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Customer Service and Rules

Referee_hockey_ahl_2004Break the Rules...And Win!

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Customer Service shouldn't be about rules, it should be about winning.  Everything is fair game!

This past week I was traveling and had the chance to experience both repulsive and exceptional customer service.   I thought it might be a good time to dust off a presentation I give to large and small corporations and offer up the high points.  I call it "Break the Rules...And WIN!"

The major focus of this presentation is that individuals, not corporations, create the non-rules of exceptional customer service.  The company may set the need for the culture shift...but we (the employees) make it FUN!  So, let's break some rules:

Screaming_mouth_open Rule One:    "The Customer is Always Right."  WRONG!  Throw that out...now!  The customer is always right in his/her mind.  Sometimes the customer is so far off base with their request or issue it is laughable.  BUT, who cares?  To them it is a major issue. It might not be a major issue later in the day, or tomorrow or even next week.  But right now it is.  Our job...fix it.    Then, write down the problem, complaint or trouble and at the next meeting with your boss...bring it up.  Maybe there is a way to fix the problem for everybody.  But, if you don't talk about it...nobody else knows.  Here's a bonus...if you fix the issue...the customer will talk about it for days.  If you don't...they may never talk to you again.

Ladder01 Rule Two:     "Ask Permission Up the Ladder."   So, you want to torpedo your customer service?  Alright...go ahead...take that customer problem, issue or complaint to your boss for action.  While you are doing that...let the customer stand, sit or wait on the phone for an answer.  Break this rule now.  Guess what...you get the problem...you get to fix it.  And, if for some reason you can not take ownership of the problem...ACT LIKE YOU CAN!  Remember, the customer doesn't care who does the fix...they just want it fixed.

Img_2759_customer_service Rule Three:   "Create a "Customer Service Department"."   Stop me...I am laughing so hard right now...I am about to fall off the chair!  Don't you love it when you call a business and ask for "Customer Service" and you get anything but?  Yeah...it's great when the phone rings and the person says, "Customer Service, how can I help you?"  I usually start out by saying, "Hey there Customer, how the heck are you doing today?"  At this point the phone goes dead....  This is too fun and I encourage you to try it.  Bottom line....use your NAME and never say, "Customer Service".  The "Customer Service Department" is usually a stall or a place where somebody can sell you something else.  Sucks.

Penywise_100_1434_binder Cut to the chase...this presentation runs an hour and you ain't got the time right now.   So, here you go....  When dealing with the public you will run into all kinds of wacky issues and you'll find that most of them can't be handled with a three inch thick procedure manual.  (By the way, find the company that has one of those...and you will find a company that is sinking.)  Rules no longer matter...action does.

Come on...prove me wrong?


Sunday Morning Thoughts

Img_0199_t Random Sunday Morning...Thoughts

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

So, are you listening this morning?  Our Radio Show, "Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country" is on in the Des Moines Market at 7:00am on 98.3 WOW - FM.  The goal of the show is to discuss things of interest to folks who live a rural lifestyle.  It's not a farm show...but a look at what impacts folks living on acreages or small farms.  Enjoy.

Dsc02341 Yes, somebody asked if we really do this...the radio.  Yes.  Here is the photo to prove it.

From the "Gee, Folks Really Read This Department":  I called a client who is at Pheasant Fest in Des Moines.  For those of you who are not into hunting upland birds...Pheasant Fest is to that sport as Daytona is to NASCAR.  Cvpf_logo My client is Country Vet Pet Foods and I called their marketing and advertising manager.  Gary answered his cell phone and after a couple of minutes he said, "Hey, I want you to know I am not talking to you from our booth.  Loved the trade show booth suggestions on your Blog."  Thanks for reading Gary!

Dsc02367 This is Phyllis Cox the executive director of NTPDA and Terri Stevens board member and owner of The Tractor Barn.  Every morning during the associations annual meeting held in Panama City Beach, FL she would ask me, "Hey, Michael did you blog this morning?"  Just wanted her to know that even on Sunday...we blog!

