Friday, April 11, 2008

WOW your customers

One of the blogs I get email updates from is Customers Rock! Check out this recent posting:

Focus on WOW for Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 10, 2008

I just got back from my local branch of Wells Fargo, and something caught my eye behind the friendly teller, Jennifer. Another employee was preparing a chart to go on the wall entitled, “11 Ways to WOW the Customer.” Of course, being the customer-focused professional that I am, I had to ask about the chart.

Great Customer Service

Jennifer told me it was to help remind the team about customer service, with the main goal being that customers feel welcome each time they come into the bank. They want the experience to be such a good one that customers will seek them out for their future banking activities, even if this is not their home branch. Most of the items on the chart are simple, such as welcoming customers into the bank verbally when they come in the door. Smiling. Or, as she said, “Keeping your grump to yourself!”

This is consistent with Wells Fargo’s corporate focus on customers. Here is an excerpt from the Customer Service page on their website, describing the 11 Ways to WOW.


  • you make me feel at home.
  • you care about me.
  • you make me feel special.

“Delivering value”

  • you give me the right advice.
  • you provide me value.
  • you keep your promises.

“Following up and building relationships”

  • you help me when I really need it.
  • you know me.
  • when you make a mistake you make things even better.
  • you thank me.
  • you reach out to me.

Employee Retention

Jennifer said this customer focus makes the branch experience not only better for customers, but also better for her and the other employees that work there. She enjoys her job more when she is able to truly help customers with their needs. She spends time talking to them about the task at hand, but she also spends time listening to them talk about their lives. Customers have become her regulars, and one of them even brought in not one, but two cakes for the team. The pace at this branch is a little more leisurely, so the employees there have time to chat with customers, their kids, and even their dogs!

I love this line, again from the Wells Fargo website: “We’re only as good as our first impression and last connection. This is all about culture and attitude.”

That, my friends, is what this blog is all about.

WOW Your Customers

I encourage each of you to think of how you can WOW your customers. Don’t leave it to chance or count on just hiring great employees. That is not enough. Customers Rock! companies set a goal for WOW customer interactions, then they make a specific plan to meet that goal. Finally, they check back with their customers to see whether they made a difference from the customer’s perspective.

Jennifer, you guys rock! Thanks for making it special, and I will work on baking you some cookies for the next time I come in…

(Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is Starbucks out of touch?

I really don't understand this. Starbucks is buying newspaper advertising? Of all the ways to get the word out to their customers and future customers, this has got to be one of the worst.

Yesterday, I was in one of my local SB's and noticed the cup was different. Instead of the words of wisdom from others, there was this fine print about Pikes Place Roast, which was ignored once I dropped the cup in my cup holder.

I even walked in, instead of using the drive-thru. Nothing caught my attention about Pikes Place Roast in the store. The guy who took my order said nothing about it, the gal who handed me my cup said nothing about it.

I was in their store and nobody informed me of something new at Starbucks.

Let this be a lesson to EVERYONE:

You must insist on having your front line employees involved with your marketing, in a real, hands-on, face-to-face manner.

No amount of paid advertising can give you the R.O.I. that you'll get if you ignore the obvious marketing tools that cost you nothing.

Like talking to your customers, person to person.

Okay, I'll stop yelling.

But then the second part of this is that Starbucks is spending millions on advertising in publications that are likely to reach the 50 plus demo!

I know that there are plenty of newspaper readers that drink specialty coffee, but that can't be the number one target demo for Starbucks, is it?

As I'm visiting a local thriving coffee shop right now there are about 25 people in here. One is reading the paper, Five are older than 45, Eight are using the free wireless, and all of them are spending money that Starbucks wants.

Billboards, Internet, TV, Radio, all would have been a better choice for spending advertising dollars.

Here's the story that sent me off on this rant:

Starbucks Embraces Newspapers In Launching New Coffee
By Mark Fitzgerald
Published: April 08, 2008 4:55 PM ET

Starbucks attracted a ton of free publicity for its nationwide 30-minute giveaway of its new "Pike Place Roast" brew on Tuesday -- but the coffee-maker laid the way for the launch with a series of full-page newspaper ads. And Starbucks is building on the launch with newspaper inserts that include a loyalty program offer.

The print campaign represents a significant change in strategy at a chain that once shunned newspaper advertising -- and, for that matter, advertising in any medium. Along with big-box discounters Wal-Mart and Costco, the ubiquitous Starbucks stores were the hardest accounts for newspapers to land. But a slowdown in store traffic as the economy slowed -- and a feeling that Starbucks had grown too fast with 7,100 U.S. stores -- got Starbucks executives thinking about traditional advertising, even as they worked to return the stores to their roots as aromatic places to hang out.

Even then, Starbuck's ad outlays were nothing compared to rival Dunkin' Donuts, for instance. According to TNS Media Intelligence, in 2007 Dunkin' spent $116.2 million on ads in the United States. Starbucks spent $37.9 million.

The campaign to launch the milder-tasting Pike Place coffee appears to be the chain's most intensive use of newspaper yet. A Starbuck's spokesperson did not immediately get back to E&P with information about the size of the launch's newspaper buys. Starbucks placed full-page ads in newspapers across the country, showing a kind of chalk outline of the familiar Starbucks paper cup, with the only text a date: 04 08 08.

In some markets, the coffee retailer has already followed up with the loyalty card inserts. In Chicago, the insert will run in Tribune Co.'s youth-oriented commuter daily RedEye next Monday, and in the flagship Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, said the newspaper's spokesman, Michael Dizon.

Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's editor-at-large

So, how did their taste test turn out, for those that knew about it? Here's a story from California:

Starbucks provided free 8-ounce samples of its new brew for half an hour beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The Seattle-based chain created its new brew, Pike Place Roast, after soliciting input from nearly 1,000 customers. The brew features a smoother flavor than the typical Starbucks blend, flavored with dashes of cocoa and toasted nuts, and will remain on the menu indefinitely.

