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Brands, Please Stop Sabotaging Yourself (Like @InoxLeisure did)

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Today, I went to watch a movie at the INOX cinemas in Bangalore with my extended family. There were five of us and a small kiddo. 

We bought Gold Class tickets and went and took our seats. The entire experience so far was neither too good not too bad. I was fine with that. 

The movie started and 10 minutes into the movie, someone came by and asked me to show my tickets so that he could verify if we indeed had Gold Class tickets. I let this go once. Then came the interval. We ordered some snacks and came back to watch the movie. 

10 mins into the movie, someone else came asking to check my tickets again. Now this made me furious and spoilt the entire movie watching experience as I had to take out the movie tickets in the dark and I missed an important scene in the movie. 

This was total self-sabotage. 

The movieplex already knew how many Gold Class seats they had sold and the seat numbers of these seats. If they wanted to check if there was an unauthorized usage of the Gold Class seats, all they needed to do was to cross-check the people seated with the tickets that they had sold and only go to someone who is sitting on a seat that was supposed to be empty, instead of spoiling the fun for all their customers, and at that, their most valuable customers, as the Gold Class seats are the most expensive in the cinema. 

Do you or your organization do something similar and sabotage yourself ?

Instead of augmenting the experience of your most important customers, do you annoy them?

This could be by asking them to fill in additional forms when you already have the information or making them wait in long queues or asking for information that you could find out by yourself or for that matter any other such trivial act that leaves your customers with a bad experience. 

Not many customers will provide you feedback about their experience, but most will talk about it to their friends and you know what that could mean for you and your brand. 

Instead of having fond memories about the movie, here I am writing about the bad treatment I got from INOX. 

Now what could they do differently?

What they should instead is the exact opposite.

Instead of policing if their customers are buying using Gold Class tickets without buying them, they should think of finding ways to upgrade some of these customers to use Gold Class seats if there are empty Gold Class seats still available at the start of the show.

In an earlier post, I had suggested that movieplexes could have monthly passes that could then be used to identify customers who could be upgraded. If that seems to be a challenge, at least have a regular CRM system (using points based on spending) to decide who gets the upgrades whenever these seats are available.

This will ensure that movie enthusiasts will not only continue to patronize your multiplexes, but will also be constantly left guessing if they will get upgraded seats.

I am sure that some of this also means that customers who might have bought Gold Class, might buy a cheaper ticket at times, but I am sure that the increase in the number of times these very customers choose to come to your cinema over other cinema choices will compensate for this.

This is also something that organizations that sell commodities that are time bound and are of no value if not sold by a specific date/time, for example, travel industry, hotel industry, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, etc.

Share your experiences

Have you experienced something similar where a good experience was spoiled by a brand themselves by doing something stupid or innocuous.

Please share your experience so that we can all learn from that as a community. 

You could connect with me on twitterLinkedInFacebookGoogle+

Burger King (Norway) Gives Away BigMacs to test the Loyalty of their Fans!

December 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Burger King has attempted a coup of sorts.. Their Norway operations decided that they wanted to identify and engage with their true fans who would not trade their whoppers for anything. 

They decided to test the loyalty of their facebook fans (~ 38000 of them). All their fans on Facebook got an offer, the “Whopper Sellout”:  

Burger King gave their fans an option to get a free “BIG Mac” (a product of McDonald’s, their biggest competitor) and get banned for life on their fan page or to stay a fan and join the new facebook page for the true fan. 

They sent out 50$ vouchers to all those who opted to get the free BigMac. They also sent along a letter thanking and informing them that they are forever banned from the BK fan pages.  They seem to have lost about 30000 fans on their page leaving about 8000 true fans.. 

Watch this short video that tells the entire story: 

 

 

This experiment is important in a couple of ways: 

  • Not everyone who likes your facebook page or ReTweets your tweets is not a fan or loyal customer. 
  • Marketers are now realizing that just having a huge number of fan following them on social media alone is not a good metric to aim for.
  • Marketers and brands are maturing in how they use social media and the changes in the metrics being aimed for. 

What needs to be seen is if this is considered to be a great marketing ploy or a tactical blunder! 

In my opinion, this was a great move by BK. This campaign did them well in the following dimensions: 

  • They have connected with their “TRUE Fans”, which means that the level of engagement will significantly improve. 
  • This entire campaign was also tongue-in-cheek and hence was able to garner a lot of free publicity (like me writing this blog ;-))
  • Sending the letter along with the vouchers could potentially be a great idea. No one likes to be told that they are banned from a site for life. 

By running this experiment, have they opened a pandora’s box? Will other brands follow suit? 

Or will this be relegated to be an interesting experiment in the social media space. 

We will get to know soon enough.. What do you think about this? Share your thoughts by commenting on the blog.. 

You could also connect with me at twitterLinkedInFacebookGoogle+

Three Conversations that Help you Remain Customer Centric

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

In a blog post, Eric  Barker shares the insights from Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter and list down “Denial”, “Hubris” and inflated “Egos” as some of the most common mistakes leaders do. The post also talks about some good advice that leaders can do well to heed to.

