Looking to connect with Customer Experience Leaders?

NEW FOR 2011! Attendees of this year’s Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit will have access to our new, exclusive networking platform Crowdvine.
Meet your fellow attendees, set up meetings and create your own custom agenda all before the event. You can find the community at http://totalcustomer.crowdvine.com/Want in on the community? Join us at the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit this October in Phoenix, AZ. Use code TCEL11BLOG and register for the conference here.

Was Obama’s “Twitter Town Hall” a failure?

This past Wednesday, President Obama held the first live town hall meeting on Twitter. The event was hosted at the Whitehouse, and moderated by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. By using the #AskObama hashtag, anyone on twitter could submit a question for the president and Twitter Search algorithms and a panel of seasoned Twitter users identified appropriate tweets.

You can watch a recording of the event here.

The question is, was this a social media success for the man who has become known as “the social media president”?

Press reaction to the event is, perhaps predictably, mixed. Digital Trends reports that “The event moved surprisingly smoothly, if you don’t count the fairly robotic tone of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.” You can view a great infographic about the session by TwitSprout here.

If the goal was to revitalize the President’s image as a tech-savvy candidate, it may not have been a success. This opinion post on The Daily Beast claims “The first problem was the president’s own apparent obliviousness to the format (despite the news that he’s started tweeting for himself).” And WNYC chimes in with the headline “What We Learned From Obama’s Twitter Town Hall? He Doesn’t Get Twitter.”

Still, some credit is due for making an attempt to embrace new technologies. What do you think of this social experiment? Share with us in the comments or on twitter @Community20.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at mleblanc@iirusa.com.

Disruptive Technology and Social Media CRM

Lately we’ve been looking at the different ways that new technologies can change or improve customer experiences. From customer-centric mobile apps to complaints on social media channels, it’s clear that a company needs a digital strategy to survive.

It was with that in mind that I was pleased to read this recent interview in Fast Company on “Why Technology Is The Special Sauce In Growth Planning.” In the interview, guest blogger Lisa Nirell interviewed Erik van Ommeren of VINT (Vision Inspiration Navigation and Trends) on the ways that “technology is becoming increasingly pervasive in B2B buyer-seller relationships and strategic marketing endeavors.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the interview?

“Customers are seizing the opportunities to share their opinions and preferences, bringing more transparency in every market. For organizations, this means that they will have an even stronger motive to create honest and relevant interactions with their customers. Even if technology doesn’t change your company directly, the technology will change your customers’ behaviors. Through their changed demands, they will change your company.”

Honest and relevant interactions are happening as the result of new technologies. Customers are ready to share their experiences and opinions on digital media, and it is now the job of brands to catch up. Social Media and the rise of Social CRM as a practice makes this abundantly clear. Where traditionally CRM was all about using data to better target various customers, Social CRM allows brands to collaborate with customers to discover and solve problems and build meaningful relationships. As Erik says in the interview “It’s about people.”

Read the whole post on Fast Company here.

Looking to learn more about Social CRM? Join us at the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit this October in Phoenix, AZ. At our Social CRM Symposium Day you will learn how to better manage your customer experience by linking social media research to financial value. Register for the conference here.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at mleblanc@iirusa.com.

Research. It’s What’s For Breakfast.

An Oat By Any Other Name’

By Marc Dresner, IIR USA

Last week, as I perused the packaging on a box of Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats while tucking into a bowl, I came across an interesting bit of marketing copy highlighting the research that had gone into naming the product.

Yes, I read cereal boxes. The sides and back panel are always of particular interest, especially the latter. While the back of the box isn’t a dead zone, it’s certainly not prime real estate’it doesn’t greet us on the store shelf or call out like a book’s spine in our cupboard library’so I’m always intrigued by what the manufacturer does with it.

In this case, Post opted to tell an origin story: ‘How did they come up with this amazing cereal’?

Well, it turns out that one of Post’s plant managers and his daughter came up with the concept, tested variations in their own kitchen, picked a winner and presumably passed it along to the folks at corporate, who presumably liked it enough to give it a green light.

Now here’s where the tale got interesting: The marketers behind this particular box’the one I was reading’saw fit to mention that research showed consumers liked the product, but they didn’t like the original name.

So, as the story went, the project team turned to a brand manager, who came up with the current name, along with a suggestion for adding honey to the recipe, both of which tested well and led to a successful launch in 1989′a year in which, according to the box, Honey Bunches of Oats ‘garnered an impressive share of the total cereal market.’

Consequently, people like me have been starting their day with a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats ever since. I would call that a happy ending and I’m sure Post would agree.

So where the heck am I going with this? Let’s start with the obvious: An advertiser is directly referencing consumer research results in its marketing collateral.

And you’re probably thinking, ‘So what? Nothing terribly new here.’

You’re right. We frequently see research used as an advertising gimmick in lots of categories in lots of ways. (Even if nine of 10 dentists surveyed recommend it, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this practice, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Post’s inclusion of research in its messaging in this instance stood out to me for several reasons.

First, talking to the consumer about ‘brand managers’ and ‘market share’ seemed a bit unorthodox for the origin story milieu, which typically features folksy yarns about everyday people creating extraordinary products, and/or appeals to our sense of nostalgia, family, tradition, history, etc.

