How common is it for a company to misidentify who their real customer is? If faced with this huge issue, what steps can a business take to identify the problem and re-align with their true customer base?
Identifying a marketing agency that will be provide the personal touch and world class professional service may not be worth the time. Instead, look at what this marketing agency considers an ideal client and consider whether your company might be a good fit.
Replace people with technology. Technology is more consistent, less expensive, requires no supervision never refuses an order. There is the argument that an electronic device will give better customer service than a human.
David Meerman Scott tests Anna from IKEA. Anna is an automation. Through a series of very simple questions, Anna from IKEA proved that she may be retarded and in the end answered only one question correctly.
Programming a digital human proved to be ineffective when helping David Meerman Scott's wife with a bed and mattress.
If you have the opportunity to hire a virtual assistant who is in reality nothing more than digital construct, how will your questions be answered vs. someone with training and experience? They are certainly looking more lifelike. Is this considered customer-first culture?
The good news about the digital virtual assistants which automate customer service:
- If you can invest in virtual speaking avatars, you are able to measure results. Which pages convert, which do not? The speaking avatars don't snitch staplers and never go for lunch. They are not back late from breaks and won't sue the company when someone stupid slips up and sexually harasses them.
It's Not Easy Being Cool...
Anyone paying attention to the news this last week may have seen the blurb that some Orbitz users discovered that those among them who were Mac users were being charged higher prices than their PC-using brethren. In what can only be described as a shameless and cynical technique to exploit customers by making assumptions about their sensitivity to pricing, Orbitz has shown a special kind of disdain for its customers in an age where many of us still wrongly assume that the businesses we patronize are constantly looking for ways to keep our loyalty. Oops.
As noted in an earlier post, the modern business world is results-oriented and as a result it is very common for some organizations to be overly focused on "Execution", sometimes at the expense of good strategy (and many other things).
I had the good fortune this week to facilitate a Business Leader Roundtable at the offices of our own local Puget Sound Business Journal here in Seattle (event details here). This is one of my favorite ways to hear about the challenges that businesses have today. This one reinforced a lot of what we already knew about what it takes to be "Customer-First". There are a few "Universal Truths" about this topic that always come up in these discussions:
As part of our series on what makes a "Customer-First" company, I recently spoke with Carla Archambault, General Manager for the Seattle Region for Zipcar, a Boston-based company that is shaking up the old rental car model with a new approach defined by it's urban self-service model and it's tagline of "Wheels When You Want Them".
How do you create a "Customer-First" business culture selling a product most customers don't know they want? And more importantly, how do you create demand by competing against the dream once held by every 16 year-old American? By now the "Zipcar" name and snappy green logo has become a familiar sight to most of us in many urban areas. They have, in a sense, revolutionized the car rental business by creating an entirely new "Blue Ocean" market that focuses NOT on travelers visiting other cities, but on the occasional driver who needs a car for short-term use in their own neighborhood or beyond.
From a marketing strategist's perspective, this would mean that Zipcar is banking on the trend towards higher-density dwellings and improved public transportation to convince more and more people that they can get by without owning a car. Zipcar places self-serve cars in urban neighborhoods that you can rent for a short time to make up for gaps in your local public transportation options. This means that Zipcar's main competitor is the concept of car ownership itself. Audacious? Perhaps. But when you stop to look at the trends referred to above, absolutely sensible. And by all accounts, a market that is set to grow and grow beyond any timeline a Wall Street analyst would care to think about. As one Zipcar customer commented, "Zipcar is the piece of the puzzle that makes living car-free work".