Finally, I have a new friend who owns a business in the Des Moines area.  But, I have NO idea what she does and how she does it.  I've been on the site, read the blogs and even asked one time.  But, I'm still not exactly clear what this business is about.  Word:  Clarity.  Many, many advertising agencies are so creative they forget about clarity.  You think not?  Visit some of their sites.  Great creative...but the viewer may not have any idea what their real strengths are. 

Just some Random Thoughts for Sunday Morning...what think you?


"It's Becoming an Issue."

Bay_point_2 Fixing In-Room WiFi "Issues"...now.

By Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

For those of us who frequently travel and get to stay in the nicer hotels or do presentations for groups and/or gatherings and they put us up in Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt properties, we have an "issue".  And, so do the hotel chains.

I'm presenting a series of presentations to the NTPDA here in Panama City Beach, FL and staying at the Bay Point Marriott.  (That's a shot of the lobby.)  The charge to use the Internet, in my room, is $9.95 a day.  In the lecture hall the charge to hook up to the Internet for my presentation on Blogging and Being Found was $175.  No I'm not paying the tab...my client is.  But, still...I've had enough and decided to go to management and ask, "Why?".

Jeff Segan, the General Manager, was out Friday afternoon but I did get to talk with his Executive Assistant, Judy.  (Great person from Ann Arbor, MI who's mom still lives in a private home surrounded by the U of M campus...can you imagine the value of that house?)  I, with what I think was great tact, expressed my frustration about the charges and said, "You know, what I don't get is that if I stayed at Super 8 my high speed Internet connection would be...free."  Karen, wrote down my "issue" and called the Chief Information Officer, Glenn Bollhalter to come and explain to both of us the reason why the Marriott (and finer hotel chains) feel they can charge when economy hotels give Internet connections away for free.

She then said, "You know, this is becoming more and more a major issue and it seems like we hear about it all the time.  In fact, it's one of the things that gets brought up, regularly, in our staff meetings." 

Long story...short.  The hotel reversed the charges (for me) and Glenn did a nice job in explaining cables and WiFi and also said somebody at corporate needs to figure this out.  Figure it out?  No....

Fix it.

It is quickly becoming a major public relations nightmare for hotels who charge for this service...mostly because they figure they can...and simply fail to react to the consumer market.  Taking nickles and dimes out of our pocket for this and the privilege of using "Business Centers". (Don't get me started about the Crown Center Hyatt in Kansas City or the Hilton in Omaha where you have to swipe credit cards to make a copy or use a computer....GRRRRRRRRRRR!)

Business Travelers Unite!Signature Omacvhh_hilton_omaha_home_right  But more importantly, the finer hotel chains need to understand what a customer service problem this is and simply fix it.   For those of you in the business of booking conventions for your members.  Want to be a HERO?  Negotiate with the property in advance and if they "usually" charge for this service have the hotel waive it for your room block.  You'll usually carry more weight than us little ol' "Business Travelers".  Am I being unreasonable?


"Deer in the Headlights!"

Marykbaird_p8170093 I Saw It Again Yesterday....

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Thursday afternoon I was privileged to be a featured speaker at the Annual Meeting of NTPDA.  My topic was, "Are YOU or Your Website Getting Noticed?"  It was a big...and full...room of business leaders from the association who market their products and services to farmers and acreage owners. (Shameless PLUG here for our Radio Show: Hwy. 6 "Your Road to the Country") 

I talked about the importance of MARKETING, understanding customers and what they want, how it is much better to use fewer words in an ad and be seen, how to keep websites fresh and finally how BLOGS can skyrocket a business "Find-a-bility".  That was when I saw it.  You see, I started saying, "Blogs", "Feeds", "TypePad", "FeedBurners", "Tags"...

I am convinced that we need to find a much more simple way to describe what we do and how we do "it" when speaking to groups of people.  I am further convinced while large groups can be shown what a BLOG "is" that it is impossible to really teach in that setting.  Or at least for me.

