July 29, 2014

I’m Back! Plus, some great links for holiday reading

BC headshotI realize I have not been around much here on the blog these past few months. I have missed it, but more than that, I have missed the conversations I have with you, my readers! My plan for 2010 is to blog at least weekly, possibly more often if I keep the blog posts relatively short (like a Posterous-type post). Thank you all for hanging in there with me – I really appreciate your loyalty to Customers Rock! over these past 3 years (yes, I just celebrated this blog’s 3-year blogiversary in December!). More to come… much more.

I have been spending more time lately on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as I continue to build a Customers Rock! presence on those sites. I also created a Customers Rock! Facebook Fan Page and have been testing out a new Customers Rock Twitter account where, daily, I am sharing POSITIVE customer service stories and experiences I find on Twitter. Please feel free to come and chat with me at any of the above places where you also hang out!

I have also started a new radio program, Customers Rock! Radio. This came from my appearances on nationally-syndicated The Big Biz Show, where the hosts suggested I spin-off my own radio show focused on customer service, marketing, and social media to create rockin’ customer experiences. I have had some fabulous guests including Jeanne Bliss, Michael Brito, Don Peppers, Amber Naslund, and Tony Welch. You can listen online at wsRadio.com or download the mp3 files to your computer or iPod. Please check it out and let me know what you think! (I am also actively looking for sponsors for the show. Give me a shout for more info or if you have clients who might be interested.)

Again, thank you for everything, my faithful readers. For your holiday reading pleasure between now and the New Year, here are some great links to posts that I think you will enjoy. Some are newer posts, some are older, but they are all worthwhile reads.

Holiday Reading

MediaPhyter features a guest blogger, David Hauser of Grasshopper who shares five ideas for how to build loyal customers.  I wholeheartedly agree with you, David. I especially like #3, Create a Culture of Responsibility. Taking care of customers goes far beyond customer service!

One of my favorite customer service bloggers, Meikah Delid, wrote about the new report showing how much poor customer service affects global business. How many billions are lost per year due to bad service, and why do customers leave? Read this post and find out.

Steve Woodruff, fellow speaker and consultant, writes about a great customer service experience he had at Chick-fil-A. Even the simplest acts can make a huge impact.

Terry Starbucker’s post on 15 Basic Steps to Mind-Blowing Customer Service is fun to read – and it hails from his recent experience in a Parisian produce shop. Merci beaucoup, monsieur Terry!

Enjoy, and Happy New Year to all of you!

McDonald’s Connects with Employees and Customers

At AMA’s MPlanet conference today, I had the opportunity to be part of a special Blogger Q&A session with Mary Dillon, Executive VP and Global Chief Marketing Officer for McDonald’s. She talked about a strong focus on employees, reaching out to moms, and social media.

Connecting with Employees

Mary started the session by sharing about the strong social networks that have been built by and around McDonald’s employees, or crews. “We have over 1.6 million employees around the world, and we try to inspire the crew to feel great, deliver on the brand promise, as well as reduce turnover.” There are several internal social networks which not only engage crews but also give them the opportunity to become more educated (with some even getting credit for it!). Some of these crew communities include MeTime in Australia and New Zealand, OurLounge in the UK, Latin America’s McLand (hope you speak Portuguese!), Singapore’s Ketchup!, and USA/Canada’s StationM. On this last one, Canadian Amanda Wilson was recently voted, by fellow employees, to be the resident blogger and moderator for this community.  Per Mary, these internal-only communities really help crews with engaging, bonding, and living the brand.

“Each employee could be the one experience someone has with our brand. This is a great way tap in and get people on the same page, share experiences.”

Customers Rock! take: I agree with Mary about the impact each employee interaction has with the brand. This could be a returning customer, or it could be someone new to us. Either way, each brand interaction adds up to an overall brand experience, and in this economy, it is important to make sure those experiences leave a positive impression.

Connecting with Customers

Back in 2005, McDonald’s started a Moms advisory panel – Moms’ Quality Correspondents. Per Mary, McDonalds wanted to learn more about this group of customers and be more closely connected to what they are feeling, needs, brand perceptions, and how they would like to evolve it. It is a live (ie. not online) group with participants from multiple countries, including athletes such as Bonnie Blair, a mom in Latin America who is a chef, another mom in the USA who is a PTA president. The McDonald’s team meets with them once per quarter to find out how to improve. There are now panels country by country.  When asked whether this would move online, Mary responded that enjoy the face to face experience with these moms, and the amount of online activity varies country to country. In the US, it is primarily online.  One of the moms also had her own community where she shared her McDonald’s experiences. Recently, she took a trip to a McDonald’s supplier (they send these moms on field trips!) and blogged about it. Usually, these ladies authentically share what is surprising to them!

When asked about how they recruit the moms, Mary shared a few criteria (one was NOT that they eat at McDonald’s). They tend to look for a woman who is a community leader, an influencer, and someone who will bring in strong perspectives (and share them out, too).

Customers Rock! take: Spending time listening to your customers is a critical part of forming a great customer experience. How do customers perceive your brand? What do they tell their friends (and others)? At a minimum, give customers a place to provide you feedback (online, if your customers are online a lot). If you can meet live with customers to hear this feedback, all the better.

