Blue Microphones Customer Service ROCKS!

Our advertising agency is what fuels and powers Insight on Business the News Hour the only daily, hour-long business news broadcast in the Midwest (Outside of our friends at WBBM in Chicago). When on the road and away from the studios of our friends at The Des Moines Radio Group we use a Yeti microphone from Blue Microphones out of Westlake Village, California. It's easy to transport, has great sound quality and works directly with a USB into the computer. We also love it that with a dial we can flip from directional (one voice facing the mic) to Yeti New 17 April 2017 an interview format where BOTH sides of the microphone are live.

It's a beautiful piece of equipment.

We like them so much that we've got three of 'em...no really!

Not long ago one of the mics refused to stay connected to the USB port. The cord...just fell out of the bottom of the mic. Don't know if it was wear or if the part was bad...it just wouldn't work. So...called Blue Microphones and their ALWAYS chipper customer service person walked us through the steps to get it back to the company for repair or replacement.

A brand new Yeti arrived in the mail this week.

No questions, no back to back emails, no calls...just replaced.

I want you to know how much we appreciate the culture of this company and for how well they took care of us. Seriously...if you're looking for a business partner and not just a retailer... go...BLUE.

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Wyndham - It's Not Nice to Lie

Our business is advertising and marketing. For years we've assisted companies large and small in creating images, messages and tools that will reach out to consumers and interest them in buying what our clients are selling.  Man Lie Dectector

Part of what we do is assist companies in creating a brand. While it is true that it is the consumer, and not the company, that actually creates the brand our job is to move that connection along, make it stick and do nothing to tarnish what has been built.

Sometimes however a brand gets sideways with business and makes a dumb mistake which can tarnish the brand. That can be a simple mistake or a bold lie. Ouch!

Want a small, real world example?

Late in 2016 I made reservations to stay at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk for several days of client meetings with the National Tractor Parts Dealer Association. My arrival was to have been on January 18th, 2017. However, late in December it appeared that I could not make the trip and cancelled my reservation on 31 December 2016. The automation at Wyndham is pretty good. I received an email confirmation within just a few minutes. (image left)

Hotel Cancel From San AntionoHowever when my American Express bill came there was a charge for $138.93 from the Wyndham property. I made contact with AMEX, provided them the details of the reservation cancellation and the policy on "no shows" and let the dispute effort take over. I called American Express because I trust them and I've been a member for decades. 

A few days ago I received a letter from American Express saying that,, "...the merchant has explained that they have no record of cancellation."  They placed the $138.98 back on my bill. Either the property made an error or they are simply lying just to see if they get away with it.

Here is what should have happened:

Once the hotel received word from AMEX there was a dispute they should have said, "We'll take care of it." Then give the consumer (me) a call and figure out what went wrong and correct it. Simple right?  And then...can you imagine what the blog post might have been like? It would have polished the Wyndham brand rather than...well you get the idea.

Customers want to do business with people they know and trust...it's worth the effort.

Did I communicate again with AMEX and with Wyndham. Yes...we'll see where this goes.

Thanks for reading!

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Whims and Social Media

We were reading through some restaurant reviews the other day and found several that were very critical of number of restaurants in the Waiter RestaurantDes Moines Metro. There were some of the usual complaints about the lack of speedy service, bland food and the cost vs. the amount of food. Those are the things we often see. However, I've always wondered if diners take their concerns to the restaurant owner or manager at the time...or if they wait to shout about their experience on Social Media.

I've had this conversation with restaurant owners in the past and they tell me they often never hear about a complaint until it is posted online. That's like the old saying, "closing the barn door after the horse gets out". You would think the customer would say something at the time rather than wait. But there is some comfort, I guess, in being removed from the event. That way the complaint can go...unanswered and unfixed.  Which is too bad.

I took a moment and reached out to one of the more critical writers and asked her to give me, what she considered, her favorite restaurants in the Metro. Sort of let me know what she values regarding to her dining experience.  This is the answer: "Well, I don't have a favorite it all just depends on my mood and where I end up."

I understand sort of a whim...

But what happens when that "whim" turns to social media to complain about ______ fill in the blank. Restaurants are only as good as the people who staff them and sometimes they fail. I guess I'd rather deal with the issue one-on-one at the time rather than take it online. It, at least, gives the restaurant the opportunity to work toward a resolution of the issue that benefits both the diner and restaurant.

Your thoughts?

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Referral Marketing - Just Ask

This week Mike Colwell, a guest on the Business News Hour, and I had a conversation about Mike Colwell MPL 14 Dec 2016referral marketing. If you want to check out that podcast, here is a link. Referral marketing works really, really well and to get there you don't have to buy fancy software or a third party platform. Much, if not all, can be done on your own. But there are some critical steps to help you get there.