I think that leaders need to create and keep an open line of communication to three kinds of people to stay grounded to reality.

  • Frontline staff: Regularly engage your front line employees who sell/service your customer for a frank and open conversation. Keep these conversations open and use them as a pulse check for ground reality and bullshit detection. This will work best if you schedule some time every week and randomly pick staff and engage with them directly, without having to let any of their managers know about the discussion. This keeps everyone on their toes. Most importantly, act on the information that you learn as part of this conversation. This will ensure that your staff will also take these conversations seriously.
  • Customer and customer Staff: Meet your customers (your counterparts and end-users of your products/services) and talk to them about the product or services. Try and learn why they do business with you and how they benefit from the product/service. Also, ask them about their opinion on how could you make it easy for them to work with you. Take their inputs with a grain of salt and find ways to use these conversations to explore better ways to work with your customers and make it easier for them to do business with you. Again, it would be best if you use your CRM system and get your assistants to schedule some of these appointments or calls directly.
  • Someone who is not from your industry but serves the same market segment: Some of the most interesting insights about your customers can be gained by talking to other businesses (from different industries) that also sell to your current set of customers. You can then use these insights to improve your business and interaction with your customers.

If you are able to do these conversations regularly (at least weekly), you shall remain grounded to reality and will never have any dearth of ideas to improve your businesses.

This also has a ripple effect among your staff as they will also realize that you could end up talking to any of their customers and so will continue to treat their customers well. This will also ensure that your direct reports don’t filter out bad news for you, which in my opinion is the single biggest reason for organizations going bankrupt or missing out on huge opportunities.

The overall result would be that your organization will be considered more customer focused by the people whose perception matters the most – Your Customers.

Do share your thoughts about this approach for culture transformation.

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PS: A great video that talks about 5 techniques that you can use to keep your organization Customer Centric:

 

Two Kinds of Loyalty Programs

September 10, 2013 1 comment

There are two types loyalty programs that a brand can run:

  1. Bought Loyalty: All loyalty programs that rely on points and freebies against the points are trying buy loyalty through these freebies and lock-ins. For example, flight operators want to lock people in with their Frequent Flier Plans. This is the reason, that you find customers of these organizations complain about the service provided but at the same time continue to use their services. These kinds of programs are in reality not creating loyalty. All they are doing is dangling the carrot in front of the customer and thereby encouraging repeat behavior.
  2. Earned Loyalty: These are programs that are designed with the ultimate goal of making their customers relate to them emotionally. Most often, these encompass everything from product/service development, marketing and sales execution. Building this kind of loyalty is much more difficult, takes a lot of thought and time.

I would not argue that one is better than the other. However, it is important that as a brand we know what kind of loyalty programs we are running and act accordingly. In my opinion, the cost of running both kinds of programs work out to be similar in the long term.

If you are running a loyalty program of the 1st kind, it is important that you focus on the efficiency of the program and put in place processes that ensure flawless execution. The most important reason why a customer will move out of the program is if the execution starts to fall apart. That is when the lock-in seems to start hurting and customers start considering other options.

If you are running a loyalty program where you want to earn customer loyalty, you need to continuously work on improving employee engagement & empowerment, minute attention to details and flawless execution would be the areas to focus on.

If you want to develop customer loyalty as your competitive advantage, you need to be able to do both of these programs well. You will ensure that your customers are able to take the benefits of the freebies more often than any other similar programs offer; have products or services that they aspire for but do not generally buy by themselves in the freebies, etc. You have processes and systems in place that allow your employees (highly engaged employees) to delight your customers with their service levels. That is when, your customers will find that you are not only easy to do business with but are also a delight to do business with. This is when, you would have turned customer loyalty into a competitive advantage that your competitors will find very difficult to replicate/surpass.

Do understand your loyalty program and focus accordingly to make the maximum impact for your customers as well as your organization.

Do let me know your thoughts on this matter by commenting below.

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You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

PS: A tale of a Cab driver told by Shep Hyken

 

Lessons in Great Customer Service from Richard Branson:

New Business Model from Very Unlikely of Places #Publishing

August 23, 2013 Leave a comment

I stumbled upon The New Enquiry by chance and was totally blown away, both by their content and their business mdoel.

They are an Ad-Free online magazine & survive by the way of subscriptions (2$ per month) & donations. And they don’t have a firewall.

So, for all practical purposes, they create and share content that is free for anyone to consume but still people are willing to pay subscription to receive the same content but in coherent, thematic clusters, which is more intuitive and easy to read.

In an interview given to “Columbia Journalism Review“, the founders claim that they recieve 30 to 50 new subscribers every week.

They also serve a very niche audience, the one’s that want to be at the intersection of culture, arts and politics.

