Are retailers listening to customers needs?

In a recent post at Customers Rock! Becky Carroll raises a question every shopper has had at one time or another. Why aren’t items for season carried during the season in which they are needed? Becky and her son had to drive around 50 miles trying to find a bathing suit. It’s July, with at least one more month of swimming season. One of the commenters couldn’t find spring jackets in last spring, as they were sold out in December. Retailers are failing to see what their customers need and at what times they need it. Becky thinks it’s important that these stores find a balance between the needs of stocking items that can benefit both the retailer and the customer. Yes, it’s important to create an online community and keep the dialog going, but if customers come into your store and you don’t have the products they need, part of the relationship is lost. What do you think?

What’s wrong with Market Segmentation?

This article on Bnet.com highlights how most companies do not derive real value from implementing a major marketing-segmentation initiative. Why is that? A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review reveals that segmentation generally focuses in on different ‘types’ of consumers. This practice makes it easier for advertisers to develop and tailor messages directed to specific segmentation groups, but it does not tell companies whether or not these consumers will actually buy the product or service. Yankelovich and Meer from the Harvard Business School suggest tailoring your segmentation to a strategic decision. Define segments by consumer current consumer behavior and also their likely behavior. Over time, redefine segmentations as the market changes. They suggest these tactics in order to segment markets effectively: ?? Identify a strategic decision that would benefit from information about different customer segments. ?? Determine which customers drive profits. ?? Analyze actual and potential purchasing behavior. ?? Segment in ways that make sense to senior management. ?? Revise your segmentation as market conditions change. Read the full article here.

Predictions for Social Media

I was combing through the Internet in search of future trends for online communities when I came across this article. According to the author, Jim Tobin, social media is still in the early stages of development. While some may disagree with him, here are his views on where the evolution of social media could lead.

  1. Ratings will become an expectation
  2. Content aggregation will boom
  3. New tools will replace some of the first movers
  4. Social Networks become portable
  5. Virtual worlds gain traction

What are your opinions on which growth stage social media is in? Do you still believe that it is in its fledgling stage? Also what do you think are trends that will catch on for the future of this industry?

Social Media Revolutionizing Customer Service?

Recently we posted on our blog about customer service at Comcast. This week we decided to take a slightly different slant and discuss what some other companies are doing as well as find out if the next step in the evolution of customer services is being proactive instead of reactive by utilizing social media. In this NY Times article, and as previously mentioned on our blog, Comcast has created a new position in their company called ‘digital care manager’. This new role was taken over by Mr. Eliason, and has since expanded to a staff of seven expected to grow to ten. As Brian D. Solis, from FutureWorks a public relations firm, mentioned, Comcast is ‘taking what used to be an inbound call center and turning it into an outbound form of customer relations’ When I checked another of the companies mentioned by the NY Times article, Southwest Air, I noticed that on their twitter page they have 2,088 followers. Apparently, they are also not only relying on people talking back to them, but also going out and actively seeking people who have twitterd about them. In fact this blog post recounts one individual’s account of how Southwest Air proactively responded to their twitter comments rather than simply relying on an inbound call center. Whole Foods Market is going one step further and rewarding consumers who twitter about them by having a drawing where once a week one lucky individual will receive a $25 Whole Foods Market Card as announced in their company blog. With more and more companies starting to use social media as not just a marketing tool, but as another step in the evolution of customer service it will be interesting to see how many other roles such as ‘digital care manager’ will be created. Also, it will be interesting to see what percentage of companies migrate away from the use of call centers and begin instead to capitalize on the social media revolution. Are your organizations taking these extra steps? Do you think that soon this will be the norm in customer service, and what the industry standard will become?

Using Online Tools to Communicate With Customers

The age of bloggers venting online and getting nothing in return has ended. I came across this article in the NY Times in which blogger Brandon Dilbeck received an email message in response to a blog post he wrote complaining about ads Comcast posted on its programming guide. What’s interesting here is that Comcast has switched its focus from being reactive and are now proactively attempting to communicate with consumers through social media.
In an attempt to revamp its online outreach, Comcast has even created a new position, Digital Care Manager, headed by Frank Eliason alongside a team of 10 other staff members who regularly monitors public comments on blogs, message boards and social networks for any mention of Comcast. Comcast though, is not the only company who has begun to utilize social communities to reach out to its customers. Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods Markets, Zappos, and Chipotle are among some of the businesses who have started to reinvent traditional online community communication.
Even though having someone always ‘watching’ is considered creepy by some, the benefits seem to make up for it. Frank Eliason mentions how he can only remember seven instances in which a customer had called him creepy.
What’s your company doing in terms of searching through blogs, forums, discussion groups, social networks, and twitter for customer conversations regarding your business? It’s important that organizations begin to look at social media as a means of communication to consumers since the trend is moving away from call centers and becoming more online social media centric.