Servers at local Starbucks locations offered shots of Pike Place Roast by the cash register and carried trays around tables. Most cups disappeared quickly, but some customers said the heavily promoted brew didn’t taste much different than the regular one.

“It’s a little lighter,” said Liz Shickler of Corona, who stopped at the Starbucks at Harbor Boulevard and Adams Avenue. “It’s not very strong.”

— Michael Miller

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Internet Headlines

Today's been very busy and as I have been driving from meeting to meeting, I've heard snippets of the following stories....

These are from Adweek:

» Big Players Circle Yahoo!
Time Warner's AOL unit is inching closer to a merger deal with Yahoo!, while Microsoft has approached News Corp. about a potential joint takeover bid for Yahoo!, The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. more »

» Yahoo! in Search Ad Test With Google
In what could open a new front in its battle with Microsoft, Yahoo! said it would begin a test of running search ads supplied from longtime rival Google. more »

» Ad Nets to Proliferate
Sometimes, it seems like everyone has an ad network. That won't change anytime soon, as more specialized networks pop up to help advertisers reach consumers dispersed across the Web. more »

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

First Impressions

Jim Meisenheimer makes some excellent points in his recent email:

Fast First Impressions

Fast first impressions are getting even faster today.

You've probably heard that "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." And it's true!

You also probably heard that "First impressions are lasting impressions."

Have you ever thought about how long it takes to make a first impression? I remember sitting in sales training class and hearing the sales trainer talk about how it takes two minutes to create a first impression.

That might have been true then, but nothing could be further from the truth today.

I also remember reading an article written by the CEO who owned an executive search firm. His research, about eight years ago, indicated that it took as little as five seconds for an interviewer to form his first impression of the interviewee.

Now get this. According to a study conducted at Carleton University in Ottawa, people are forming first impressions in as little as 1/20th of a second.

Yikes - I've heard of rapid transit but up until now I've never heard of rapid and fast first impressions.

There’s speed dating, speed dialing, and of course speed channel surfing with your remote control in your family room.

The point is that we're doing everything faster today – everything and this includes forming first impressions.

If you're a professional sales representative and focused on growing your business it probably requires selling to new sales prospects.

Many of the sales prospects you call on are overworked and overwhelmed. You won't get many second chances in the first impressions department with these people. So it has to be good the first time.

Here's a short list of things you can do to improve your first impression:

1. Be prepared! Sure you have to look good, but once you open your mouth you have to sound good too. Develop and rehearse an elevator speech which answers the question "What do you do?"

2. Dress for success. I wish I could remember who said this, I can't, but I’ll tell you anyway. “When it comes to clothes, buy half as much and spend twice as much.” Clothes may not make the man, but they certainly add to a good first impression. Shoes should be polished including the heels which can get beaten up with all the driving you do.

3. Walk like a winner. There's a reason why people often say the first thing people notice about other people are their shoes. And the simple reason why people are looking at shoes is because their heads are canted downward. You'll appear more confident when you have your chin in the up and locked position with a smile on your face.

4. Smile talking. This is easy to say and extremely hard to do. Practice smiling while you're talking. It changes everything. Some people do this naturally and I'm not one of them. I'm serious by nature and I have to concentrate on smiling. Of course it's easy to tell whether or not you're smiling when you're talking to someone. If the other person is smiling at you, you're probably smiling at them.

5. Be approachable. If you want to appear friendly and approachable on all sales calls, consider wearing a name tag. Now don't be too quick to pooh-pooh this idea. Scott Ginsberg has been testing theories on first impressions for seven years. Nametags don't hurt and they probably help in the first impressions department.

If you never get a second chance to make a good first impression what are the chances of getting a second chance with an extremely fast first impression?

It seems like everything we're doing these days is in the fast lane. My advice is to slow down and pay attention to the first impressions you're leaving behind.

Think about the lifetime value of a sales prospect who didn't become your customer because of your underwhelming first impression.

Forget about accidental first impressions when you're selling.

With a little planning and a little practice you first impressions will become memorable.

Start selling more today and everyday . . .

Jim Meisenheimer
Publisher - Start Selling More Newsletter

19.5 years . . .

509 corporate customers . . .

83.3% repeat business . . .

(800) 266-1268

Here's how to contact Jim:
Jim Meisenheimer
Start Selling More Sales Training
13506 Blythefield Terrace Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202 Phone: (800) 266-1268 Fax: (941) 907-0441 fax Email: Website:

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Facts and Figures

First some numbers about our Youth:

Volume 2 Issue 4
April 9, 2008


Miley Cyrus is the top celebrity those aged 8-17 would like to sit with at the kiddie table, says outdoor furniture maker Lifetime Products.


60% of middle school students and 48% of elementary school students get less than nine hours of sleep on a school night, report MetLife and Harris Interactive.


Young adults aged 18-24 pay around $570 each month on their credit cards, according to Vertis Communications.


Teen cell phone users age 13-17 are more likely than adults to recall seeing mobile ads (46% vs. 29%), according to Nielsen.


40% of 8-21 year olds want to start their own business, finds Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Staples Small-Business Survey.

Youth Markets Alert (YMA) identifies the latest trends among U.S. children, tweens and teens. Download a free sample issue to discover how twice-monthly case studies, research, contacts, and industry sector analysis connect you with young Americans' $200 billion in spending power.

YMA Datafile Info:
Editor: Larissa Faw
Publisher: Ira Mayer

YMA Datafile is an EPM Communications, Inc. service.
(c)Copyright 2008 EPM Communications, Inc.

And now some numbers for those of us 18 and older:

Volume 3 Issue 14 - April 7, 2008


The average divorced man remarries in 3.3 years, according to Men's Health.


14% of adults don't like their name because it's too boring, trendy, or hard to pronounce, according to BabyCenter.


47% of college freshmen move more than 100 miles from home to attend school, reports UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute.


55% of Baby Boomers think new TV technologies are difficult to use, compared to 31% of Millennials, says Millward Brown.


