourceful.  Talk to them in a language that acknowledges this.  Yes, they want information in bite-sized morsels, but they don’t want it to be without substance.  The cardinal rule is to be authentic and useful.

–       Consider whether or not your policies and procedures are highly restrictive and designed without mutual benefit in mind.  If they are, you force your customers to go elsewhere.

–       Remember customers understand you need to make a profit.  However, they want to feel like they received value.

Think of social media as an opportunity get real time feed back.  If you listen and adapt then you will continually improve the customer experience. Hopefully, NBC will rectify some of their challenges before Rio in 2016.

The Curious Incident of Employees, Social Media and a Brand

In Brand, Customer Experience, Retail on July 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Burger King was thrust into crisis mode when a photo of an employee abusing the lettuce went viral

How can three employees, a smart phone and a social website throw a major company into crisis mode? You might want to ask Bryson Thornton, director of global communications for Burger King that question.

Thorton and his team have been doing damage control since a picture of an employee standing in lettuce went viral.  The caption read,  “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.”

The photo was originally posted on the site 4Chan, which allows users to post and comment anonymously.  The image outraged enough people on 4Chan that they used the photo’s geotagging to identify the store as the Mayfield Heights, Ohio location.

Soon social media was flooded with comments and shares and the franchise with calls from angry customers and inquiring media. By the time Burger King communications could spring into action, the picture had gone viral and global news outlets were covering the story.

Rogue Brand Impressions

Brand strategists frequently define a brand as the emotional connection you create with your customer and the space that you occupy in their minds.  It is impossible to think of how a picture of an employee standing in food about to be served to customers can create anything other than disgust. Therefore, the Burger King brand and the emotions created by this image are forever linked in consumers’ minds.

Once the photo spread and Burger King corporate became aware of it, they immediately issued a statement, which said:

Burger King Corp. has recently been made aware of a photo that shows a Burger King restaurant employee violating the company’s stringent food handling procedures. Food safety is a top priority at all Burger King restaurants and the company maintains a zero-tolerance policy against any violations such as the one in question.

While the statement is well worded, timely and reaffirms Burger King policy on food safety, it cannot erase the image from dinner’s minds.

Brand, culture and employees

The modern reality is that people share even the most intimate details of their lives.  Things that weren’t said aloud 20 years ago are conversation starters on social media today.

A workplace prank can suddenly become a public relations nightmare.  All it took to spawn the Burger King crisis was a simple image shared on one site.

While significant damage can be done to a brand through social media, there is no getting this genie back into the bottle.  It has become the way in which Millennials or Gen Y prefer to communicate.  In fact, many manage their lives though social media.

Progresses companies like T.G.I. Friday’s have recognized that employees will share. Instead of trying to quash this with Draconian policies, they have embraced it and provided a positive, sanctioned outlet for dialogue and expression.

Fridoids is a site where Friday’s employees can share stories about celebrities  who visit their locations, tips for customer service and fun pictures that exemplify the culture.  Moreover, the policy around this site is simply “don’t do evil.”  Employees self-police and share in a way that embodies the Friday’s culture and brand.

The reality is that companies can’t silence employees.  Instead, they need to provide positive outlets buttressed by a well-defined social media policy.

This may not stop rogue employees.  However, many companies, like T.G.I. Friday’s, are recognizing that building a positive culture of engaged employees who self-police is the way forward in a social sharing world. You can bet your Whopper that Burger King will be considering how they could have avoided this incident.

 

The Hippocratic Oath of Customer Experience

In Customer Experience, Retail on July 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm
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Retailers should follow the Hippocratic Oath when dealing with customers.

Hippocratic Oath of Customer Experience

For thousands of years, physicians have been taking the Hippocratic Oath to “first do no harm”.  This philosophy is also excellent advice for anyone dealing with customers rather than patients.

I come from a long line of shoppers—perhaps that is why I am so passionate about retail.  When I was growing up my Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother would drag me off for marathon shopping trips each Saturday.