They describe themselves on their about page as below:

The New Inquiry is a space for discussion that aspires to enrich cultural and public life by putting all available resources—both digital and material—toward the promotion and exploration of ideas.
Though these are early days for them, I am sure that they will find ways to not only survive in this hyper-competitive world, but will also become more and more relevant to thier tribes (as Seth would describe their subscribers).
This also reminds me of the TED talk by Amanda Palmer where she talks about her exeprience with her fans. She talks about the art of asking. Can this be a valid pricing model?
Both Amanda and TNI have identified their niche audience and have sought their support successfully.
Their story also make me realize that we strive to find complex solutions for problems, while simple and easy solutions to the same problems could exist right infront of our eyes.
Almost every one complains about advertising and advertisors, the disruption in the advertising & publishing industry;  they just went ahead and eliminated advertisements altogether. What an idea!
How many such things do we complain about can be removed? A wise man once shared his wisdom about solving problems:
  • Connect the un-connected & vice versa
  • Bundle the seperate and unbundle the bundled
  • Turn a product to a service and a service to a product

The best way to solve a problem is to “SKIP IT” and I think this is exactly what these folks did.

The question that you need to answer yourself is the following:

What problem or challenge are we struggling with and one that you would be better off SKIPPING? What product are you going to turn into a service?

Do join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts by commenting below.

You can connect with me at Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

PS: Pay as you want pricing model has been around for a long time now. More information @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_what_you_want. What happens when the newspaper industry adopts this model?

Are Twitter Contests the Next Big thing in Customer Engagement?

August 21, 2013 Leave a comment

In the last 2 weeks, I have seen a flurry of twitter contests being run by various brands, including news channels (ABP News), Software Marketers, Film studios, Fashion brands, TV stations, Online retailers, Comedy shows and a lot more.

The common themes in all these contests were:

–       You are enticed to participate in the competition via the possibility to win a gift coupon or some sort of prize

–       You are required to follow the brand’s twitter ID.

–       You are required to answer a set of questions and retweet the questions to your followers

In my opinion, the primary aim of all these contests seems to be:

–       Get more people to follow them

–       Get more impressions (through RT’s)

–       Get their brands to trend on twitter

These are easy to measure metrics, which they can then use to show brand engagement and the Returns on the Investment.

This seems to be a quick win for the brands as the participation levels in most of these contests seem to be quite good and they are able to add significant number of followers to the brands twitter handle (though, that by itself should not be the primary aim for the brands).

What is not known so far is the potential for continued engagement of these people with the brand?

In my opinion, the questions that these brands need to answer are the following:

–       How do we continue to engage with the gained followers post the contest?

–       Do we make such contests a recurring event (weekly or fortnightly) so that the amount of engagement continues to be high? How long can this momentum be maintained?

–       How can we tie these contents to the other marketing campaigns that the brand is considering?

–       Is it possible for the brand to be able to tie these contests to a social cause that the brand can associate with so that, not only does the brand gain more impressions on twitter but is able to support a cause while at the same time get some good PR.

PS: Some brands that did run twitter contests this month are Audi India, Dalal Street Journal, Disney India, Domino’s Pizza, Dreamscape Film Co, Elle, Garnier, ICICI Lombard, Jockey India, Kiehl’s India, L’Oréal Paris India, Lakme India, LP – Louis Philippe, MadOverDonuts, MaxIndiaLtd, MaybellineIndia, Micromax Mobile, Myntra.com, Nissan India, OUATIM Dobaara (movie), Tata Nano, Veet India, Zee Studio, SAP India, ABP News, Apollo Hospitals, AXN India

Just the variety of brands indicates that this has been successful across sectors, industries and business models.

Customer Engagement during Moments of Truth

July 8, 2013 5 comments

Last week, I was flying on a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Bangalore. This was an evening flight and they serve food (dinner) in the flight.

The service staff completed serving food to all the passengers and started to come back to collect the used plates.

Meanwhile, I tasted the food and did not particularly like the food and so had left most of the food untouched.

The staff came back, collected my un-touched food plate and went back without a word.

I think, this was a moment of truth for me as a customer. If someone from the service staff had noticed that I had not eaten anything from the food served and came back to ask me the reason or to offer something else that they had, I would have been truly surprised and happy.

This does not take any specialized training to do. This is something that any member of the service team would have done, if I were a guest at their homes.

So, why do they not care when I am guest on board an aircraft that they are serving?

It is such moments of truth when the true engagement of the employees and the organization is tested and opinions formed.

It doesn’t matter how many times the service staff announce during take off or landing about how they value our business and would like to serve us again, I know that these are only said as they are required to say them and that there is no true emotion or truth behind these statements.

How many such moments of truth does your support team encounter in a day? How do they deal with them? How do you deal with your employees who do well in these moments? How do you identify and train employees who falter in such moments so that they learn and do not repeat their mistakes? Therein lies the crux of true customer engagement and delight.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Do let me know your thoughts by commenting below or by tweeting them to me at @rmukeshgupta.

PS: An interesting video that talks about the “Moments of Truth”.