39% of men aged 18-34 ate at a fast food restaurant after 10 p.m. in the past month, reports Sandelman & Associates.

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How much Spam do You get?

It's been 30 days since I stopped deleting my spam email. I use Google's G-mail service as a spam filter and I wanted to see how much I get in a month.

(After 30 day's G-mail starts dumping the oldest and today around 5:30pm, the number of spam messages reached their peak before Google started dumping the oldest).

My original prediction I made 10 days into this experiment was between 4000 and 5000. I was wrong.

Between March 8 and March 25th I had more than 2500 spam emails.

On April 4th I had 4340. My prediction was 4500. I was wrong.

The grand total for today was 5202. Thankfully G-mail does an excellent job. There were only about 30 emails that G-mail thought were spam, but were not. And there were only 3 emails that were spam that G-mail didn't catch.

Pretty good for a free service. Thanks Google!

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You want fries, er, ads with that burger?

This has already been spreading in our town.....

Digital Media Screens in Quick-Service Restaurants Get Attention

Millions of US adults visit quick-service restaurants each month, and they constitute a prime audience for in-store digital media, according to an Indoor Direct study conducted by Arbitron at Wendy’s, Denny’s, Hardee’s, Arby’s, and CiCi’s Pizza stores.

Nearly 100 million people - about 42% of the US adult population - visit at least one those restaurants in a typical month, according to Indoor Direct, which has a digital media network consisting of 42-inch LCD screens displaying a mix of entertainment content, brand advertising, and point-of-purchase campaigns.

Below, some highlights from the study:

  • On average, quick-service restaurant patrons spent 32 minutes in the dining areas with a screen:


  • 85% of diners noticed either the promotional digital board located at the order counter and/or the screen(s) in the dining area.
  • 9 out of 10 customers that noticed the dining area screens said they spent “some” or almost all of their time watching.
  • In-store ads can be more effective than TV spots:
    • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those who noticed the screens could successfully recall at least one of the advertisers on an aided basis. For individual brands, average recall was 25%.
    • The majority of restaurant customers (57%) said they were more likely to purchase a product or service after seeing it featured on the screens:


  • Overall, customer feedback about the video screens was positive:
    • More than two-thirds (68%) gave a score of “4″ (like) or “5″ (really like) when rating reaction to the screens.
    • About half of teenagers (ages 14-17) gave a “5″ rating.
    • Fully 72% of all surveyed agreed the screens promote a “cool” or “cutting edge” image for the restaurant.


CBS, BBC Worldwide, Style Network, Universal Pictures, Women’s Entertainment, and are a few of the Indoor Direct content providers, offering news, sports, animation, classic television shows, music videos and games.


  • 43% of dining-area viewers said they liked (a “4″ or “5″ rating) the programming.
  • News/human interest stories and TV shows/movie clips were the most popular forms of programming content - 51% and 50%, respectively, of restaurant customers said they “like”or “really like” them.

“We found that diners we studied often tend to be on site or en route to shopping destinations such as malls and department stores or going to a movie when they stop into a casual dining or quick-service restaurant,” said Diane Williams, product manager, custom research for Arbitron Inc.

“Brand messages in out-of home environments such as quick service and casual dining restaurants have the potential to influence consumers right before or after a shopping or entertainment event.”

Indoor Direct plans to roll out displays in an some 1,000 locations among those restaurants and others by the end of this summer. Advertisers can choose to run traditional spots or create customized, integrated spots into the Indoor Direct content.

About the study: Arbitron Inc. conducted 2,582 in-person interviews with customers of five quick-service and casual dining restaurants that feature Indoor Direct: Arby’s, CiCi’s Pizza, Denny’s, Hardee’s and Wendy’s. Data were weighted in the “total sample” data set to balance the number of respondents per chain.

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Think like N.A.S.C.A.R.

The first time I saw a N.A.S.C.A.R. race, I saw the colorful cars with lots and lots of sponsors plastered all over them. As a kid who grew up with the plain, open-wheeled Indy 500 cars every May, N.A.S.C.A.R. was pretty cool.

You need to think like N.A.S.C.A.R. Get your name and contact information on all kinds of promotional products, like coffee mugs, pens, whatever your customers would use. It's called part of your marketing Branding.

Nearly all the refrigerator magnets at my home are advertising related. There's the one from my carpet cleaner, one from my bank, another from a home improvement guy that helped me install a stubborn toilet.

I don't buy pens anymore. Instead, I distribute my clients pens when I'm visiting other clients.

(By the way, if you bought some promotional pens or other goodies and you are using them in your own office, shame on you. Get them out into the hands of people that might become your customers.)

Promotional nicknack's are a big business these days according to this story from Mediapost:

Advertising Specialties Sales Hit Record
Wednesday, Apr 9, 2008 5:00 AM ET
THE ADVERTISING SPECIALTY INSTITUTE REPORTS that industry revenues reached $19.6 billion in 2007, up 5.4% from 2006 and a new record.

Spending on advertising specialties, or promotional products--items and incentives branded with a company logo or marketing message--was 83% greater than radio advertising, 73% greater than Internet display ads and nearly five times larger than outdoor advertising for the same period.

--Nina M. Lentini

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Uh oh, there goes another newspaper

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, (market # 104?) we are a rarity. We have two daily newspapers, a morning paper that lands in your driveway (or bushes) 7 days a week, and an afternoon paper that is published everyday except Sunday.

They have survived due to a joint operating agreement that has been in place for many, many years, and they also have expanded some of their offerings with local magazines that do a fine job of showcasing our town.

Oh, they also have the best named web domain for this city,

While I saw some recent circulation numbers which look dismal for the papers, it is the advertising department that will determine how long either one survives. In the midwest, we move a little slower than the left or right coasts, so many advertisers have remained loyal to the printed page.

And should you advertise in the paper? All depends on who you want to reach and how effective they are for the money you give them, just like any other media.