  • Know Your Best Customers - Small and large businesses know who their best customers are, or you should. The first step in referral marketing is to identify who these people are. Who has made your business their favorite? Who is already a brand warrior for you? You may have five or five hundred, it doesn't matter...just know who they are;
  • Ask Them - Once you've identified who your best customer is simply ask them why they love doing business with you. Is it service, selection, price, location??? What? Reach out with a phone call or in person the next time you see them and just ask.  You are already halfway there;
  • Share the Love - The next step is to ask them to share, what they have already told you, with their friends and family. And, if they really do love your business they will not feel put upon to do so. After all they have already told you they love doing business with you now all they have to do is share it.

Because we live in a sharing world (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram...) there are plenty of ways for your best customers to share why they love doing business with you. Imagine the impact of a customer doing a thirty second video on their phone telling the world why they love you. You can then post that to your website and share across several of your social media channels. Other ways to share the love:

  • Remind them to rate you on Google or Yelp or Facebook;
  • Ask them to do a selfie with your logo or your product then post it and tag your business;
  • Ask them to re-tweet a message or two each week;
  • Share the love on Instagram;
  • Have them write a recommendation on Facebook, LinkedIn or just have them send you the email and use part of that...with their permission.

Remember, people do business with people they know and trust...your best customers can be your best marketing asset if if you do just two things: Identify and Ask

Thanks for reading...

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It's About Relationships

Not long ago, on my daily business news broadcast, we had a story about how the Internet has  Car Sale Promotion
changed the way many buy their vehicle. It's not only that you can buy "on-line" but, more importantly, the consumer now has the same, or more, information about the vehicle than the car dealership.

That fact changes the dynamic greatly. Now, the purchase isn't so much about "best price" or "availability" but how the salesperson at the dealership builds a relationship with you the customer.  

No longer "hard data" it's now all about "soft skills".

This shift has happened across the business landscape. The power of knowledge is in the hands of the consumer in most instances. Now the focus, for salespeople everywhere, is about building long and lasting relationships. And, given the availability of social media, it is easier than ever to engage your existing and potential customers.  

Oh, and that hand-written note that's put in the mail with a real stamp...bet your customer will smile and keep it long after that shout out on Facebook.

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Creating a Call to Action

So, you've got a website (but is it responsive?) and you are selling a product or a service. So Action Button far, so good. But, here is the question we need to ask. "Do you have a CALL TO ACTION on your website?"

Look, just having an electronic brochure...which is what many websites really are...isn't enough to motivate the consumer. You've got a website for a reason. It's there to share information about your business, show off you ability to answer questions or provide a service. But (and you knew that was coming) if you fail to ask your visitors to actually DO something after they meet you then you are missing...doing business.

The goal is to convert "lookers" into customers and clients.  And that, my friend, is difficult to do with a passive web presence. 

How do you know if you've got a passive website? If you track your site using, say Google Analytics, and you've got a ton of visits but a bunch of bounces.  Or if you've got a super keen website and people are coming but then business is slack.  Bingo...passive website. 

It's pretty simple. 

So here are several tips that will allow you to take your passive site and make it interactive with your perspective customers/clients:

  • Call to Action Button - This is an easy fix. It can be "Ask your question." "Donate Here!", "Let's Talk", "Use the App" any number of things that you want the visitor to DO. Make sure that it can been seen and is large enough so folks don't skip it. 
  • Chat Button - You can offer a "live chat". OK, so you don't have the staff to do a real live chat but you can configure the "Let's Chat" button to generate an email that you can come back to that evening or later in the day and have that communication.
  • Help Button - Perhaps you are in a service sector that is specific to various consumer needs. Put up a call to action button that has a place where visitors can fill in a form and ask their question. You can have disclaimers that indicate the question does not, in any way, create a client relationship, but is an informational service. (Go on, click the "Act Now" button above.)
  • Call Us Now! - You can have a large call to action button that is directed to a dedicated voice mail number. Rather than the standard, "Your call is very important..." (Please, BTW do not employ that language because...most of the time you are lying.) use this language, "Thank you for calling. Please let us know how we might help. We promise to call you back and have the discussion!"  And, then....do it.

Simple fix items that will turn your passive website into a way you can generate business.

Go!

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Want A Brand Warrior? Give a Great Experience!

A "Brand Warrior" is a person who isn't afraid to tell others how fantastic, rewarding and VonMaurwonderful your product/service/store is.  They will use opportunities to "name drop" your brand, they will share photos of your brand, they will use social media to promote your brand and...you don't pay them a dime.

How does that happen?

It's not price. It is not convenience. It's not the paid advertising. It's all about the experience.