Consistent with this formula, the Honey Bunches of Oats story began in a consumer’s kitchen (albeit that of a Post employee, but a consumer nonetheless) with his daughter. Check and check. But then it took a rather unexpected turn and tunneled inside the corporation. Not exactly the kind of brand imagery one associates with breakfast products.

Second, with its relatively uninhibited use of marketing speak and its focus on the internal development process, it reminded me of a case study one might hear presented at a marketing or research conference. You know the type: ‘The research told us X, so we took the following actions”

Granted they didn’t get too jargony or provide the crash course in multivariate modeling I had hoped for, but how many consumers actually know what a brand manager is/does or understand the implications of their breakfast cereal’s runaway category market share? Quite possibly more than we expect.

To wit: My mother, who has no background in marketing, recently informed me that Facebook is really geared more to her ‘demographic’ than mine.

Smarts withstanding on a debatable point, when did the term ‘demographic’ become colloquial? Is this the vernacular of mahjong parties today? Do they sip iced tea and share segmentations in lieu of gossip peppered with (in my mom’s case) Yiddish?

Not likely’But they definitely get marketing and the research that precedes it. They understand our language; they know what we’re up to.

(By the way, this may be my last blog post ever, as my mother will probably read it and kill me.)

So I ask you: Was this peculiar twist on the traditional approach to origin stories’with its specificity, its window into corporate R&D and its research and marketing bent’a blunder or a sign of the times?

Lastly, what did you think of the approach to research depicted in this story? (Keep in mind the project took place in the late 80s.)

It seemed fairly unilateral to me. Consumers didn’t like the name, so the brand manager proposed a new one’and happily it stuck. As noted, the brand manager was also credited with adding honey to the product, which also stuck (pardon the pun). What about the consumer?

It could be inferred that while consumers’ opinions were taken seriously enough in ‘the project’ (another term used in the copy) to be asked whether or not they liked the name and whether or not they liked the product’s taste, smell, texture, etc., they were not invited to help rename the product or improve the recipe.

I’ve argued that the man behind the curtain, or mirror as the case may be, was exposed long ago. Indeed many of the techniques in the research toolbox today are collaborative in nature’online communities, co-creative methods, etc.

We tend less to treat consumers as lab rats and more as partners in the process these days.

Was Post right to tell consumers a research story that essentially credited the brand manager with the outcome?

Author’s note: Special thanks to the old Cattlemen’s Beef Board campaign narrated by Robert Mitchum”Beef. It’s what’s for dinner”for inspiring the title of this entry, and to William Shakespeare for inspiring the cutesy subtitle.

Marc Dresner is an IIR USA communication lead with a background in trade journalism and marketing. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Facebook Fights Back?

Hot on the heels of the new Google+ “hangout” video chat release, Facebook has just announced that it will be rolling out a new group chat feature and video chat. According to this post on PCMAG.com, “Facebook’s “something awesome” event on Wednesday included the introduction of video calling with Skype, group chat, and a redesign for Facebook chat.”

Facebook’s video chat will use Skype to connect users, which downloads within your browser. According to Mashable, “The revamped chat system now includes a sidebar with ‘the people you message most.’ It automatically appears when your browser is big enough. and the group chat feature will allow those using the new google groups to start spontaneous group chat sessions.

Given the timing of the release, one can’t help but think that the two technology giants are vying for attention in the social media world. (Incidently, when asked about Google+, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “he viewed it as “validation” that Facebook is doing something right.”)

Personally, I wonder if both Google and Facebook are going to be facing a branding problem when expanding into other territories.

Consider this post in Business Insider which plays with the idea of “Facebook Spreadsheets.” We’ve come to trust Google to be a place to email and often share documents with work colleagues, and yes even gchat, but will we see it as a social media hub? As Charlie O’Donnell writes on Business Insider “Our friends aren’t there–just a random bunch of early adopters who for some reason want to share their photos with me even thought I don’t know them.”

Similarly, could you see having a video conference call through Facebook Skype? Probably not. Most people still consider it a place to share family photos or private plans with friends, and as Facebook continues to add more features and blur privacy lines they may risk alienating their 750-Million-User fanbase.

Regardless of the outcome, it is certainly interesting to watch these two companies continue to innovate in the social space.

Want to share your thoughts on the developing social media sphere? Why not join our LinkedIn group?

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at mleblanc@iirusa.com.

But My Best Friend Has One

Today, our guest post comes from Peter Gold, the CEO of Veraquest. His broad range of research experience lends itself particularly well to the world of omnibus research where clients tend to have an extremely diverse set of needs. Peter’s background as a practice leader has enabled him to develop a business model that is rich in client-centric benefits while simultaneously being very cost-effective. Peter earned a BSBA from the University of Florida and holds an MBA from Boston College.  His company, VeraQuest is a Sponsor at this year’s The Market Research Event.

But My Best Friend Has One

In mid-April, we completed a study on cell phone ownership among children and teens. And, to say that we Americans are a nation divided in our opinions would be an understatement. On average, U.S. adults (who believe it is appropriate for a child to own a phone) say age 13 is the ideal starting age. But really there is no consensus on what the appropriate (or bare minimum) age is ‘.