I know several of the folks I spoke to got it and will dive in right away, but for most I know it was a confusing start.  Small groups, learning together seems so much better.  Hmmmmm  Sounds like the "BlogaNostra" from Des Moines.

So...what say you?


NTPDA BLOG

Dsc02352 NTPDA - Meets in Panama City Beach

by Michael P. Libbie Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Today, regular and associate members of the National Tractor Parts Dealership Association met to do a little schmoozing and learning.  Members are folks who sell used, refurbished or new replacement agricultural parts.

Dsc02355 Our day started out with Karen McCullough and her presentation:  "Change is Good..You Go First".  Karen, an accomplished speaker, focused her talk on how we can accept or reject change and the courage it takes to look at things differently.

Dsc02357 Santiago R. Morales spoke to the potential Mexican and Latin American markets.  His talk centered on the cultural, logistical and governmental challenges association with doing business "South of the Border".

Mike James spoke to the issues surrounding Estate Planning and how the many environmental issues may affect future decisions.

Ntpda_photo_1_1 Charlie Glass gave his "white paper" on "Who Will Be Farming in 2017?".  Charlie, an accomplished speaker, looked at the changing face of agriculture and member dealers learned about tractor numbers as well as farming demographics.

Finally...I got to speak on how, when and why to update websites and the BLOG.  Can I get an amen? 

Members will be meeting and learning through Saturday at the Bay Pointe Marriott Resort in Panama City Beach. 

Ntpda_photo_2 Also..having some fun... and visiting...and learning...was Mike Winter and Georgie Pease (From Insight - That would be US!).


On the Air - Hwy. 6 Radio Show

Hwy61_1 This Week on Highway 6!

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Hey...for those of you who live in and around Des Moines...here is the most recent information on my radio show:  Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country.  It's not a farm show...but a rural lifestyle show.

Anyway....click the link and get directed to a preview of what we're talking about this Sunday morning on 98.3 WOW - FM the largest news/talk FM station in Central Iowa.

We now return you to our regular Advertising/Marketing programming.


Are Newspapers Becoming Irrelevant?

Jgs_newspaperstacked Advertising Vehicle or Fish Wrap?

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

When you get a moment, take a gander at national newspaper subscription information.  You'll see since 1970, when newspaper penetration was at 123%, (that means that every household in America subscribed to 1.2 daily newspapers!)  has sunk to 51% today.  That is a huge shift.  But, if you look at the figures since 1990 the facts are even more startling.   You see, the number of American households increased by 20 million since then while newspaper circulation dropped by 10 million.  With the increased use of BLOGS look for the circulation numbers to plummet even further.  That should be cause for concern if you still think newspapers are the vehicle of choice for advertising and marketing.

Hey, this is not NEW news but what hit me "aside the head" was the BLOG by Sherry's DSM BUZZ about a Thai restaurant here in Des Moines.  While their site is not solely about restaurants and food it could be.  And, if I were really into food (no wise cracks here...please people!) and if I lived in a place where restaurants outnumbered people (think New York) I might be a regular subscriber and by-pass the weekly food review in the newspaper.   Hmmmmm...relevant content, directed to a known demographic and frequency.  Somebody stop me...this is starting to read like a marketing blog!

So, have you heard about Eater.comChowhound.com?  How about TheStrongBuzz.com?  All restaurant review sites that feed their readers daily doses of information.  And, we're not talking about a few hundred readers...think in the thousands.  Their motivation?  Personal interest.

Here is another:  While newspaper subscriptions decline, magazine titles and subscriptions increase.  So...why?  Once again magazines tend to be more of a rifle approach to information rather than the scattering of stories you'll find in the shotgun approach to newspapers.  And, if that is true...think of the power of the BLOG.  Oh my...