I've been a "Brand Warrior" for Von Maur for years. Why? It's all about the experience.

Here's a quick example:

Three weeks ago I purchased a bottle of cologne. The choice was made by a sample I'd been given by the Von Maur staff a few months earlier. It was OK...but for some reason the scent "left" just an hour after application.

Von Maur InteriorSo, I took it back. I was a little concerned that they might say, "Hey, you've used this for three weeks and NOW you want to bring it back?"

Nope...no problem, no pressure just a genuine concern that I got what I wanted. So, I picked out a different scent. However, my Bride didn't like it...so... within a day back to Von Maur.

Once again...no issue.  No "customer service hell" just lots of help and, yet, another great experience.

You want to create a "Brand Warrior" for your business?  Excite. Over Deliver. Empathize.  All while charging a price that is worth the..experience.

Thanks for reading!

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So What Does This Tell Us?

This morning I made two telephone calls to well known businesses in the Des Moines Metro. I Too Busy was not selling anything I was, actually, seeking to buy.

The first call was answered by a human (within three rings) who not only sounded pleased that the phone rang but also gave me her name.  I asked for the CEO, whom I know well, and Stephanie said, "I'm sorry but she is not in. Would you like me to send you to her voice mail or may I take a personal message?"

What?  A PERSONAL MESSAGE from a person...like written down maybe even on PAPER and HANDED to my friend?  Think I'll get a call back? (I will...)

The other call was to a business, that I also know well. The connection took over thirty-five seconds to complete.  I know because I called back just to time it. When the call was answered I was told that "everybody was busy" and that I should leave a message.  No directory, no option...just "General Voice Mail Hell".

My only other option was to fill out the very generic online form (which I've done before) and have my message go to "General E-Mail Hell". I know that because the last time I did this I received no call back.

So...what does these two brands say to you?

No, I ain't calling back number two.

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The Restaurant Industry - Needs a New Brand

There's some major trouble brewing in the restaurant industry and it's Servergoing to take some time to get it fixed. Let me set this up for you...here in the Des Moines Metro there isn't a week that goes by where we don't learn of yet another restaurant opening its doors.  While that may seem like progress there is something else going on: No workers.

I know of two owners who have put restaurant openings on hold because they cannot find help.  There is a lack of servers, cooks, chefs, dishwashers...and those two owners know the market.

Meanwhile corporations are draining the market dry.  After all...Hy-Vee might pay a lower salary for cooks...but they offer benefits.

If it is true that consumers control the brand then the restaurant industry needs to up their game and share with consumers what a great career food service can be. But it is going to take time and money.

In Europe a server is more highly treasured than a banker or attorney. Why? Because the industry there has built a brand on high quality, low turnover and knowledge.  Servers in Europe are...professional. Here they are often looked down on.

I've been told that the Iowa Restaurant Association has a plan to move this forward...they can't start soon enough...we're hungry.

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Doing It Right!

A couple of weeks ago I was having trouble finding my favorite flavor of AmarettoCoffee-Mate. Never bothered asking the local Hy-Vee about it because I figured it would show up sooner than later.

Three weeks into the "Amaretto Coffee-Mate Drought" I popped off a Tweet to @Coffee_Mate who responded, timely by the way, "We're sorry but Amaretto has been retired why don't you try..."

WHAT?  No Amaretto Coffee-Mate?  My mornings were going to from sleepy to sad...very sad.

Over the past couple of weeks I Tweeted my disdain to my former friends @Nestle and @Coffee_Mate. Ya know, photos of the Coffee-Mate section without Amaretto. A friend of mine even chimed in with #FreeTheAmaretto for Twitter.  The brand was sorry for my troubles and suggested that maybe some new "Caramel and Coconut Girl Scout" flavor might be a replacement. What?  Who thinks of this stuff?

This past Sunday I included @Hy_Vee in my tweet...moaning about the loss of the Amaretto flavor. Within a few minutes I get a Tweet back suggesting that I send an email to hvcs@hy-vee.com with my concern. Told them the flavor was retired but went ahead and sent an email anyway. On Sunday! Within the hour I got a response...from a real person...with a real name and a real email address.  

Amaretto Coffee CreamerShocked!  Who does this?  What no Bot response...but a nice note from Kourtney?  

I responded back...just to make sure it wasn't a Bot and she wrote back, "You’re most welcome Michael! We run a 24/7 operation here so if you ever have any store requests or Fuel Saver inquires there will be someone here to take care of it!"

Oh...so what did I do?  Made my own!  Another friend on Twitter supplied me with this recipe and BAM we're in business...and, of course, I picked up the ingredients from..."My Hy-Vee".

Welcome to Des Moines Price Chopper...you've got some work ahead of you.

 

Well played Hy-Vee...very!

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