Meanwhile, we have this news coming from Seattle:

Layoffs, Other Cuts Rack Seattle Times
Editor & Publisher
The Seattle Times, battered by a continuing decline in advertising revenue, will slice nearly 200 staffers -- more than half of them via layoffs. It will also close two suburban bureaus and cease zoned editions in two neighboring counties in a plan designed to save about $15 million. Spokeswoman Jill Mackie declined to discuss more specifics, but says: "There will be some changes that will affect both readers and advertisers."

In an email to its employees, the newspaper says the reductions will include up to 131 layoffs, while 60 unfilled positions will stay that way. Right now, the company has 1,845 full-time and part-time employees. "We had hoped the expense reductions made at the beginning of the year would prevent the need for further downsizing, but that is not the case," say Publisher Frank Blethen and President Carolyn Kelly. - Read the whole story...

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Avoid sounding Cheap

Over the years, I've told dozens of retailers that advertising for a sale must have certain key elements in the ad:

  1. Specific Item
  2. Price
  3. Time limit for the special price.
That's about it, besides the overall branding that their marketing and advertising should be doing already.

Unfortunately, lots of retailers run sales and leave out one or more of these key elements, and the results are dismal.

Now there is a bit of research that backs up what I've been saying, from

On Sale Now, But Time's a' Wastin'!

"Regular Price: $599; Now: $399." We've all seen ad lines like this one that quote the original price of an item and then show a discounted price right next to it. They're designed to influence consumers to take advantage of the reduced price—or to at least head into a sale.

But, hold on just a minute! Some research is showing that putting your product on sale for cheap can actually make consumers perceive your product as, well, cheap. What to do?

Research from Southern Methodist University suggests that whether or not you lessen a consumer's perception of your product's image may depend on one key factor: whether you include a time-limiting component to the promotion: "Sale! Three Days Only."

Consumers in the market for a product had more favorable perceptions about brands that were on sale and had a time-limited offer ($75 regular price; $50 sale price for 5 days only!) than they did to the same brand at the regular price or the sale price. Sales announcements coupled with time-limited offers also created more favorable perceptions for people who were not in the market for the product.

In short, a regular price might make your product look expensive; a sales price might make it look cheap. But including both with a time-limited offer makes it look downright precious.

The Po!nt: If you want to offer your product on sale, include the base price, the sales price and a time-limited offer to entice the broadest spectrum of customers.

Source: "Broadening the Scope of Reference Price Advertising Research: A Field Study of Consumer Shopping Involvement" by Daniel J. Howard and Roger A. Kerin. Journal of Marketing, 2006. Read the article here.

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More Internet & Computer News

The following three stories came in an email from Mediapost. Yesterday I talked about Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google and AOL and here' s the latest:

AOL: Running Out Of Time
Bloomberg News
How much longer does AOL have to prove its worth before Time Warner shareholders revolt? Not long, says Jordon Posner of Matrix Asset Advisors. "It's important that they drive improvement in this business fast. Otherwise they'll wind up with a wasting asset."
AOL has lost 50% of its dial-up subscribers since effectively telling them to find a new ISP more than two years ago. Right now, UBS' Morris reckons that AOL is now worth $12.9 billion, about one-tenth of what it bought Time Warner for in 2000. - Read the whole story...

Is Microsoft Really Undervaluing Yahoo?
Yahoo thinks Microsoft is undervaluing the company with its $44.6 billion offer, but Microsoft, citing the $10 boost Yahoo shares received the day the software giant took its bid to the public, thinks it's offering a fair price. So who's right? CNET surveys a few financial analysts who claim that Yahoo shouldn't expect a (much) higher price. Read the whole story...

Google, Microsoft And The Long, Slow Kill
Silicon Alley Insider
Microsoft better watch out, because Google is moving in for the long, slow kill. With a growing arsenal of Web-based services that includes Google Docs and now, Google App Engine, the search giant is just about everywhere that Microsoft is, and beyond. Indeed, Microsoft makes most of its billions selling apps Google now gives away for free (or at least, nearly free). Google's versions don't have as many features as Microsoft's, but as Blodget says, they're simple, cheap, convenient, and they get the job done. Read the whole story...

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Starbucks and Blogs

As I check to see what brought people to discover this Collective Wisdom blog, the subject that gets a lot of visitors is Starbucks. And in order to be more customer friendly, Starbucks has launched a blog where you and I can give them ideas and feed back.

There's a couple of problems according to Shiv Singh; Read about it in his words from his blog Going Social Now:

They're so close and yet so far. I watched with increasing interest the launch, promotion and growth of My Starbucks Idea. On the surface, I really like it. It is an enthusiastic effort by a social brand to be more social. If there's anyone who should be really embracing social media, its Starbucks because the brand is about community and people.

It's a simple concept - users are invited to tell Starbucks what they should be doing. Users publish their ideas and others comment and vote on them. Every now and then Starbucks takes an idea and moves it to the "See" section. Acknowledgment that the idea has legs and is being turned in to reality. I like it.

But its missing a few things. The first is best represented by this user comment in the Idea section.

I don't know how long this ideas website will be up for, but I hope this idea is reviewed soon by the ideas people in the company.
Starbucks doesn't participate in the conversation. It doesn't respond to comments directly rather it responds more broadly in the "See" section when they're making reality out of an idea. That's disappointing. If you expect your customers to help you, you should be willing to participate in their conversation. Not stand by silently or only speak from a pulpit.

What's also missing is there's no form of reward for ideas turned into reality. Imagine if every person who participated in the discussion around a
frequency card, were added to a beta list for that card? That would be a great way to thank those customers for their thoughts. It would seed the concept with passionate consumers too. Opportunity missed.

On the whole though, I'm impressed. It borrows from the Dell
Ideastorm concept and applies it to the Starbucks world. I believe that concepts like these are the future of the contact us page. Every site will need to have an area like this - a place where the brand solicits feedback from its customers and responds to their comments. If a brand doesn't want to be social in this manner, it shouldn't really be on the web at all.