True newspapers counter with blogs of their own and because they are newspapers they can direct readers to those sites.  BUT...what about advertisers the fuel that propels the newspaper?  Ready?  They create their own blog...and then they band together and create a site where folks can see that information or interested parties subscribe to each feed directly.  (Shameless PLUG:  Central Iowa Bloggers)

The message:   Think about where you are spending your advertising dollars.  Create a rifle approach if you have a niche market.  Quit wasting your advertising dollars by getting to know your customers and what they want.  Then...feed them information they desire.  It is all about the community.  Or...have you got a different thought?  Let us know.


Oh...the Power (and savings)!

Wikianswers A Quick Note:  I Gotta Share This!

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Zx2 OK...so maybe I am "old school" but I have to tell our readers about this.  I own a 1999 Ford Escort ZX2.  (Who says I ain't cool?)  In this business one can not be too flashy!  Anyway, on the coldest of Iowa Days...last Friday when the temperature dipped to 11...the heater blower on this car quit working.  Nothing.  No heat, no defrost.  It was cold...but at least I could see.  Until we got an ice storm on Saturday night. 

On Sunday morning I asked my brother The Doctor what to do.  OK...so it's like asking a Four Star Chef about McDonald's...but he is much smarter than I.  He said it was a fuse.   I look, can't find a fuse that says "Heater" or "Blower".  What is a poor wretch like me to do other than stop every five blocks, pull over and scrape the windows?

Ahhhh...the Internet.  In Google I just typed in my question:  "Where is the fuse for a 1999 Ford Escort ZX2?"  Up came www.FaqFarm.com.  Lots of Q/A about the ZX2 and several that seemed like they may answer my problem.  Fifteen minutes later, armed with a "trouble light"  (Yes, I have one of those too!) I found the lose wire...sprayed some WD-40 on it and presto...a working blower motor.  Figure it saved me about $150. 

If you know about this site...great.  I really am "old school" but, perhaps there are others that don't know...until now.  Isn't technology grand?


Marketing Iowa...Sort Of...

Inauguration_and_ball_2007_022 PURE IOWA...and we LOVE IT!

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

This post is going to be mostly about Iowa and how we choose to look at our state...even from the highest public office.

The photo above is of Jeff Doerr.  He is the Emergency Services Coordinator for the National Education Center for Agricultural Policy and he was eating a burger and fries while wearing a tuxedo.  I met him at the Governor's Inaugural Ball that celebrated the Chet Culver/Patty Judge Inaugural events this past weekend.  What struck me about Jeff and the hundreds of us that showed up for the big party was the symbolism of the moment.  You see, the 40th Governor of the State of Iowa (Who will turn 41 years old in a few months.) decided to hold the biggest party of his life at the Iowa State Fairgrounds...in the Varied Industries Building.  How wonderfully...Iowa.

Dsc02337 Men wore suits or tuxedos women wore gowns and all of us walked into the building, usually reserved for farm show displays, by crossing chip/rock streets complete with tire ruts made by the cars and pickup trucks dropping off celebrants.  How wonderfully...Iowa.

Dsc02335 Inside the building folks lined up for hot dogs on a stick, funnel cakes, pop in paper cups, burgers and fries.  It was a sight to see folks dodge the powdered sugar trying to keep it off black gowns or tuxedos.  There were corn dogs, beer and popcorn.  It was fair food and it was so wonderfully Iowan.

Republicans and Democrats (Chet is the first Democrat to follow another Democrat since...oh...70 years ago) were there.  Hard core Republicans: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Congressman Steve King (Who just sued Chet Culver's former office of Secretary of State for putting voting directions on the Internet in languages other than English.), State Senator John Putney and many others put down political difference and came to celebrate and be seen.  And the overriding theme when I spoke to each can be summed up in one word, "Hope".  You see, we are good people here...and we still hope.  How wonderfully Iowan.