Social Media

McDonald’s sees social media as a great opportunity to gather consumer information on attitude and perceptions about the brand. Per Mary, “This is a big opportunity for us; we haven’t tapped into it much yet, but we will!” She also stated that they are willing to look beyond merely the cost of doing social media marketing, as they recognize that this is a different kind of conversation. I couldn’t have said that better myself!

Customers Rock! take: McDonald’s will be a company to watch in these upcoming months. They have a great focus on taking care of employees and getting them engaged with the brand. This will continue to bring them benefits as they move towards engaging their customers online through their website, through communities, and through the social web. Based on the interactions I could see at the Moms’ Quality Correspondents site, there are a lot of consumers that want to more closely engage with McDonald’s and their offerings (how can I be one of your moms?). Now is the time to cement relationships with brand loyalists, turn them into brand ambassadors, and really harness the powerful social networks that many consumers already have in place.

Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing your time with us. You rock!

Thank You! Celebrating my blog’s 2 year anniversary

In the spirit of Customers Rock!, I want to take a moment and say THANK YOU to all of you who have contributed in some way over the past 2 years. I am very excited to be celebrating this milestone with all of you!  This past year has been an exciting one for me and for the blog.  Let’s take a quick look at what has been going on before we start the party!

Customers Rock! Blog Year in Review

- To date, I have written 270 blog posts (including this one) with 1565 comments – woo hoo!

- I moved my blog to my own domain, CustomersRock.net (with the help of Joel – thanks!)

- I did quite a bit of speaking, both locally as well as at great events such at BlogWorld and Marketing Profs Digital Mixer. I got a chance to meet (and video) quite a few wonderful bloggers as well, so thank you to all!

- Jay Ehret and I started the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project to chronicle the change agenda from Howard Schultz to see how it impacted the customer experience. (Note – while those postings have slowed down, at least on my end, expect to see a nice year-end wrap on this soon.)

- I once again participated in the infamous Bathroom Blogfest to discuss how the customer experience extends even into forgotten places!

- I had four marvelous guest bloggers this year: Brian Solis, Esteban Kolsky, Colin Shaw, and Eric Brown. Thank you all for the time you gave my readers.

- I started teaching the UC San Diego class Marketing via New Media; this has been really fun! I also started a blog to chronicle my journey there Teaching Social Media. The blogs of the students are there, too. :)

- I joined Brickfish as their Director of Social Media. Brickfish helps major brands connect with their customers via the social web and turbo-charges word of mouth from brand evangelists. Plus, you can watch it all live on their Viral Map (this is an example from a current campaign with Microsoft “I’m a PC”). Very cool!

The Biggest News

The biggest news of all is YOU, my Customers Rock! readers.  I have enjoyed talking with you over the past two years, and I am looking forward to many more conversations in the years to come!  I really want to thank each and every one of you, but I only really know who you are when you leave me a comment.

So – I created a list of my commenters, in chronological order, from the first day of my blog up until now. I have linked to your blog/website if you left me one. It was great fun to look back at all of those who have turned Customers Rock! into a two-way conversation and to see how many I am still active with two years later!

This list of commenters also makes for a great read for the upcoming holidays of some very worthy blogs (those in my feed reader are marked with an asterisk *)!  This is my gift to all of you this year.

Thank you again for your continued support. You all rock!

(Photo credit: antony84)

Commenters on Customers Rock! (and also a great blog reading list!!)

* Mack Collier (Thank you for being my first commenter, Mack!)

* Gavin Heaton (Thank you for being my first international commenter, Gavin!)

* Kevin Hillstrom

* C.B. Whittemore

Anne Simons

Marc Rapp

* Doug Karr

* Roberta Rosenberg

Sue Crocker

* Maria Palma

Tammy Vitale

* Lewis Green

* Meikah Delid

Steve Miller

Luis de Paiva

Rich G.