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Pizza Hut knows how to service their Customers

Straight from my e-mail is this wisdom from Art Sobczak:

This Week's Tip:
This Is Even More Important Than
GETTING the Sale


Everyone has their customer service horror they were treated unbelievably
poorly by someone they were trying to give
their money to, or already had.

My focus each week is primarily on sales,
but yet, without great service, our efforts
can be "one and done," one sale and that's
the last we see of the customer. Clearly not
what we want.

So, this week, I have invited my good friend,
and a top customer service expert, speaker,
and trainer, Lisa Ford to share some ideas
on customer service we can all use.

Also, Lisa has provided a few video snippets,
both instructional and humorous, that you
will want to take a look at. See them here:

This Is Even More Important
Than GETTING the Sale

By Lisa Ford

You work pretty darn hard to get a customer.

But what do you and your company do to
keep customers, which is where the real
profit is?

I went to my bank to close all SIX of my family's
accounts. The teller asked why, and I said,
“Poor service.”

The teller promptly summoned over a manager—
whom I had met for the first time in banking there
for six years—who proceeded to ask about the
poor service.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.
I explained that despite banking there regularly
for over six years and having six accounts, no
one ever acknowledged me or knew me by name,
and tellers would often chat with each other while
handling me transactions as if I wasn’t even there.

The icing was when a teller demanded to see my
ID when I was trying to make a DEPOSIT into my
own account. The manager, instead of listening
carefully, came up with excuses for each example
of poor service. Instead of listening, he was formulating
his defense with each answer.

You are most likely in a very competitive business
with others offering the same products at about
the same price. In this marketplace, your products
and services can not be your difference, your
service must be the difference. Even if that is not
your job title. Customers are more savvy, sophisticated,
informed as well as picky and demanding. That means
you must deliver what customers want and be really
good at handling the challenges of providing good
customer service.

I am still amazed that most often I receive very
mediocre and average service. Most businesses
“process” customers, as opposed to serving them.

Everyone seems to be interested in getting me as
a customer but few do much to keep me. Instead
they irritate me by acting as if they don’t know
anything about me even though I have done
business with them repeatedly.

One that does get it—and gets my business in
return—is Pizza Hut. When I call my local Pizza
Hut for a delivery, they ask for my phone number
and then confirm it is me who’s calling. Then they
say, “Ms. Ford, would you like a large thin crust
with pepperoni and mushroom like you ordered
last time?”

Wow! If Pizza Hut can do this, then why can’t
everyone else? My expectations suddenly change
with one question from Pizza Hut.

If you want to stand out in a crowded, competitive
marketplace, and get your customers to continue
to buy from you, to be raving advocates for you,
give them what they want. These four points are
quite simple.

1. Customers want you to listen. Show them respect.
Hear their unique needs. It takes focus and energy.
For example, do you ever find yourself listening to
the first few words of what your customer or prospect
says, then you tune out and begin formulating what
your response will be, even before they've finished?
Dangerous, and potentially costly. I suggest you
engage in “na├»ve listening,” which is l listening as if
you did not already know the answer (unlike my ex-
bank’s manager).

2. Customers want you to show you know them.
When have you thanked them for doing business
with your company for the last 6 years? Pizza Hut
recognizes me, the bank did not. One still has
my business.

3. Customers want you to pay attention to the
details. Use their name, call back when promised,
choose your language carefully and create an
experience because you are passionate about
customer service! That’s not rocket science, is it?

4. Customers want you to remember it is their time
and money. You are not doing them a favor. They
are doing you one. Don’t forget it.

Customer satisfaction means relying on the basics.

They work every time. The problem is we make it
all too complicated. Yes, we need customer
relationship management strategies, customer
“engagement” and a customer-centric focus. But
we don’t have the right to go there until we deliver
the basics first.

I speak at many company meetings where the slogan
for that gathering is something like, “The Year of the
Customer”. I always wonder what year is NOT the
Year of the Customer?

To see Lisa on video, sharing a few more customer
service stories and tips, go to


"Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you
into the game. Service wins the game."

Tony Alessandra

Go and have your best week ever!

Contact: Art Sobczak, President, Business By Phone Inc. 13254 Stevens St.,
Omaha, NE 68137,
(402) 895-9399

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How to Revive your Business & Why Word of Mouth Matters

Just wanted to steer you over to another blog that I write on from time to time. The distinction between that one and this one, is this one almost always has input from others. Meanwhile, that one is solely my own writings.

Today I added two new posts:

Why Word of Mouth Matters which discusses the importance of human relationships in your marketing efforts.

And How to Revive Your Business, which addresses a technique you can do to keep your business fresh, healthy and growing.

Your comments are always welcome.

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The 2008 American Consumer Preview part 8

This is similar to what I shared with you in part 7, but a different study and some new insights from Marketing

(Click here to see the first 7 parts)

Most Plan More Coupon Use in a Recession, Many Attracted to Paperless

Tough times and technology advancements portend a coupon-usage renaissance among US shoppers, with 67% of those surveyed by ICOM Information & Communications (ICOM) saying they are more likely to use coupons during a recession.

Of the 1,529 US consumers participating in the survey, 45% said they were much more likely to do so, and 22% said they were somewhat more likely.

Over the past 10 years, the average coupon redemption rate has declined to less than 1.0%, from a level of 1.6%, across all US coupons distributed, ICOM said.

Among the key findings about coupon use in a recession:


  • Broken down by age, 71% of consumers in the 18-34 year-old age bracket said they are much more likely or somewhat more likely to use coupons in a recession. That compares with 68% in the 35-54 year-old bracket and 63% among those 55 years and above.
  • Geographically, 70% of Midwesterners said they are much more likely or somewhat more likely to use coupons in a recession, versus 69% of Westerners, 64% of Northeasterners and 62% of Southerners.
  • Income didn’t make a significant difference, with 68% of those earning less than $50,000 a year saying they are much more likely or somewhat more likely to use coupons in a recession, compared with 67% for those earning more than $50,000.

