Customer Service at Apple is Generating Sales

An article posted in AdAge.com highlights how Apple is changing the face of marketing to include customer service as a facet. Apple doesn’t wait for customers to have a problem, instead employees actively attempt to engage customers as soon as they enter the store. AdAge.com stated that Apple is showing, by example, the benefit of understanding these key points: - Service is marketing: As marketers struggle to “engage” consumers, service may well be the easiest and most gratifying starting point — and one with high sales conversion potential. - Problems are opportunities: Tech support is an emotional experience — so why not capitalize on that insight by openly and enthusiastically solving problems, giving reassurance and showing compassion for the pain and frustration. A satisfied consumer might just buy something else while making the trip. - Employee authority and passion aids selling: When employees “walk the talk” in using the product they sell, credibility goes up — and credibility drives persuasion. Passion and evangelism also move the needle. Jane Buckingham, president of Intelligence group, a market research firm in Los Angeles, cited in an article in the NY Times that ‘Whenever we ask consumers to cite a great retail experience, the Apple store is the first store they mention.’ CNNmoney.com also reported in an Apple 2.0 blog post earlier this year, that Apple retail stores were averaging sales of approximately $4500 per square foot. Competitors such as BestBuy only average $929 per square foot, and even luxury goods stores such as Tiffany’s only make about $2,800 per square foot. Both aforementioned sources provide confirmations for the findings in the AdAge.com article.

Facebook Challenges Traditional Media

As posted by B2B Magazine, Visa is launching the Visa Business Network on Facebook in order to connect businesses to this social forum and their potential customer base. According to a press release by Visa, the focus of this venture is to help small businesses ‘Connect with others, manage more efficiently, and grow business.’ Visa also announced as an added incentive that the first 20,000 U.S. based businesses that join this new network will be awarded with a $100 Facebook Ads credit.
Controversy, however, has surrounded Facebook and the ability of companies to use this platform for advertising since Facebook’s difficulties with Beacon, including MoveOn.org’s online petition with over 50,000 members protesting the use of this tool. Despite this, the new program offered by Visa is one of over 24,000 applications created on Facebook in the past year in order to appeal to Facebook’s 80 million users. Many companies are still experimenting to find ways to effectively communicate with this market.

Study Reveal Still Too Much Alcohol on TV

A report from the Center for Alcohol and Youth at Georgetown University revealed that youth underage were being exposed to more alcohol. The study is detailed here at the New York Times TV Decoder blog. The study found that the number of alcoholic advertisements on television for youth age 12-21 increased to 301 in 2007. This is up from youth viewing 216 ads in 2001. This increase comes with the beverage marketers voluntarily reducing the amount of commercial space they bought on television. However, the youth are being exposed to the alcohol advertisements on cable TV. Of the advertisements youth saw, 41% were for distilled spirits and 53% came from advertisers for beer.

Track Your Order of Pizza

Personally, I find myself constantly tracking shipments of items I am expecting whether it be a package from UPS or the latest Puma sneakers I’ve ordered online. Searching the blogosphere I came across Becky Carroll’s latest post on Customers Rock where she highlights a great experience she recently had with Domino’s latest tracking tool Domino’s Pizza Tracker. Within minutes of Becky ordering her pizza online, she was automatically rerouted to their pizza tracking tool and she immediately saw updates on her pizza progress. Updates are made constantly from the moment the pizza is prepared to the second that is leaves the store for delivery. What I’m more interested to find out is how this service tracking ability is made possible. This is yet another example of how tracking systems set the bar for customer expectations. What are other examples of companies who have had successful and unsuccessful tracking experiences?

Virtual World Customer Service Testing

The main focus of this latest post on Virtual World News is that Kenexa, a workforce retention specialist, has launched SimSJT: Customer Service, which is an online 3D environment comparable to Second Life and The Sims in order to measure the abilities of customer service professionals.
Troy Kanter, COO of Kenexa, emphasizes that standardized judgment tests often make candidates read and interpret lengthy passages instead of putting them in a relevant environment. SimSJT allows for simulated interactions that the candidate watches and listens to instead of traditional tests. Through online simulations Kenexa has noticed that customer service behavior remains unchanged even through different regions.