* KG

* Tim Jackson

KSAdams

* Jordan Behan

* Laurence-Helene

Bob Glaza

* Tom Vander Well

* Glenn Ross

* Ron Shevlin

* Douglas Hanna

* Maki

* Dale Wolf

* Mike Wagner

* Phil Gerbyshak

* Chris Brown

Robyn McMaster

* Drew McLellan

Troy Worman

Ugyen

Louiss Lim

Maryam in Marrakesh

Adnan

Chris Cree

Kermitfan

Marc Gregory

* Valeria Maltoni

* Steve Woodruff

* Sandy Renshaw

Jeff Brooks

* Lolly

* Roger von Oech

Paul McEnany

* Amy Jussel

Robbie Wright

Ryan Karpeles

* Doug Meacham

Ron E

* Robert Hruzek

* Joe Rawlinson

Threethan

* Jim Kukral

* Toby Bloomberg

Stacy Madison

* CK

Janet Green

Andrew

Bob

Natalie Ferguson

* Geoff Livingston

* Roger Anderson

Chris Clarke

* Christy Brewer

Delaney Kirk

James Taylor

Adam Kayce

David Koopmans

Laura

* Ann Handley

Jake McKee

Rachelle Lacroix

* Patrick Schaber

* Kevin Dugan

Martin Jelsema

* Paul Schwartz

Bill Bluel

Sylvia Martinez

Chad

* Katie Konrath

Nancy Heifferon

* Stephanie Weaver

Enrique Burgos

* David Armano

* Daksh

Anders Rask

Jeffrey Jackson

Uwe Hook

Jill Konrath

Daniel Sitter

Cord Silverstein

* Suzanne Obermire

Carolyn Manning

* Jay Ehret

* Mark Hurst

Mark E

* Terry Starbucker

* Rosa Say

NAJ

Crafty Bernie

Matt Havercamp

Dan Neely

Teri Isner

Ben Thompson

Jack Jia

* Anita Bruzzese

Maureen Valdes Marsh

Hajar

Anne Libby

* Connie Reece

The Knitting Bee

* Peter Kim

Andrew

Jonathan Treiber

Hank Brigman

Pat Fisher

Scott

* Dan Schwabel

Karin H.

Frank Phelan

* Doug Fleener

Darcy Moen

Brent Applegate

Sabine

Hari Vasilev

L.P.

Dan NessDarren Patrick

Joe Provenzano

German Parra

Jon Burg

* David Morse

Scott

* Bradon Caudle

Bill Gammell

Jeff Vincent

Richard Binhammer

Amber

Lissa Bergen-Boles

Brandon M

Wes

Mark

typestries

bsilvia

Jeronimo

Jeffrey Long

* Andy Nulman

* Kami Huyse

Rachel

David Reich

* Anna Farmery

Jeanne Dininni

Albert F A Matthews

Marc Karasu

Brit

* Olivier Blanchard

* Esteban Kolsky

Jen

* Chelle Parmele

Rebecca Caroe

Chris Wilson

Peter Fankhaenel

* Matt Dickman

* David Brazeal

Ahndunk

Boring Market

Justin

Marc

Gordon Whitehead

Julie

Erin Cavallo

Aaron Kahlow

Elaine Fogel

Dawn Hobbs

Micha

* Mike McDerment

* Tsufit

Kelvin Leung

* Todd Andrlik

Jack Shipley

Scott Howard

* Nancy Arter

Campbell Moore

Bhuwan

Jack

* Charlene Li

Ron Weber

* Josh Bernoff

Eric BrownJohn Gillett

Vicki Flaugher

Graham Hill

* BJ Cook

Ravi Kiran

Beth

Lee Jordan

* Sybil Stershic

Bonnie Larner

Leo Bottary

Curt

* Stephanie Gulley

Chuck

James Shields

Alison Terrell

GL Hoffman

Joseph Young

Paul

Kamal Kumar

Chris

Jimmy Hendricks

John Maver

* Pam Brown

Kathleen

John

Christine Morrison

Priyanka

Stephen Hampshire

Bernhard

Nathan Poling

ascanlar

Liz Walker

Kenny Lauer

Kristina Evey

Jody Reale

Paul Blunden

Elizabeth

* Colin Shaw

Chuck Van Court

Jeff Whitton

Matt Wilson

Mark Krupinski

David Tinney

naranjadude

Mark David

* Nicoletta Staccioli (one of my students!)

* Marji Chimes

Ryan Graves

Sarah Hughes

* Susan Abbott

Faris

Graham Brown

Sandeep Arora

Chad Horenfeldt

Shahar Boyayan

Maria Elena Duron

Allan Young

Robert

Age of Conversation 2 Is Here!

Last year, I participated in a project to create a book authored by over 100 bloggers.  The book was designed to discuss why this is the age of conversation, and all proceeds (and I mean ALL) went to Variety, the children’s charity.  Over $10,000 was raised for this worthy cause!  You can still purchase the book through Amazon (see my sidebar – Book Recommendations – for the link).

This year, the project was expanded – greatly – to 237 authors from around the world!   The title of the new book is Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It? The topic was chosen through a vote of the contributing authors.  Companies are only beginning to understand social media and its impact on business, hence the topic chosen by these smart bloggers (a veritable Who’s Who of marketing and social media).  There are also eight sub-topics underneath that main area.  My chapter is on the topic “Conversation to Action”.  It is entitled “Building Walls Against Competitors” and discusses how to take conversations between companies and customers and start to take action on them to build ongoing relationships, as well as barriers to exit.  I can’t discuss further details of my chapter here; you will have to get the book to see what it is all about.  And you can feel good doing that, as the proceeds from this year’s book again go to Variety Children’s Charity.

Here is the link to buy Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It?. Get a copy for yourself, and get some extras for client gifts, a gift for your boss, or just because you want to support a good cause.

Update: It has already gotten press!  Here is the link to a Media Post article on the new book.

Here is the list of all the authors of AOC2.  Many thanks to all of them for contributing not only to this great book but to a great cause.

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G. Kofi Annan, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik PotterJames G. Lindberg, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

A Teen’s View of the Blue Man Group

Image courtesy of Blue Man Group.

 By Tim Carroll

(Note: Tim Carroll, our guest blogger today, is my son and joined me in Las Vegas for BlogWorld to get a taste of what blogging is all about.  We got tickets to see Blue Man Group courtesy of PubCon for Blogger’s Night Out.  I asked him to blog about his experience; my experience will be published soon.)