Historically, coupons are a key area in which manufacturers operating in economic hard times have not cut back. In the weakened economy of 2001, ICOM tracking showed a significant increase in the number of coupons consumers redeemed each week.

“The consumer incentive certainly is there,” said Peter Meyers, ICOM marketing vice-president. “Look at it this way: Households of two adults and two children who use coupons wisely can save 25% on their grocery bill annually, without cutting purchases. That saves $2,400 a year based on a typical $800 a month grocery spend, which outstrips the $1,800 economic stimulus check this family has coming in May from Washington.”

Among the findings on paperless coupon technology:

  • Some 58% of consumers responding to the ICOM survey said their coupon use would increase if they could download a coupon from the internet and have it automatically connected to an electronically swiped frequent shopper card.
  • Of that 58%, 35% said they are much more likely to use such a card and 23% said are somewhat more likely. (Consumers using these paperless coupons receive the discount at the register without having to clip and carry. AOL, Kroger, General Mills and Procter & Gamble are involved in programs testing these high-tech coupons.)
  • No less than 77% of consumers in the 18-34 age group said they are much more likely or somewhat more likely to use coupons if given access to this paperless technology. In the 35-54 age group, 63% said they are much more likely or somewhat more likely. In the 55 and over bracket, 47% said they are much more likely or somewhat more likely.

“These advanced coupons have attracted some consumer interest and drawn media attention. Put in perspective, online coupons of all kinds represent less than 1% of the overall coupon market and consumers to date have expressed a strong preference for receiving coupons in the mail,” Meyers said. “Brands should pay close attention to determine if this technology is right for their consumers.”

“Marketers have the opportunity to discard the old-school thinking about coupons and be smarter this time around. There’s no need to send out more mass coupons, such as dog food coupons to households that don’t have pets. Brands should do their homework and send offers relevant to the needs of individual consumers,” Meyers said. “And consumers should be given more time to redeem coupons - three months is not enough.”

About the study: 1,529 US consumers participated in ICOM’s nationwide survey of US households, conducted in mid-February. The online research was sent to 40,000 households in the ICOM Shopper’s Voice database. Based in Toronto, ICOM is a provider of targeted list, data communication solutions and analytic services for the consumer packaged goods (CPG), over the counter (OTC), pharmaceutical, market research, and auto industries in North America, as well as the direct response sector in Canada.

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Google is a verb...

Microsoft is a noun. Yahoo! is an expression. AOL is outdated. And MySpace and Facebook are the current big boys in social media.

But back to my first couple of statements. I find it interesting that Google is so popular and has very few detractors, while Microsoft is also popular but has so many detractors.

Stepping back into history, it was America On Line that popularized the internet by giving away their software and free trials. They evolved into AOL and joined forces with Time/Warner/CNN and these days are a minor player.

Bill Gates and his buds should be credited for developing software that was relatively easy to use compared to the programs that we had to use before Windows. Microsoft also launched MSN in 1995 which included the free email service, HotMail. Meanwhile Yahoo! incorporated in 1995 and also provided free email accounts, just for signing up.

(By the way, if you don't have a free email address, get one. G-mail from Google is my favorite, but both Yahoo! and MSN Hotmail are also free and this way if you ever change jobs or internet service providers, you can always have the same email address using one of these free services.)

Microsoft received bad press for their bundling of software, and has been in court multiple times on anti-trust lawsuits. And there are people that simply want alternatives to the Big Dog.

Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft all have diversified services and yet the fact that "Google" is a verb shows that they have been able to stay clean and not confuse the public as to what Google is all about. We can't say the same about the other companies I've mentioned.

Google's popularity continues to grow because they have stayed true to their core business, that is the internet search engine. The other companies, never quite took hold in the same manner and they are suffering either financially, or public relations wise as a result.

Take a look at these numbers from (click on the charts to make them bigger):

Google at All-Time High of 67% of US Searches

Google accounted for 67.25% of all US searches in the four weeks ended March 29, 2008 - the highest proportion of searches it has ever achieved, and up some 5% from a year earlier, when it accounted for 64.13% of searches, according to Hitwise.

Yahoo Search, MSN Search and received, respectively, 20.29%, 5.25% and 4.09% of US searches in March. The remaining 46 search engines in the Hitwise Search Engine Analysis Tool together accounted for 1.72% of US searches.

hitwise-search-engine-market-share-march-2008.jpg was up 18% year-over-year, though down from the previous month. Yahoo and MSN were both down month-over-month as well as year-over-year.

Search Traffic to Key Industries

Search engines remain the primary way for internet users to navigate to various key industry categories.


From March ‘07 to March ‘08, the Travel, Entertainment, Business and Finance and Sports categories increased by double digits their share of traffic coming directly from search engines.

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Another reason you need a website for your business

Look at where the money is going. No website= no business. Read this from the Associated Press today:

By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Business WriterTue Apr 8, 12:54 AM ET

Online spending is expected to rise a robust 17 percent this year, despite a sluggish economy that has bruised many brick-based retailers, according to an annual survey to be released Tuesday.

Retail sales online, excluding travel purchases, are set to grow to $204 billion in 2008 from $174.5 billion last year, fueled by sales of apparel, computers and autos, according to a survey conducted by Internet analysis firm Forrester Research for, the online arm of the National Retail Federation trade group. That projection is below the 21 percent increase seen in the prior year, but industry officials attribute it to the maturing of the business, not the sluggish economy.

E-commerce "is clearly the bright spot in retailing," said Scott Silverman, executive director of

The upbeat report contrasts with the outlook for many traditional retailers, which have been paring down store growth and closing shops as they struggle with consumers who don't feel like spending amid higher gas and food costs, a housing slump and a weaker job market. The exceptions are discounters and wholesale clubs, as shoppers turn to less expensive stores.

On Thursday, the nation's retailers are expected to report at best flat sales growth in March, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Same-stores sales are sales at stores opened at least a year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.

Online retailers are not immune to the same economic challenges, but what has spearheaded e-commerce growth is a "tale of two shoppers that visit the Web for different reasons," according to Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst and lead author of the report.