  • ’11% say it’s totally fine for kids at age 10 or even younger (of which 2% say younger than 7 years old).
  • ‘A plurality (40%) say middle school (ages 11-14) is the right time.
  • ’34% say a child needs to be at least a sophomore in high school (ages 15-17).
  • ‘And 15% say no child should get a cell phone until he or she is fully grown-up and able to vote (i.e., ages 18+).

But even looking at the total U.S. population doesn’t tell the whole story. As with most things child-centric (e.g., ear piercing, snowboarding, planning for the prom), peer pressure, economics, and maybe even some good old fashioned whining and begging come into play. According to the data:

  • ‘Higher income adults are almost twice as likely (as adults with household incomes $75K or below) to say that cell phones are acceptable for kids under age 11 ‘. perhaps because they can afford the phone and the accompanying texting fees that their young adults are sure to drum up.
  • ‘Families with children under 18 in the household are nearly 3 times more likely to say cell phones are appropriate for kids 10 and younger ‘. perhaps because they recognize the value or the need, or they just buckle under the pressure of their pushy pre-teen.

Otherwise interestingly enough, there are no differences by region of the country or gender or education.

Do you have kids in your household? Have you or they taken a stand on getting a cell phone? What’s your age threshold? Not unlike the average, my kids were 15 and 12. My older one paved the way.

New Developments in Mobile Customer Service Apps

New developments in customer service applications on smart phones and tablets, or as society has now deemed them ‘apps’, is all about increasing revenue for the businesses creating them. In doing so, the user of the application (the buyer), becomes a more engaged and loyal customer by spending less time on tedious details, and more time deciding what to buy. The saying ‘time is money,’ is everything in the application world, and by lowering the time it takes to buy a product, companies make it more likely through consumer-friendly applications to see increased revenues and sales. Essentially, the ease of connection between the seller and the buyer is paramount to retaining customers and ultimately adding to the bottom line.

Increasingly, the competitive landscape between retailers has forced them to expand and enhance their mobile applications to help attract and retain consumers. In today’s technology driven and increasingly wired-world, it is essential for retailers to create applications that allow for buyers to easily communicate with sellers, albeit on a transaction or customer service basis. Current developments in customer service applications by retailers in recent months have helped ease the process of transactions for buyers, and therefore, began to pave a path for productivity and satisfaction for both parties. A significant breakthrough in this field has been a strategy known as straight through processing (STP),that works so that once the seller has the necessary information for a purchase as input by the buyer, it becomes stored and password protected for individuals future usage. By essentially creating a saved account on individual apps within companies computer network, buyers no longer have to dredge through inputting information they may have done just a few days ago. This process has allowed an expedition of the customer service processes and retail sales, by allowing buyers to skip the tedious steps of inputting personal information and instead just punch in a password tied to their personal account. Inherently, this allows for accessibility and ease for the buyer; two traits vitally necessary for enhancing the customers experience with X retailer or seller, as well as increasing the customers likelihood of returning to use that retailer.

For example, in a recent article entitled ‘15 Mobile Retail Apps that Enhance Customer Experiences‘ by Sig Ueland, the focus is on retail applications such that are changing and modernizing the relationship between retailers and customers. A preeminent example of this as cited by Ueland in is the Best Buy application that gives customers on a real-time basis access to:
‘ Track past purchases
‘ Scan QR codes
‘ Access reviews
‘ Compare product prices
‘ Find in-store availability

The Best Buy application is just one amongst many other applications that have enhanced and eased the connection between large-scale retailers and customers, allowing for a more personalized relationship on portable devices. The correlation between increased personal service through applications and repeat usage of services from individual consumers is overwhelming, and surely signifies the necessity and potential for increased revenue that these customer service applications provide in the long run. Simply put, by connecting major retailers with customers through applications allows companies to connect to their patron on a more personal level, ultimately leading to brand loyalty which is essential for long-term revenue growth.

Chelsea Baptiste is a second year intern at IIR USA focusing on Market Research and Social Media. She can be reached at CBaptiste@IIRUSA.com

Looking to learn more about Mobile Customer Service Apps? Check out  “Is Your Mobile App Customer Centric?” with Matthew Rhoden of Peppers & Rogers Group at this year’s Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit.

What are the advantages to conducting market research online?

InPharm recently looked at some of the advantages to conducting market research online. The Insight Research Group of Great Britain weighed in on what they thought were the benefits of adding social media market research to the repository of data collected by traditional market research methods.

 They included:

  • -New data collection options in addition to traditional data collection methods
  • -Data rounds out and contributes to a better view of the whole story researchers are trying to capture
  • -Online market research allows for a quicker collection of results
  • -The need to spend less because fewer resources (such as no need for a venue and to pay for travel) are needed
  • -Relationships are built with those you’re collecting data from and as a result, conversations grow overtime, creating richer data collection.
  • -There are no geographical boundaries because of the online data collection.

What do you see as some of the benefits of online market research?  What else would you add to the Insight Research Group’s opinions?