While in Las Vegas with BlogWorld, I got to see the Blue Man Group. The Blue Man Group was cool. There was nothing that I didn’t like about it. I liked the interesting music and the weird instruments that they used. I liked how the show was funny and involved the audience. I liked one part when they were playing the drums and poured paint on them so that when they hit the drums, the paint splattered all over. I also liked another part when they were throwing marshmallows into one blue man’s mouth and he ended up with about 30 in his mouth at one time. I would for sure recommend it to other teens.

(Photo credit: Blue Man Group)

Monday Musings: Video, News, and a Question

Today’s post has my first video with my new, fun video camera the Flip Minoin addition to some news to share and a question for my smart readers (that’s you!).  Speaking of Flip, welcome to new readers who have come over from Jim Kukral’s blog (he does a show called The Daily Flip), where he did a podcast interview with me called Do You Have Happy Customers?  If you like what you read here at Customers Rock!, please subscribe to my blog.  Thanks!  Now, on with today’s post.

 

Customer Engagement at FreshBooks

A while back, I wrote about how FreshBooks was engaging customers by taking a roadtrip to a conference in an RV. Along the way, they stopped and had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with their customers.  Very cool.  I was thrilled to be invited to one of their customer dinners when they made a recent stop here in San Diego, CA.  Saul sent me an email and asked if I could join them (I am a FreshBooks customer, too!).  We had a wonderful meal at Buca di Beppo, which serves Italian food family-style on big platters for sharing.  A perfect venue for customers to come together, break bread, and get to know each other.  We swapped stories about our business, about the San Diego economy, and about our new friends at FreshBooks.

The dinner attendees were kind enough to let me take a very short video with my cool new tiny camera (it is smaller than my Blackberry!) around the table, just so you, my readers, could get a feel for this group.  One customer, a friend of mine, was a little shy with the first pass, but he was willing to show his face moments later (see photo above). 

It was a very fun dinner, and I left with both an appreciation for what FreshBooks is doing to engage customers as well as some new friends.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the video!  The Flip Minois really easy to use, and I think the resolution is pretty good (I promise, my videography skills will improve…).

News: Cool Customer Engagement Event

If you live on the East Coast, or want to head out there in November, you should check out the upcoming Customer Engagement and Loyalty Summit in Miami.  It is taking place November 17-19 and is focused on taking you beyond creating customer loyalty programs to helping you build customer strategies.  Sessions include looking at customer experience in a low-cost environment (Alaska Airlines), learning how Word of Mouth and WOW service go together (Zappos.com), and a panel on quantifying the benefits of customer loyalty to your CFO (lead by Best Buy).  It looks to be a great event.  Readers of my blog can get a 2 for 1 discount if they mention this code: IUS_CR_001.  If you go, let me know what you think of the event.  It sounds great!

Question: Blogging and Customer Service

My good friend Mack Collier asked a great question on Twitter the other day, and I told him I would re-post it here (as so many of you are focused on customer service). Mack is looking for examples of companies that are using their blog for customer service.  I can think of companies that try to share best practices about using their product in their blog, such as ConstantContact, and also companies that answer frequently asked questions via their blog, such as Sony Playstation’s blog.  If your company is doing this, or if you have seen a good example, please send me email to becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com or leave a comment here at Customers Rock!  I will share all the responses I get and link to you, too!  Thanks for your help!

(Photo credits: B. Carroll, piksel)

Social Media and BlogWorld: Here We Come!

In one month, the 2008 BlogWorld conference will be taking place in Las Vegas, NV, and I was chosen to moderate a panel this year!  In case you aren’t familiar with it, BlogWorld is billed as the world’s largest blogging conference and tradeshow.  The way I look at it, it is a great place to come and learn about social media, as many of the sessions go beyond blogging into video, social networking, Twitter, and podcasting.

As for my panel, the title is Creating Customer Loyalty with Social Media.  Here is the abstract:

One of the keys to rockin’ customer retention and loyalty is customer engagement. This session shares some of the best practices in combining social media with customer retention programs, an area relatively unexplored by many companies and social media discussions. Social media provides the ideal channel from which to learn about and interact with customers, both commercial and consumer. It is also a great mechanism for deepening customer relationships and empowering customers to become a company’s best advocates. These two areas are especially important to businesses that want to break-through the noise and grow in spite of difficult economic times. Through the use of blogs, video, social networks, and wikis, executing customer retention programs can be cool again!

My Fabulous Panelists

I am so excited to have some great people on my panel.  I have two outstanding bloggers, Toby Bloomberg and Brian Solis, who will be sharing their perspectives on how companies are using social media to better serve their customers and build relationships.  I also have two brilliant minds from the corporate world, Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com (based in Las Vegas) and Frank Eliason of Comcast.  Both of them are leading their companies with new ways of using social media to get closer to their customers, including use of Twitter.  Expect to see a lively conversation taking place!