Copy_of_inauguration_and_ball_2007_035 And, of course our most recent former (by less than 12 hours) Governor Tom Vilsack and his family were here...Tom is running for President of the United States (if you had not heard) and he joined with folks from both parties in celebrating the Culver/Judge ticket.  We visited a bit and I was struck by what he told two young girls (8 - 10?) who were there with Mom and Dad.  He looked at them and said, "I want to tell you something and I want you to remember this.  Your father is a hero.  A hero is somebody who stands up when things are not right and pushes people to do the right thing.  Your father put his career in health care on the line and pushed people to do the right thing even when others called for his job.  Because of your Dad, the lives of thousands of people have been made better.  That, is a hero."  No cameras, no reporters just a private (well sort of...I was listening) conversation about these kids and their Dad.  How wonderfully Iowan.

Copy_of_inauguration_and_ball_2007_021 Georgie and I had a great time.  We visited with farmers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, military professionals, friends and folks we may never see again.  Every conversation was the same..."Isn't this a great night and isn't this a great place to hold the party??  Who would have thought...the Iowa Fairgrounds!" It was an Iowa moment.

Inauguration_and_ball_2007_044 The new governor has a slogan for his administration.  "One Iowa - One Unlimited Future" and he means it.  Former school teacher, former coach, former Secretary of State...and now the governor of nearly 3 million folks who are looking to this "big lug" (as his wife calls him) to lead us into a brand new day.  Hopeful, eager Iowans...you can see it in his face.  How wonderful...how Iowa.

It was fitting that the weekend celebration ended Saturday night with an Inter-Faith Celebration at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.  Representatives from various faith groups sang, spoke, chanted and prayed.  Christians, Muslims, Hindu, Jewish, Native American, Buddhist...they all came to lift up the new Governor and Lt. Governor.  Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Iowa Area United Methodist Church closed the 2.5 hour event by saying, "Diversity is not an issue we Iowans have to deal with.  Diversity is a blessing we get to enjoy."  Yes, how wonderfully...Iowan.  And, if you are still reading we can export some of this to your state...if you are ready.

Finally...to those of you who looked at this and said: "Hey, what is the deal?  This blog is supposed to be about Marketing and Advertising!"   It is...you are welcome Iowa.


Can I Get an AMEN?

Shutterstock_2300100_amen Brothers and Sisters, bring on the BLOG!

by Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

For some this is preaching to the choir...but I KNOW many non-bloggers read these posts.  It is time for you to see the light.

People love it when others confess.  This week we watched as the "Great Decider" became the "Great Confessor".  I wish to join him.

You see, there was a time when I did not BLOG.  Maybe like you, there was a time when I cringed at the mention of "RSS", "Technorati" and "Feeds".  I was lost.  Oh, folks had offered their help and encouragement but I stubbornly refused and continued on my path of ignorance.  Then, one day this summer, I accepted the invitation to commune at the alter with Mike Sansone.  My life...and my business have changed forever.  It has been remarkable, so allow me to witness a bit to those of you still not convinced.

Some of us like "black and white" answers to our questions.  My "proof" came in the form of increased visits to my website.  I can actually point to the week when I began the agency blog as evidenced by the 30% increase in traffic.  (That now has doubled to a 60% increase!)  I had been sending out an "e-newsletter" on a quarterly basis.  The day Mindy would post we would see a jump in site visits...but they would trail off within a day or so.  Why?  There was nothing fresh...it was "old news".

Today I BLOG at least three times a week with what we hope are "insightful" answers to the myriad of marketing, advertising and public relations questions folks have or may not know they have.  (Notice the shameless "Insight" plug...ain't this great?)  Along with increased visits to the site we also get people volunteering that they read the BLOG.  Just yesterday a TV producer/magazine publisher Dave Haldin admitted to reading on a regular basis as did a recent guest, Robin Pruisner who was on my radio show, "Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country".  (Another shameless plug...go ahead...check it out.) Heck, even attorney Rush Nigut (and fellow blogger) has read and this week when I visited with my friend Bud Hockenburg of the same firm...he admitted to his love for blogging!

You know, "this too will pass" and we'll find another...even better way to communicate.  But the message today is, "If you are not BLOGGING thou art casting thyself into the Fires of the Forgotten!"  (Or at least..." the Overlooked")  Come on...join the congregation...and let us say, "Amen!"