Tag Archives: Petra Consulting Group

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Becky Carroll

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we’re going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with chair Becky Carroll, last year’s NACCM: Customers 1st Live Blogger and blogger at Customers Rock!. She will be presenting during the Aligning Social Media with Customer Strategy Summit on Tuesday, November 3. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.

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Hello and welcome to the NACCM: Customers 1st podcast, today I have the pleasure of speaking with Becky Carroll. Becky Carroll is the founder of Petra Consulting Group and blogger at the Customers Rock!. She is a long-time customer advocate and someone who is passionate about social media, marketing, and the customer experience. In 2005, Becky founded Petra Consulting Group, a strategic consulting agency helping companies grow through customer conversation leading to stronger customer relationships. She was also the live blogger at last year’s NACCM Customers 1st Conference.

And with that said, I would like to welcome Becky.

Tell us a little bit about your self and your passion points.

Becky: Well you’ve covered a lot already! But, so, like you said I am the founder of Petra Consulting Group. And I founded that to build on my passion points, which are the customers. For a long time I have been focused on customer not just consumers, but from a B2B perspective as well. And how businesses can really grow customer conversations that will intern grow customer relationships. So from that, I started my blog Customers Rock to talk about great customer experience. A positive blog, it’s not one of those ranting blogs that you see a lot of, but positive. And to share with companies others that are doing it really well. So that we have some great examples to build from as we build our businesses. And then the other thing that is one of my passions is helping people. A little over a year ago, I started teaching a class at UC San Diego on how to market with social media for business. That’s been a lot of fun to work with students from around the work who are taking the class. Work with local business in San Diego, and work with them to figure out how to use new media to help them improve their business and grow. I think that covers your question.

Thank you for serving as our first official blogger at NACCM Customers 1st last year. What did you get out of the conference last year? What made it different?

Becky: Well last year was the first year I’d been to the NACCM: Customers 1st Conference. I loved it, it was a great conference and a lot of fun to be your first official blogger so thanks for that. One of the things I really enjoyed about the conference, and what made it different from other conferences I’ve been to, is it had a lot of different chances to get your hands dirty. It was held in Anaheim at the Disneyland Resort. And so we had the opportunity to go out with someone from the Disney Institute and understand what was going on with customer service. Understand how Disney is so good at taking care of their customers who they call their guests. So that was a fabulous opportunity, and I’m a huge Disney fan, so for me, I thought that that was really the best. But I think the other thing that was great about last year’s conference was that there was a wonderful opportunity to meet with the speakers. They were very accessible. There were opportunities to sign up and have one on one time with them. Met them at lunches and dinners and I thought it was just a very open environment, sharing conference, and I loved that we were there with other people who were liked minded and very customer centric and understand how important customers are to business success.

This year you strategically partnered with us to develop the agenda for the Aligning Social Media with Customer Strategy – Give us a preview of what to expect from this summit and why it’s so crucial that professionals attend this summit, what makes it so unique?

Becky: Thanks. I did have the opportunity to work with your conference team to help put this special day focused on social media together. One of the reasons I did it was because I’m always getting questions from people in my class or others who call me or on my blog saying, ‘Hey Becky, my boss saw an article on Twitter in the Wall Street Journal and he’s telling me to go do it but I don’t know anything about it and I’m not sure it makes sense for my business.’ So I think it’s important that businesses especially those who want to get closer to their customers think through whether or not they really need social media. Is this just hype or something we need to take seriously. And if it is something we need to take seriously, how do you go about doing that and which tools do we need to start using? So this summit is a great day for them, it’s the beginning of the Customers 1st Conference, to start thinking about how to make this a strategic not an emotional decision. And hear from people who are really leaders in social media who are doing it and doing it from a customer relationship building perspective rather than just a PR perspective, which is what many people are doing it from. So I would encourage anyone to come to the summit day on aligning social media to really find out how to know the best way to use social media to build customer relationships.

If you could give companies that are looking into social media efforts one piece of advice, what would it be’?