Learn About Social Media

Come and meet us in Las Vegas for BlogWorld.  You can use the link in my right sidebar or at the end of my post to save 20% off the price of registration with a special discount code BCYV1PLL (be sure to type this exactly; it is case sensitive) for the first 50 of my readers who sign up before September 1. (And yes, that is an affiliate link – my first foray into this area!)  If you are planning to come, or if you are already signed up, leave me a comment.  Maybe we can do a Customers Rock! meet-up!

Sign up now for BlogWorldExpo 2008

Blogs Hit the Mainstream

It seems to me that when the US Army Corps of Engineers is blogging, blogs have hit the mainstream.  There was an interesting article in The Military Engineer, May-June 2008, about Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, USA, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and his new blog Corps-e-spondence.  In the blog, Gen. Van Antwerp covers a variety of topics such as flooding in the Midwest, the current state of New Orleans, the water crisis, as well as hiring, leadership, and even baseball (see the picture of him throwing out the first pitch at the Cardinal’s game)!

Gen. Van Antwerp was quoted on why he is blogging in the article, as well as in this video on the Army’s media site:

“This is the way of the future.  We should be out there, too – clearly and openly communicating with the American public every chance we get.”

Is it effective?

The blog seems to be a great way to communicate more about what the Army Corps of Engineers does, as there may be many people that don’t really know what types of projects they take on.  It also gives readers a view into the Gen. Van Antwerp’s leadership tenets and style.  The blog is updated every few weeks, and it is already getting a variety of comments.  It could be improved with more interaction from Gen. Van Antwerp back to his commenters to really create a conversation, rather then just a communication tool.

The Army is blogging – what about you?

Does a blog fit into your organization’s goals for interacting with customers?  Could you use it to better listen to what customers have to tell you?  Perhaps your company could use a blog to create a discussion around certain topics of interest to your customers.    Setting goals before starting a blog is key to making this social media tool successful.

Starbucks and Empowering Employees

 Those two topics go together, as Starbucks is a company that works to empower its employees (which they call “partners”) in order to improve the customer experience.  Their recent “We’ll Make Your Beverage Right” focus is a good example of this strategy.  More on Starbucks below, as well as in a post coming soon.

I am busy getting ready for a customer service workshop tomorrow, entitled “The Importance of 5-Star Service in a  Tough Economy”.  If you have a minute to send me your definition of 5-Star Service, I would love to include it!  You can send me email (becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com) or just leave a comment in this post.  I posted the question on Twitter as well as LinkedIn and have received nearly 20 responses from around the world.  I will summarize in a future post.

In the meantime, here are a few additional items to help start off your week. 

Re-Experiencing Starbucks Podcast

Jay Ehret and I spent some time together recently (about 24 minutes, actually) on a podcast, where we discussed the latest happenings at Starbucks as part of our Re-Experiencing Starbucks Project.  We are watching Starbucks from a customer’s perspective to see what kind of difference the changes are making (or not) to the customer experience. 

Here are some of the topics from the show:

  1. Improving the U.S. business with training, tools and new products.
  2. Re-igniting the emotional attachment with customers through the experience.
  3. Re-aligning and streamlining organizational structure for the benefit of the experience.
  4. International expansion.

You can find the podcast itself at Jay’s blog. Don’t forget to tell Jay that I sent ‘ya!

Blog Book Tour

I am honored to be one of the reviewers of Sybil Stershic’s new book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most, which is about taking care of employees so they take care of your customers.  Sybil’s publisher, WME Books, is hosting a Blog Book Tour; here are the scheduled stops:

And next week:

I will be giving a review of the book as well as conducting an interview with Sybil.  Let me know if you have any questions for me to include!

(Side note: I have other book reviews coming up soon; this may turn out to be book week!  Reviews are pending for Michael Port, Darren Rowse, Tsufit, and Lewis Green… stay tuned, as they all have great books in different areas which include blogging, PR, sales, and employee/customer focus.)

Age of Conversation Bum Rush is on Today!

ageofconversation-book.jpg Last spring, the first Age of Conversation (AOC) book was put together by a very smart group of bloggers, lead by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton.  Over 100 bloggers each contributed 400 words on one topic: conversation.  The result was a book highlighting the thinking of a lot of smart people in marketing, PR, and advertising from around the world.  I was fortunate enough to be included in the book.  All book proceeds went to Variety Children’s Charity.

Today, Chris Wilson is hosting an AOC Bum Rush to try and move the book up the charts at Amazon and raise as much money as possible for Variety.

So, if you have been waiting to buy your copy, or if you would like to give it as a thoughtful gift for customers or clients, today is your day to buy it and get the most impact from your money.

Use this link to buy the book at Amazon, then spread the word!  Follow Chris on Twitter or at his blog to watch it move up the charts and benefit Variety.

Enjoy!

Social Media Live!

dsc_0326-medium.jpgbloggers-medium.jpg 

The more I talk about and use social media, the more I have been stressing a few key points.

  • Social media is one tool in the toolbox for interacting with customers.  It will work well if customers are willing to engage in that medium!
  • Social media is a great tool to help create and strengthen relationships.
  • It is all about the people.