We would frequent stores where the clerks all knew my grandmothers.  They would set aside things that might possibly interest them.  They knew their names, sizes, tastes and those of my other family members.  Contrast that with my experience this Saturday morning.

The Experience

I had a simple list.  Pick up a book club selection, find wrapping paper and a card for a gift, and a cake for a cookout. Fairly simple stuff—or so you’d think.

First, I went to Barnes & Noble.  In the spirit of transparency, I love my Kindle and have not purchased a physical book in a while.  However, Catcher in the Rye isn’t available digitally and that’s this month’s selection.  Therefore, Barnes & Noble had a perfect opportunity to ‘recover me’ as a loyal customer.  Instead, to be blunt, they pissed me off.

How did they do that?

Clerk:  Do you have a discount card?

Me: (in good mood) Yes, but not with me.  Can you look it up?

Clerk:  What’s your phone number?

Me: 919-xxx-xxxx.  That may not be the right number. We’ve moved and switched phones.  Not sure which number I signed up with.

Clerk:  That isn’t your number.

Me:  Can you look it up by my name?

Clerk:  Not here.  You have to go to customer service.  Do you want to buy a new card for $25.

Me:  You mean I have to get out of line to go find my number?

Clerk:  Yep.  (glares at me)

Me:  Why would I buy a new card when I already have one?

Clerk:  Clearly you don’t know your phone number.

Me:  (giant WTF stare and then I look at the line of people who I don’t want to make wait) Just ring it up.

Me to my husband as we leave:  This is why I love Amazon.

So Barnes & Noble has systems that don’t talk to one another.  Instead of trying to help me get my number, they try to sell me something I already have.  Moreover, I’m the perfect customer for them.  Books are a priority in my family.  Yet, they seem to be trying to get rid of me.

Next, I head downtown for my other items.  There is a stationery store by the bakery and I pop in for the wrapping paper and a card.  I can’t help but think the store smells strange—kind of like a litter box.  As I’m looking at my husband oddly, a giant Ewok of a cat rubs against my leg.  I’m in a panic as I’m highly allergic to cats.

I race to the door knowing my afternoon is ruined because I’ll be in a Benadryl induced stupor.  The clerk looks at me strangely as I bolt out almost knocking over a display.  Over my shoulder, I call out “Sorry.  Allergic to cats.”  I’m already wheezing as we make our way to the bakery.

When we enter the bakery, the experience is completely different.  The pastries are beautifully arranged. There are samples that the clerks are happily sharing with other customers. The cakes are so delicious that the customers are selling them to one another.

I ask a clerk which one she’d recommend for a summer cook out.  Eagerly, she describes the strawberry amaretto in butter cream.  I’m sold!  Carefully, she packages it up for me.

Then she asks me “Have you thought about what you are going to do for your sister’s shower?”  I instantly order yet another cake.  I don’t feel upsold.  I feel relief.   And guess what?  I can’t wait to come back.  I feel a bit of that joy of those Saturdays spent shopping with the women of my family.

Contrast that with how I feel about the other two stores.  I’m not going back to a store that wants me to do all of the work and them to just take my money.  I’m definitely not going to the cathouse.  In fact, as my eyes swell shut, I reach for my phone to add a tip on Four Square “AVOID if you are allergic to cats.”

First Do No Harm

When you are crafting a customer experience, you need to seriously consider if your processes, procedures or choices cause your customers pain.

For instance, up to 30% of the population has a cat allergy.  On what planet does it make sense to alienate that many potential customers?

Why would you train your staff to try to sell someone a new discount card before you try to look up their old one?  Or even worse, why would you implement a system that doesn’t allow for multiple ways to look up customer data?

Things to Consider

When you are creating user journeys or customer experiences, make sure you look for any places you may cause the customer pain.  Some things to consider are:

  • Are you doing anything that could potentially alienate customers (is your store accessible, clean, dander-free?)?
  • Can customers easily find things?
  • Do you have procedures that make the customer do the work?
  • Are you selling at the right time? (not when the customer has a need that you are not resolving)
  • Is your staff adequately trained on how you wish them to engage with the customer?
  • Do you have adequate feedback loops so complaints can be addressed before they become big issues?
  • Are you monitoring social media for ‘customer pain’
  • Do you shop your stores anonymously to see what the experience is like?