What Motivates People to Take Surveys?

I came across this post from Business Week this morning which discusses how Sulake used Habbo, a nine-year old virtual world that has over 100 million avatars, to survey 58,000 teenagers on topics varying from cosmetics to mobile phones. We’ve recently discussed the good and bad side of deploying online surveys, but what Sulake did was extremely clever. He utilized his online virtual world as a platform to question teens. Not only that, but he questioned teens on items that he knew would be of interest to them. The survey took roughly 31 minutes to complete, and the respondents were given an incentive to participate in the survey (complimentary credits to purchase virtual decorations and furniture for their virtual rooms). Sulake knew exactly what it would it take to get the millions of users who log-in everyday to their virtual worlds to take the survey. What incentives/prizes has your company used to entice your customers to give feedback?

Facebook Officially Growing Faster than MySpace

As reported yesterday by Kevin Allison in the Financial Times, Facebook has, for the first time, grown faster than MySpace. According to the article, during the month of May, Facebook had 123 million unique visitors, which was 162% more than Facebook had in May of 2007. MySpace only grew 5%, with 114.6 million more unique visitors. These measurements were taken by ComScore.
This is the first time Facebook has taken a significant lead in growth, but it comes with shakeups in the management. Both Adam D’Angelo, the Chief Technology Officer and Matt Cohler, the person in charge of product development, departed from the company. However, when it comes to active users, MySpace still dominates with 110 million while Facebook only has 80m users.

New Study on Brand Equity

A new study released from Harris Interactive releases the results of a study that has tracked brand equity for 28 years. It measured 1000 brand over 39 categories on the following categories: familiarity, quality, purchase consideration, brand expectations, distractive ness and trust. This study also had a built-in factor that could consider the importance of word of mouth when noting brand equity. The top ten 2008 winners were:

Rank Brand Brand Overall Equity Score
1. Heinz Ketchup 79.27
2. M&M Plain Chocolate Candy 77.79
3. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars 77.51
4. Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Candy 77.20
5. Duracell Batteries 76.75
6. Cheerios Cereal 76.53
7. Discovery Channel 76.17
8. Kraft Foods, Inc 75.93
9. Kleenex Facial Tissues 75.57
10. Neosporin Ointment 75.54

Twitter: Customer Service Media?

When looking for customer service agents one usually goes through the following media: phone, chat rooms, forums, blogs, and email. Brad Shorr gives an example on his latest post on World Sell, Inc. of how Twitter has made ‘customer service proactive rather than reactive‘. Brad’s colleague was having trouble logging on to MyBlogLog, so she put out a tweet asking if anyone was having the same problem. Brad tweeted back confirming that he was having the same problem. Hours later, he received a tweet reply from @mblsupport apologizing for the service outage and stating that the problem had been fixed. Can we expect the same service from other companies out there? Instead of waiting for customers to call in and report their problems, agents are proactively searching for technical issues on social sites.

LinkedIn Valuation: Professionals are Valuable Social Networkers Too

In an article this week at the New York Times, they discussed where LinkedIn is going in the future, and how it got to its current position on the social networking market. On Wednesday, it was announced that LinkedIn is currently valued at $1 billion. On Wednesday, there was a $53 million investment from Bain Capitol Ventures. To put this in perspective, the NYT pointed out that when MySpace was purchased by NewsCorp, it was worth $580 million, and Facebook was valued $15 billion when Microsoft purchased a share of the social networking site. The corporation is currently private, and hopes to stay that way.
How does LinkedIn keep pulling in the money? Currently, only one-fourth of its projected $100 million is from ads. What are the other ways it keeps the revenue streaming in? It offers premium subscriptions where users have more flexibility with their actions, it offers premium subscriptions, and it also offers recruiting tools for businesses.
It also has a few plans for its future. It will soon offer a group company function. Everyone who works at a company will be automatically pulled into a group, therefore fostering an easier way for everyone to communicate with one another. They also plan to add a calendar function and allow independent developers to build programs that allow for collaboration.
Update: We have updated this post. Microsoft owns a share of the social networking site Facebook, which it’s value was $15 billion at the time of valuation. LinkedIn is valued at $1 billion. We apologize for the errors.