In my recent talk on Social Media and Customer Loyalty for the Direct Marketing Association, I used the case study of the Washington Humane Society.  Tara de Nicolas is their director of marketing, primary author of their blog, and director of their social media strategy – which includes FacebookMySpace, flickr, and YouTube, for the moment.  (For more info on their blog, see Geoff Livingston’s post where he interviewed Tara - thanks for the info, Geoff!)  Tara and her team use their social media channels to connect with potential adopters, families that have already adopted, and donors.  Quite a community has developed, with the photos of the WHS staff being one of the areas that are most widely viewed.  As Tara told me in my interview with her, it is all about connecting with the people and putting a face on the Society.  Way to go, Tara and team!

Blogging is also about connecting with others, mostly online.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to connect live with two wonderful blogging friends: Doug Hanna of ServiceUntitled and Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Blog: see the photos at the top of the blog post!

As much fun as it is to send emails and connect via blogs, there is nothing like a good ole fashioned face-to-face meeting to strengthen relationships.  Doug and I had the opportunity to connect in San Francisco for the Customer Service is the New Marketing conference, put on by Get Satisfaction, where we both gave workshops.  Toby and I met up for dinner when she came to San Diego to give a workshop for the American Marketing Association.  Both meet-ups were great fun, and I could see the blog personalities in the person, very clearly.  Toby even sent me a nice thank-you note afterwards, with a small toss of her trademark pink boa.  Thanks, Toby!!

A whole group of marketing and PR bloggers is getting together next month in New York City for a Blogger Social, put on by CK and Drew McLellan – wish I could be there!  Steve Woodruff is even profiling all the bloggers who are attending to help them get to know each other better.  You guys all rock!

Social media is indeed about building relationships and making existing bonds stronger.  It is a great way to get to know customers, as well as to make your organization seem more personal and authentic.  Use it as part of your marketing strategy, but be sure to complement it with the old-fashioned way of building relationships – face time – where you can.

Customer Service Event and Call for Authors!

csitnm_badge.png Customer Service Conference in San Francisco, February 4 

In just two weeks, I am hosting a lunch workshop at the Customer Service is the New Marketing event in San Francisco, CA on Monday, February 4.  I am honored to be on a program also featuring speakers from Zappos, Virgin America, Flickr, Google, and Geek Squad (to name a few).  My blogging friend Doug Hanna from Service Untitled will also be hosting a lunch workshop, along with some other smart folks.

There has been some debate as to whether customer service is the new marketing.  I would say that everyone who is in customer service is also doing marketing, as every touch to the customer counts.  Often, it is these customer touches that make the most impact, as the customer spends more time using a product or service than purchasing it (one hopes!).  Customer service is the face of the company, and organizations that see it as only a cost are missing a trick.

There is still time to register for the conference.  The price is $495 for this fabulous one-day event being held at the gorgeous Presidio in San Francisco.  Customers Rock! readers can get a 15% discount if you use the code CRNT when registering; here is the link

Come to the event, and make sure to say HI to me and tell me you are reading Customers Rock!  I’ll even buy you a drink at the after-event bash.

ageofconversation-book.jpg Call for Authors for Round Two of Age of Conversation

Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton are at it again.  They are spearheading the effort to create the 2008 edition of the Age of Conversation book.  Over 100 authors from around the world came together to write short essays and raise money for Variety Children’s Charity; not one penny went to any of us.  The book focused on this conversation age and what it means to marketers and businesses.

Some of you expressed disappointment that you missed out on the last book.  Here is your chance!  Just email Drew and let him know you want to participate.  See his post (linked to his name above) to find out the rules.  You can even vote on the topic (on Drew’s blog).

I am going to be in again; come join me!

Update: Here is a list so far of those planning to contribute this year:

Drew McLellan, Luc Debaiseieux, Ryan Karpeles, Greg Verdino, Lori Magno, Gavin Heaton, Connie Reece, The Kaiser, Katie Chatfield, Tim Jackson, Doug Meacham, C.B. Whittemore, Becky Carroll, Gordon Whitehead, Daniel B. Honigman, Daria Rasmussen, Jay Ehret, Jasmin Tragas, Jamey Shiels, Organic Frog, Bill Gammell, Nathan Snell, Stephen Landau, Stephen Collins, Stephen Smith, Mark Earls, Steven Verbruggen, Neil Perkin, Brett Macfarlane, Dino Demopoulos, Chris Wilson, Asi Sharabi, Mike Sansone, Angela Maiers, Sandy Renshaw.

Here is the list of contributors from last year, and many of these are now friends as well.

Gavin Heaton
Drew McLellan
CK
Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Sacrum
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Luc Debaisieux
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Robert Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
CB Whittemore
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Kris Hoet
G. Kofi Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Polinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman
S. Neil Vineberg

Holiday Reading List: Outstanding Blogs

friends.jpg About this time last year, Mack Collier, blogger extraordinaire, started a list of blogs that were not yet well-read but deserved more attention (this is per Mack – great speaking with you the other day, BTW!!).  I was honored to be one of the original 5 on the Z-list:

Shotgun Marketing Blog
BrandSizzle
bizsolutionsplus
Customers Rock!
Being Peter Kim

The Z-list then went all over the world, and it is hard to say where the final list is these days.  A good, comprehensive listing of great blogs to read over the holidays can be found in the Z-list wiki, put together by Gavin Heaton.  It lists the name of the blog, the author, the location of the author, a category for the blog, and a short description.