There are the price-sensitive shoppers who appear to be buying more items online as they look for better prices. And then there are the more affluent customers, who have been increasing their online spending because of the convenience and vast offerings.

But those shoppers looking for a bevy of free online shipping deals may not find them as plentiful as they did last year. The study, which surveyed 125 online retailers in February and March, showed that merchants are less interested in using such promotions this year. While 85 percent of online retailers said they used some shipping incentive in the past year, just 35 percent said they would focus more on these types of deals in 2008.

Instead, retailers said they plan to invest more in advertising on social networking sites like and, according to the survey.

That may not be the best strategy, according to Mulpuru.

"It's great for brand-building and for buzz, but it's still unproven how social networking drives direct revenue" for retailers, said Mulpuru.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

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Marketing Budget Cut Report

From my email came a link to this story regarding Marketing Budget Cuts:

Study: 60% Of Large Companies Cutting Marketing Budgets


Marketing execs polled by MarketingSherpa for its "Marketing During An Economic Downturn (pdf)" report are giving a version of a theme we've heard a lot of, lately. The storyline: big marketers are cutting back overall budgets this year, but not not online spending, which is being largely left intact or getting a small increase in 2008.

Total budgets down: 60% of large companies had either cut or are planning to cut marketing budgets 2008, the survey says, compared to 29% of midsized marketers and only 13% of small ones. Only 16% of big marketers said they were increasing budgets, and 19% reported no change.

Online budgets flat, or up slightly: 38% said they planned to increase online spending, while 45% said online spending would stay the same in 2008. Only 17% said they expected to reduce online marketing, compared to 36% for offline media.

That fits with what the ad holding companies have been telling us about 2008: slower growth for digital ad spending than projected last year, but still healthy growth, compared to offline.

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Another Shameless Plug

This time it's for a plug for a business that is doing very well because they do an exceptional job of creating Advanced Graphic Images.

That's why the business is called Advanced-Graphic-Imaging. The picture below is a portion of a rendering that was created for Lowe's.

There is a small sample of some of the award winning work they have done on their website. Just click here and have fun. (Turn up your speakers too!)

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Don't forget the Baby Boomers

It's not like this should be big news to you. But most advertisers continually ignore the over 50 crowd, and instead try and reach the 25-55 year olds. (It use to be the desired demo was 18-34 year olds).

Let me share some insight with you as to why the 18-34 year olds were sought after in the 1970's. They were the Baby Boomers, the biggest chunk of the population born between 1946 and 1964.

As we got older, the demo shifted to 25-55 year olds, because that was the age range of the Baby Boomers, the biggest chunk of the population born between 1946 and 1964.

Today, in 2008 the Baby Boomers, the biggest chunk of the population born between 1946 and 1964 are 44-62 year olds. I can't recall the last time an advertising agency ever asked for my radio station numbers for that demo. And I wonder why? The ad agencies should have continued to follow the Boomer money, but most don't.

Why did the Baby Boomers become undesirable? Is it that they have no money? Hardly, they have more than their younger counterparts. Is it because they are stuck in their ways and won't try anything new? I doubt it. Take the internet for example.

Smart salespeople sell to people who have money to spend. Read the following:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Gray, More Affluent, More Internet Shopping

In the more than 80 metropolitan markets surveyed by The Media Audit, a recent study shows that those who are over age 50 with incomes of $50,000 or more (the "graying and affluent") have increased from 17.0 million in 2004 to 22.3 million during the past five years. Collectively, the markets surveyed have an adult population of approximately 142 million.

Bob Jordan, president of International Demographics, producer of The Media Audit, said "Since 2004 the percentage of ‘graying and affluent' households has increased from 13.1 percent to 15.7 percent of all households in the markets (surveyed)... (and) this group is very rapidly embracing the internet as a shopping medium."

In the prior survey, 50.2 percent had made at least one purchase on the internet during the previous 12 months. In the latest survey, that 50.2 percent increased to 65.6 percent.

Currently, 62.4 percent of the "graying and affluent" households have incomes of $75,000 or more, says the survey, compared to 57.5 percent in 2004.

  • Thirty-eight percent had incomes of $100,000 or more compared to 32.9 percent in 2004
  • Eighteen percent had incomes of $150,000 or more compared to 13.6 percent in 2004

According to Jordan, "The baby-boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, began impacting this segment of the population in 1996, and their impact will continue to be felt through 2014."

Within the gray and affluent group there were important changes in family size:

  • In 2004, 61.6 percent of "gray" households had one or two persons. That increased to 63.5 in the most recent survey
  • The number of gray and affluent households with 3 or 4 members decreased from 31.2 to 29.7
  • Households with 5 or more members declined from 7.1 to 6.8

The gray and affluent households with liquid assets of $100,000 or more increased from 49.5 percent to 53.6 percent and those with $250,000 or more increased from 25.2 percent to 30.2 percent.

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The Check is in the Mail

Do you realize that this spring/summer, nearly everyone of your neighbors is going to get some extra cash in the mail? What are you doing to make sure they spend that extra money with you?

Read this:

Retailers Competing for Share of Rebate Checks

When those economic stimulus rebate checks start showing up in American mailboxes sometime next month, retailers and brand manufacturers want to make sure consumers know just where they can go to start spending the proceeds.

According to an

Sony's campaign encourages consumers to "Turn your 1040 into a Sony 1080p." The Internal Revenue Service is determining the amount of rebates to send consumers based on their tax (1040) returns.

Home Depot is looking to get consumers thinking of turning their newfound greenbacks into purchasing a wide variety of green products available in the company's stores and website.

The home improvement retailer has come out to support House Resolution 987, a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) that encourages consumers to spend their rebates purchasing energy-efficient products and services.

In an email to Ad Age, an unidentified Home Depot spokesperson wrote, "We think it is a great way to turn a short-term stimulus into a long-term investment by reducing consumers' energy costs."