Conclusion

Like physicians, retailers need to ask themselves if what they are doing causes damage to your customer and the relationship you want to have with them.  It is difficult for anyone to go from pissed off to delighted in one experience.

Therefore, you should be vigilant in looking for things that may potentially do harm.  While there are not lives at stake, the viability of your business may be.  My husband and I are already taking bets on how long the cat stationery shop will be in business. Anyone want to take a long position?

Meet Your New Gift Registry: Pintrest

In Customer Experience, Retail, Self-Service on July 11, 2012 at 10:21 am

Pintrest makes an excellent gift registry for all occasions.

I’m planning a party for my younger sister.  Usually, I flip through magazines or ask friends for ideas.  However, this time I went straight to Pintrest.

As I feverishly pinned for the party, I found so many cute things that I started an alternate board to collect things I wanted.  It isn’t that I’m super creative.  It was that almost every other person had a “Want it” or “Love it” board and I hate to be left out.

After I finished collecting ideas for my sister’s party, I went through the “Want It” boards of my friends.  I honestly felt like I had tapped into some sort of arcane knowledge about people I had known for years.

I now know Marnie’s favorite wine, Elizabeth’s preferred towels and geek gadgets that Eric covets.  No longer will I be anxious over what to take to a dinner party, house warming, or birthday bash.

Instead, I can go straight to my friend’s boards and see what they like.  In fact, I was so enamored with this discovery that I drag my husband away from the Cubs game to show him the “Want it” boards including mine.  We laughed about some of the bad gifts we’ve given each other and shared  a collective sigh of relief.

The Retailers Dilemma

While this is great for gift purchasers, retailers are left questioning how to capitalize on this trend.  No longer is it enough to just hand people a scanner and set them loose in the store.  Moreover, as your customers pin items to their boards, there is no guarantee their friends are going to know where it came from or buy it from you.

Traditionally, the gift registry was for weddings, babies and housewarmings.  Now people celebrate many and varied occasions.

Let’s faces it, you’d feel (and look) like a moron going to register for your Cinco de Mayo party.  However, now I know exactly what to get Margaret when she invites the entire family over to celebrate with her famous enchiladas.   What I don’t know is where to get those cute margarita glasses from her “Love it” board.

So how does a retailer capitalize on this trend?

Make sure that content you share has excellent photography and displays your brand in a subtle way.  Big ‘in your face’ branding typically doesn’t get shared as frequently.  However, by putting a subtle logo or link to the website in the coner you make it easier for the gift giver to say “ Anne wants this bread maker and I see you can get it at Buns in the Oven.”

Show products in creative ways especially if they are items that people can get anywhere.  One of the was to ensure that your branded picture is the one that gets pinned is by making it aesthetically interesting.

Share content frequently but don’t be seen as screaming like you are in the markets of Marrakesh.  Instead, have a conversation about trends or ideas.  Also use topics that are timely and relevant like  “Here’s how to beat the heat wave” and pin coolers, swimsuits, fans, etc.

Provide a tablet or kiosk in your store so that shoppers who are there looking for gifts for friends and family can find their boards on Pintrest.  It is hard to go through all of that content on a mobile phone.  This also helps bring the social experience into the bricks and mortar store.

Summary

Pintrest is an excellent tool for retailers to have conversations with customers.  It also makes it easier for friends and family find gifts for their loved ones that they actually want.  As a retailer, you need to ensure that your content and product pictures are interesting and sharable.   Also, don’t forget to brand every photo in a subtle way so that customers know where the items came from when perusing friend’s boards for gift ideas.

Is Your Customer Experience Smashable?

In Customer Experience, Retail on July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

Joshy enjoys his extended vacation at the Ritz-Carlton

When was the last time your loss prevention team became an Internet sensation because of excellent customer service? Well, that’s what happened when Joshy went missing.