Fast forward to this year.  Troy Worman has come up with his list of Outstanding Blogs, or O! Blogs for short.  This list has some overlap with the Z-list, but there are also many new blogs that I hadn’t seen before.  Thanks for the Christmas reading list, Troy!

Here is the O! Blogs list (taken from Drew McLellan’s version), along with some of my favorites at the top:

Becky’s adds:

CustomerU

Experienceology

The Marketing Blog

Shaping Youth

Communication Overtones

They Talk Back

Troy’s list:

  1. 100 Bloggers
  2. 37 Days
  3. 3i
  4. 43 Folders
  5. A Clear Eye
  6. A Daily Dose of Architecture
  7. The Agonist
  8. All Things Workplace
  9. All This Chittah Chattah
  10. Angela Maiers
  11. Antonella Pavese
  12. Arizona High Tech
  13. A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye
  14. Badger Blogger
  15. Bailey WorkPlay
  16. Being Peter Kim
  17. Brett Trout
  18. Best of Mother Earth
  19. Beyond Madison Avenue
  20. Biz and Buzz
  21. Bizhack
  22. BizSolutions Plus
  23. Blog Business World
  24. Bloggers Showroom
  25. Blogging for Business
  26. Blogher
  27. Blog Till You Drop!
  28. Bob Sutton
  29. Brain Based Business
  30. Brains on Fire
  31. Brand Autopsy
  32. The Brand Builder Blog
  33. Branding and Marketing
  34. Branding Strategy
  35. Brand is Language
  36. BrandSizzle
  37. Brandsoul
  38. Bren Blog
  39. Business Evolutionist
  40. Business Management Life
  41. Business Pundit
  42. Business Services, Etc.
  43. Busy Mom
  44. Buzz Canuck
  45. Buzz Customer
  46. Buzzoodle
  47. Career Intensity
  48. Carpe Factum
  49. Casual Fridays
  50. Change Your Thoughts
  51. Chaos Scenario
  52. Cheezhead
  53. Chief Happiness Officer
  54. Chris Brogan
  55. Christine Kane
  56. Church of the Customer
  57. Circaspecting
  58. CK’s Blog
  59. Come Gather Round
  60. Community Guy
  61. Confident Writing
  62. Conversation Agent
  63. Converstations
  64. Cooking for Engineers
  65. Cool Hunting
  66. Core77
  67. Corporate Presenter
  68. Crayon Writer
  69. Creating a Better Life
  70. Creating Passionate Users
  71. Creative Think
  72. CRM Mastery
  73. Crossroads Dispatches
  74. Cube Rules
  75. Culture Kitchen
  76. Customers Are Always
  77. Customer Service Experience
  78. Customer Service Reader
  79. Customers Rock!
  80. Custserv
  81. Craig Harper
  82. Daily Fix
  83. Dawud Miracle
  84. Dave Olson
  85. David Airey
  86. David Maister
  87. David S Finch
  88. Design Your Writing Life
  89. Digital Common Sense
  90. Director Tom
  91. Diva Marketing
  92. Do You Q
  93. Duct Tape Marketing
  94. Empowerment 4 Life
  95. The Engaging Brand
  96. Essential Keystrokes
  97. Every Dot Connects
  98. Experience Architect
  99. Experience Curve
  100. Experience Matters
  101. Extreme Leadership
  102. Eyes on Living
  103. Feld Thoughts
  104. Flooring the Customer
  105. Fouroboros
  106. FutureLab
  107. Genuine Curiosity
  108. Glass Half Full
  109. The Good Life
  110. Great Circle
  111. Greg Verdino’s Marketing Blog
  112. Hee-Haw Marketing
  113. Hello, My Name is BLOG
  114. Holly’s Corner
  115. Homeless Family
  116. The Idea Dude
  117. I’d Rather be Blogging
  118. Influential Marketing
  119. Innovating to Win
  120. Inspiring & Empowering Lives
  121. Instigator Blog
  122. Jaffe Juice
  123. Jibber Jobber
  124. Joyful Jubilant Learning
  125. Joy of Six
  126. Kent Blumberg
  127. Kevin Eikenberry
  128. Learned on Women
  129. Life Beyond Code
  130. Lip-sticking
  131. Listics
  132. The Lives and Times
  133. Live Your Best Life
  134. Live Your Inspiration
  135. Living Light Bulbs
  136. Logical Emotions
  137. Logic + Emotion
  138. Make It Great!
  139. Making Life Work for You
  140. Management Craft
  141. Managing with Aloha
  142. The M.A.P. Maker
  143. The Marketing Excellence Blog
  144. Marketing Headhunter
  145. Marketing Hipster
  146. The Marketing Minute
  147. Marketing Nirvana
  148. Marketing Roadmaps
  149. Marketing Through the Clutter
  150. Mary Schmidt
  151. Masey
  152. The Media Age
  153. Micropersuasion
  154. Middle Zone Musings
  155. Miss604
  156. Moment on Money
  157. Monk at Work
  158. Monkey Bites
  159. Movie Marketing Madness
  160. Motivation on the Run
  161. My 2 Cents
  162. My Beautiful Chaos
  163. Naked Conversations
  164. Neat & Simple Living
  165. New Age 2020
  166. New Charm School
  167. Next Up
  168. No Man’s Blog
  169. The [Non] Billable Hour
  170. Note to CMO
  171. Office Politics
  172. Optimist Lab
  173. The Origin of Brands
  174. Own Your Brand
  175. Pardon My French
  176. Passion Meets Purpose
  177. Pause
  178. Peerless Professionals
  179. Perfectly Petersen
  180. Personal Branding
  181. The Podcast Network
  182. The Power of Choice
  183. Practical Leadership
  184. Presentation Zen
  185. Priscilla Palmer
  186. Productivity Goal
  187. Pro Hip-Hop
  188. Prosperity for You
  189. Purple Wren
  190. QAQnA
  191. Qlog
  192. Reveries
  193. Rex Blog
  194. Ririan Project
  195. Rohdesign
  196. Rothacker Reviews
  197. Scott H Young
  198. Search Engine Guide
  199. Servant of Chaos
  200. Service Untitled
  201. Seth’s Blog
  202. Shards of Consciousness
  203. Shotgun Marketing
  204. Simplenomics
  205. Simplicity
  206. Slacker Manager
  207. Slow Leadership
  208. Socially Adept
  209. Social Media Marketing Blog
  210. Spare Change
  211. Spirit in Gear
  212. Spooky Action
  213. Steve’s 2 Cents
  214. Strategic Design
  215. Strength-based Leadership
  216. StickyFigure
  217. Studentlinc
  218. Success Begins Today
  219. Success Creeations
  220. Success From the Nest
  221. Successful Blog
  222. Success Jolt
  223. Talk to Strangers
  224. Tammy Lenski
  225. Tell Ten Friends
  226. That Girl from Marketing
  227. Think Positive!
  228. This Girl’s Weblog
  229. Thoughts & Philosophies
  230. Tom Peters
  231. Trust Matters
  232. Verve Coaching
  233. Viral Garden
  234. Waiter Bell
  235. Wealth Building Guy
  236. What’s Next
  237. Writers Notes
  238. You Already Know this Stuff
  239. Zen Chill