While Sony and Home Depot have looked to get out front with their messages, industry watchers are not expecting them to be alone for long.

"It may actually become competitive to get a message across around the time the checks arrive. That's why some progressive brands are already talking about it. Because, as we know, consumers are already spending the money," said Marshal Cohen, analyst with NPD Group.

An unnamed spokesperson for the National Retail Federation told Ad Age, "When the majority of checks come, we're sure to see many retailers jump on the bandwagon. Retailers recognize that many consumers don't want to splurge when they get these checks, but for those that do, retailers are sure to be ready to help them get the best bang for their buck."

(Source: Retail Wire, 04/03/08)

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Get 'em talkin'

There is a marketing basic that you just have to follow. And that is you need positive talk about what you are doing. Click here to read more.

And to prove this point, here's a study sent to me by Mediapost:

ZenithOptimedia: Referrals From Friends, Family Hold More Weight
Tuesday, Apr 8, 2008 7:00 AM ET
RECOMMENDATIONS BY FRIENDS AND FAMILY have the greatest influence on brand choice among all consumer "touchpoints," according to new research from ZenithOptimedia.

Based on the first public results of its Touchpoints ROI Tracker service, word of mouth was a more powerful influencer than marketing contacts including point of sale, point of consumption, sponsorship and events, the Internet and mass media.

Globally, the influence of marketing contacts and the overall level of brand recall is much higher in Asia Pacific than in North America or Europe. TV advertising, for instance, is 20% more influential in Asia than in North America, while Web banner ads are 30% more influential in Asia than in Europe.

To date, ZenithOptimedia has completed 300 Touchpoints ROI Tracker projects, comprising over 300,000 interviews across 34 countries and covering more than 4,000 brands in 126 product and service categories.

--Mark Walsh

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Monday, April 07, 2008

A Reminder about Thursday

If you don't have your reservations for Thursday morning, Click Here Now.

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Words and Wording

As someone who spends a lot of time working with words, I found the following bit of wisdom helpful, especially as I have trained others when they are writing commercials and ads. This is from

How Well Does Your Copy Flow?

When writing copy for a brochure, press release or advertisement, you spend lots of time choosing the right words to convey your message. But Kelly Robbins of The Copywriting Institute says it's just as important to focus on how well you put those words together.

"If you've worked on a project for several days and rewritten pages countless times," she notes, "it's easy to overlook something as intangible as the smoothness of the copy."

To ensure your final product flows smoothly, Robbins recommends setting up a proofreading system that includes steps like these:

Print a draft of your copy and read it out loud. It might feel silly, but you're more likely to catch awkward phrasing or clunky transitions than if you read silently from a computer screen.

Ask someone to read your copy while you listen. "If there are areas where the reader unnaturally pauses or gets stuck and backs up to reread a section," says Robbins, "you need to go back to work on it."

Take a break. Put your draft on the shelf for a few days and focus on something else. And don't do mental rewrites. Stepping back will give you a fresh, more objective perspective.

The Po!nt: Says Robbins, "It is your job to create automatic systems to ensure your copy is easy to read and understand."

Source: An unpublished article by Kelly Robbins.

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Teen Age Favs

I'm not sure why it has taken so long for the results of this study which was conducted in October and November 2007, to be released, but the survey is worth examining.

This is straight from my email inbox from Brandweek:

Teens Name Coke, McD's As Faves in New Study

April 06, 2008 By Kenneth Hein and Eric Newman

Old school brands still rule among teens, according to a new survey from virtual online community Habbo.

From Coca-Cola to CoverGirl, many of the favorite brands of today are the same as yesterday. More than 7,700 U.S. teenagers (ages 11-18) were asked to reveal their favorite brands in an online poll conducted last October and November. The study was organized among teens participating in Habbo.

Other veteran brands, like McDonald's, Nike, MTV and Seventeen, also were tops. "These preferences definitely show that investing in brands still matters," said Anastasia Goodstein, founder of, San Francisco.

"Does this mean teens aren't spending lots of time with other lesser-known brands, especially when it comes to media and technology? No. It just means that these brands have succeeded in branding by being the ones teens think of first and foremost when asked." The pervasiveness of these brands helps place them top of mind, according to experts.

"When you consider Nike's market share, at 40%, versus a player like Converse at 3% to 4%, it stands to reason why their presence among teens would be so high," said John Shanley, a senior analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, New York. Still, the fact that Nike has taken a page out of Vans' book, "with substantial quantities of lifestyle footwear in their product lineups," has helped Nike stay on top, Shanley said. Vans placed second in the poll.

McDonald's also benefits from its size, said Richard Adams, president of Franchise Equity Group, San Diego. "It's about convenience." Even though Burger King's ads may resonate with teens, "if they aren't available, there is a McDonald's on every street corner," said Adams. "That kind of dominance gives a lot of presence in the marketplace." Analysts have also pointed to the Snack Wrap and other new items as being spot on with the wants of the younger consumer. BK was No. 2.

For Coke this could be a sign of good things to come, said Bill Sipper, senior partner at Cascadia Consulting, a food and beverage consultancy based in Ramsey, N.J. "Teens are into energy drinks, sports drinks and water, but lets face it, people are drinking billions of liters of Coke. Maybe this is a good opportunity for them to reconnect with this consumer."

Some new brands also made the cut. Hollister secured the top spot in the clothing category. "It is no secret it is a more accessible version of Abercrombie & Fitch," said Marshal Cohen, analyst for the NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y. "Hollister is the new Americana for the young and 'wannabe' young." Hollister sales increased 11% to $531 million for the most recent quarter, per its parent company, Abercrombie, which placed No. 2. Hollister is expected to open 67 new stores for 2008.

Instant messaging and e-mail tied as the top forms of Internet usage. Listening to music and gaming were teens' favorite pastimes and rap/hip hop was their favorite music genre. Casual gaming has spread in popularity with Runescape tapped as the favorite game. Addicting Games ranking only behind MySpace and YouTube as the most popular Web site.

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