Speaker Profile: Kelley Styring

With the The Market Research Event quickly approaching, we would like to begin to introduce you to the keynote speakers we will have this year at our event. This year, The Market Research Event will take place from October 13 – 16, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. To start, we would like to introduce you to Kelley Styring. Well known for her ‘In Your Purse Study: Archaeology of the American Handbag,’ Kelley has been involved with companies like Proctor and Gamble and Pepsi Co., managing their market research divisions.
In 2003, she founded Insight Farm, in Newberg, Oregon, a customer strategy and market research consultancy to help Fortune 100 companies improve their customer insight. Her well known study, ‘In Your Purse’ had Kelley looking through 100 purses to see how the purse connected a woman’s home to the store she was shopping at. She was able to pinpoint a few innovations that companies could use to improve when trying to vie for room in a woman’s purse.
Kelley’s latest research project is researching what people carry in their car. Her new research study has been called In Your Car Roadtrip. She’s recently completed her road trip around the nation to find out what the people of the United States have in their car and what innovations can be made to lure in the American public. You can follow up on her blog and Flickr photos of the trip. She’ll be explaining her findings the first night of the Market Research Event.
We invite you to come see Kelley Styring at The Market Research Event as she presents his keynote speech on Tuesday, October 14th, Hitting the Road to Uncover Innovations.
Watch an interview with Kelley Styring from Good Morning Texas:

(Sources: Style Fix, Insight Farm, CNN)

Tips for Google’s New Keyword Tool

Pertaining to market research, I agree with this article’s quote from Avinash Kaushik stating that ‘The goal is not to collect more data ‘ it’s about extracting insight from this data.’ It is especially important to remember at all times when going through data. To help accomplish this goal the article gave tips on how to better utilize Google’s new Keyword Tool. Specifically as the article states they are providing ‘tips on how you can tailor Google Keyword Tool’s data to you needs (much like you would with Google Analytics), and how you can apply this research beyond your SEO and PPC campaign to other marketing activities.’ The tips cover these topics: Selecting countries, generating keywords, setting match type, adding and removing columns, jumping to data, and sorting data. Do you have any insights on marketing research tools that others may find useful?

Deloitte takes a look at mistakes when companies build communities

WSJ Business Technology recently took a look at Deloitte’s recent study published on why online communities fail. According to the Deloitte study, many businesses are focusing on what online communities can do for them and the technology to support it, not the members the online space is built for. Of the communities studied, 35% have less than 100 members. Less than 25% of the communities studied have 1,000 members. An astounding 6% of the companies studied spent over $1 million on their projects.
So why is it that so many of the online communities are failing?
1) Many of the companies are getting to involved on the technological perks spending their budget there instead of reaching out to potential community members and finding out what they want from a community2
2) Lack of experience with online communities’ leads to misguided decisions. Of the companies studied, 30% had one person who was working part time with the communities.
3) It’s very hard to measure the success of an online community. The primarily objectives of the business with communities was to create word of mouth and establish loyalty from their customers. This is very hard to judge when normal online measurements are judged by the click-tos.
Have you fallen into one of the pitfalls listed above? How would you work with your online community to resolve the issue?

Two Customer Service Approaches Your Company Should Avoid

Whether you’re talking to a company’s representative on the phone or online, there are two quick ways to alienate a customer. Laura Bergells details these two approaches that your company’s reps should watch out for when they communicate with customers in her latest post on Internet Marketing in the Midwest. Laura gives an example of two companies that she has had a long customer relationship with which she will soon break off. One company apologizes constantly in person, on the phone, and in ‘canned letters’. The apologies seem scripted, and thus can frustrate customers even more when their problems are not being solved. The next example involves a company who apologizes for none of its faults, and makes the customer feel like an idiot. The representatives for Company B treated Laura with absolutely no respect, and made no effort to go out of there way to provide superior service. Not only was the rep rude, but they did hold Laura’s scheduled appointment. These are two examples of customer service approaches that your company should never follow. As Laura mentions, customer service is a huge part of marketing, and frustrated bloggers can spread word fast all over social media. Businesses should empower its representatives to use social skills and reasoning to solve problems and communicate effectively with customers, instead of following a script or being unapologetic.

Twitter Acting as Complementary Customer Service

Last night, on World News Tonight with Charles Gipson, a story about Twitter aired. Read the news report here. Tracey Louise Wallace worked from home, and woke up Monday morning to no cable, internet or phone. After speaking with customer service representatives at Comcast, she was informed they’d fix her services Thursday. After the experience, she twittered. Comcast has a team that sorts through social media sites looking for complaints. Frank Eliason, leader of that team, found her complaint and began to track her down. After finding her Twitter page, work webpage, and business partner, he was able to contact Tracey directly. Her services were back up by 5:00 Monday evening. Customer care is growing as we see the internet grow in old ways. It’s no longer enough to expect customers to sit for thirty minutes on hold before they speak with a customer care representative. Comcast is just one of the many companies monitoring what’s being said about them on the internet. Is your company doing this? How are you seeing this affect your customer service?