(Photo credit: elnur)

BrandingWire: Communicating with Customers

rainbow-glove.jpg We communicate with our customers in many ways.  In fact, customers pick up communication clues from not just our words, but also from tone of voice, demeanor (yes, a smile can be heard!), and body language.  In certain settings, the sense of smell plays a large part, even impacting long-term memory.  In written communications, words aren’t everything – pictures and color make up a large part of the story.  One of the masters of using non-verbal communication was one of my favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock:

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”  Alfred Hitchcock

This brings me to the latest BrandingWire challenge about color.  Rachel is a color consultant for business and helps organizations use color as an effective tool in their marketing arsenal.  She is relatively new to the market of color consulting, and she wants to spread the word about what she can do (and keep in mind that she is moving states within the year!).  She also writes a blog about color called Hue.

The new BrandingWire model is to leave the case study open for others to share their advice, expanding it beyond our original “posse”.  There are already several comments on Rachel’s challenge, including mine today.  Here were my suggestions for Rachel:

1. Do some quick research with small businesses in your area; you can use them as a “proxy” for what small businesses in other areas might think.

Talk to those who see the inherent value in being color-conscious and those who don’t. What were the drivers and motivators behind the color decisions made by the savvy businesses? What helped them make the choice to use color in marketing?

Talk to those who don’t yet know the value using color can bring them. What are their thoughts/concerns/objections?  Understanding your customers and potential customers is a key step towards business success for you!  This will also help you with Chris Brown’s suggestion of finding the right client.

2. Your blog is potentially a very powerful tool for your business! You have a strong writing style and good insight. However, I am not convinced it will appeal to your potential customers – yet.

You can make your blog content more relevant by adding insights at the end of each post with how it can apply to small business. This would help your potential clients to see that they could use these concepts in their businesses, and by the way, Rachel seems like she really gets how I could do that!

Feel free to go to the BrandingWire site and add your own ideas for Rachel.  There are also many other great ideas in the comments, so grab a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to peruse the thoughts of some smart bloggers.  (Photo credit: nruboc)

Free eBook: Customers Rock Tips

gifts.jpg It’s here!  I have put together a free eBook to thank you, my valuable readers, for your continued loyalty to me this past year.  The eBook is a compilation of five of my favorite blog posts from the last 12 months.  I have also included the comments along with each post so readers can continue to follow the conversation; many of these were quite enlightening!

Topics include:

  • Taking care of existing customers
  • Customer or client?
  • Tips for listening to customers
  • Stories and the personal touch
  • Measuring customer relationships

Feel free to share it, post it, print it, or copy it.  Send it to someone you think would benefit from information about keeping customers longer and strengthening customer relationships.  I would love to have this eBook shared with as many people as possible.  :-)

Let me know what you think, and thank you again!

Download free eBook: Customers Rock Highlights

(Photo credit: Spanishale)