Joshy is the beloved stuffed Giraffe of the youngest member of the Hurn family. Sadly, Joshy didn’t return home from the vacation with the rest of the Hurns. Desperate to console a distraught toddler to sleep, the family told him that Joshy decided to stay a bit longer on vacation, but would return home soon.

When Joshy was finally located , he returned home with a scrapbook documenting his extended stay, his own loss prevention badge and some goodies for the rest of the family.  Can you guess where the Hurn’s stayed?  Yep. The Ritz-Carlton.

We all read business books that meticulously document models and methodologies to ensure that we craft excellent customer experiences.   These models always seem daunting, expensive and impossible to implement.  One of the darlings and frequent case studies found in those books is the Ritz-Carlton.

However, what the Ritz did in the Joshy incident doesn’t require a change management behaviorist to be on call 24/7 or a major Cap X investment.  Instead, it was a piece of a smashable brand and experience.

The Smashable Experience

 In 1916, Coca-Cola executives approached the Root Glass Company with a challenge—design a Coke bottle that would still be easily identifiable even if smashed into shards.  The result was the Classic Coke bottle.  Martin Lindstrom wrote about smashable brands in his amazing book Brand Sense.

Lindstrom argues that your brand experience should be like the Coke bottle—easily recognizable even in pieces.  Some of the examples he uses are the Harley Davidson sound, the voice of Disney, the smell of Abercrombie and the Intel tone.   Each of these pieces adds up to tell the overall brand story in a unique and identifiable way.

As retailers, we need to be deliberate about what those brand impressions are when it comes to our experiences. Surely, the Hurn’s visited a lovely resort with posh beds, clean rooms and friendly staff.  That’s what you expect from the Ritz-Carlton, right?

However, do you expect loss prevention to be as amazing as the mojitos by the pool?  Clearly, the Loss Prevention team considered themselves an integral part to the overall ethos.   Moreover, they went out of their way to prove it. That is what makes the Ritz-Carlton brand and experience smashable.

Is Your Experience Smashable?

When you shop your stores, how smashable is your experience?  Do you ‘feel’ the ethos of the brand?  Is it easily distinguished from your competitors? Do all of the pieces add up to tell a brand story?  And does the resulting story align with what you discuss when you are sitting around the table in corporate headquarters?

This is why those business books and customer theory books seem so daunting.   The problem is not just in one department or store.  Instead, it encompasses everything from merchandising to store design to marketing to even loss prevention.  So where do you start?

Creating a Smashable Experience

If you really want to create a smashable brand and experience, you have to do an honest assessment of where you want to be and where you are.  I typically take executives on an ‘empathy field trip’ in their own stores at the beginning of a consulting engagement.  Sometimes they love me at the end of it and sometimes they hate me, but I force them to be brutally honest with themselves.

Once you have created the map of current experience then you need to consider:

  • Have you clearly identified what that experience is going to be?  If this is not aligned with your brand-neither can be smashable.
  • Have you identified ways that you can do things that are differentiated from your competitors? And whether or not your customers really care about those things?
  • When you enter your locations, does it look, smell and sound like the experience you want?
  • Do your employees behave like the embodiment of your brand?
  • Do you hire people who reflect what your brand stands for and is it part of your culture?
  • Do you train employees in what type of experience you want to create?
  • Do you speak to your customers in a consistent voice across all channels?
  • Do you choose the things to go the extra mile on wisely?
  • Do you have ‘delight metrics’?
  • Are there ways to share stories to create a virtuous circle?

Summary

You don’t have to frame break your entire customer experience and strive to be the Ritz-Carlton today.  Instead, figure out what your unique customer experience is going to be.

Even small improvements, if they are deliberate, can help you build your way to a smashable brand.  Surely, the Ritz didn’t have a policy on what to do with lost stuffed toys.  Instead it had clearly defined customer experience in mind and this permeated every department.

Unlike the Coke bottle, you don’t have to build it all at once.  You can start from the shards and fuse them together to build a smashable experience.   Just identify where you want to start, what you are building towards and rally the troops.  Your customers will thank you.  The Hurn family certainly thanked the Ritz.

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