Becky: That’s easy, it’s listen. I think too many companies are jumping into social media without stopping first to hear what customer are saying. I look at social media as a party, where you go into the room and there are lots of people who are having lost of different conversations on lots of different topics. And you would never walk up to just on group and say, ‘Hey my name is Becky and I want to tell you all about my business and what I do. And hey, would you like to get on my mailing list’? People would kind of look at you and go, ‘Ew, no thanks,’ and walk away. If we first listen and find out what that conversation is about and learn a little more about those who are in the conversation, then maybe we can come in a little bit softer and a participate instead of just shouting at people. So I always encourage the one thing, if nothing else is done in social media, there are some tools out there that are free, and listen to your customers, listen to the conversation, listen to see what they have to say about you, your brand, your competitors and your industry. Use this to supplement to the rest of how you’re listening to the voice of the customer to really learn how to build relationships.

Any else you’d like to share?

Becky:I would like to leave people with the thought that customer focus is so much more important right now than it ever has been. The relationships that are built and fortified now I think are going to be able to withstand this economic storm. I think that companies that really focus on getting to know their customers needs, preferences and desires are going to be well positioned and ahead of the game when we come out on the other side.

We’d like to thank Becky Carroll for speaking with us and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/customerworld.

See you in November!

Going Viral: Campaigning or Complaining?

We’d like to welcome another guest blogger to the NACCM Blog. Becky Carroll is the founder of Petra Consulting Group, a strategic consultancy helping companies grow through lengthening and strengthening customer relationships. Through her work with companies such as HP, Electronic Arts, and Ford, she has spent a lot of time improving customer experiences, driving increases in marketing results, and helping companies re-think their customer service and support. You can read her blog at http://customersrock.net/.

It can be easy to get customer service wrong, with the results sometimes splattered all over the Internet. When I hear this in the news, I think about viral campaigning vs. viral complaining. Here is what that looks like:

In Viral Campaigning… customers tell their friends and family how great your company is.
In Viral Complaining… customers tell anyone who will listen how much they dislike your company.

In Viral Campaigning… loyal customers are turned into raving fans.
In Viral Complaining… loyal customers are turned into frustrated screamers.

Viral Campaigning… spreads slowly, but surely, over time.
Viral Complaining… spreads like wildfire.

Success Factors
Which type of customers your company will have depends on several factors. The following are the top tips for building “viral campaigners”:

  • Foster a strong sense of community among customers. Social media is a great tool for helping this to happen quickly. Be sure to go to where your customers are already hanging out online; if they don’t have a good virtual meeting spot, invite them to your “house”!
  • Put together a proactive customer strategy. Understanding customer needs and differences will help you figure out how to treat them based on their own preferences. This can be a key competitive differentiator when done well.
  • Meet and exceed customer expectations. This doesn’t mean “do everything the customers says”. It does mean understand what customers expect and do all you can to exceed those expectations. In order to accomplish this, it is important to properly set expectations up front, empower employees to do what’s right, and measure employees based on customer expectations.

A company that has been doing a great job of creating viral campaigners is Zappos.com. The CEO of Zappos.com, Tony Hsieh (twitter.com/zappos), has been personally using Twitter and blogging (along with many of his employees) to build stronger customer relationships. His customers regularly evangelize Zappos.com to others; you can see many of their testimonials, as well as their ratings and reviews, on the Zappos.com website. They are indeed raving fans!

Taming Complainers
What can you do when viral complaining happens? The first few company reactions to the complaints can stop the negative words from spreading further. Here are a few tips:

  • Act swiftly. Don’t let things simmer for too long! It is important to try and contact the complainer directly or, if that is not possible, respond in the forum where the complaining started.
  • Be honest and sincere. Acknowledge what happened, don’t be condescending, and show your human side as much as possible. Customers are more understanding when they are dealing with other people rather than corporations.
  • Keep your ears open for further concerns. Best thing to do is always to be listening to your customers; this way, you will be able to keep track of the “temperature” of customer sentiments.

A company that is working hard to do tame the complainers is Comcast. Frank Eliason (twitter.com/comcastcares) is in charge of customer care and told me he has been successfully turning around the complainers into customers who care not only for him but for each other. He has had them answer each other’s questions when personal matters have called him away from his duties. He also takes time to listen to the ‘net. For example, whenever someone complains about Comcast on Twitter, Frank responds with “How can I help?”
Putting Customers First
Whether you have viral campaigners, complainers, or both, it is critical to always listen to customers first and then respond to them through their preferred channels of communication. This helps the campaigners feel that they are appreciated, the complainers feel that they have been heard, and your customer team remain focused on the customer.