September 17, 2014

Announcing my first book: The Hidden Power of Your Customers

I am so excited to share the news with all of you that I have a book coming out in July! And it is thanks to you, my faithful Customers Rock! readers, that it is happening. The book is called The Hidden Power of Your Customers: Four Keys to Growing Your Business Through Existing Customers, being published by John Wiley & Sons. The hardcover edition will be released on July 20, with eReader versions to follow.

This book has actually been a long time in the making – not so much from the perspective of how long it took to write it (see The Story below) but from the perspective that I have had this book in mind since before I began this blog in December of 2006. In fact, one of the reasons I started Customers Rock! blog was that I wanted to see 1) whether I enjoyed writing (I do) and 2) whether anyone else would enjoy reading what I wrote (you do!). So in a sense, this book has been over 4 years in the making!

This book is also one of the main reasons that I have been so quiet on my blog the past few months. I have definitely missed writing for all of you, and many of you have been encouraging me to get back out here and post. I am finally ready, and what better way to start back up than to introduce you to my book.

The Book

The Hidden Power of Your Customers is a book about how to focus on your current customers so that you can lengthen and strengthen your business relationship with them, thus bringing about increased customer loyalty, customer advocacy, and ultimately increased referrals. It is not a social media book (more on that in The Story below), but social media is woven throughout the book (as it should be woven throughout a company’s marketing and customer service strategies). It is also not a customer service book (but that is an important tenet). It is a book about growing your business through one of your company’s best assets – your existing customers.

Here is a short excerpt from the introduction:

It has been my experience that many companies spend most of their time and budget focusing on selling to new customers and end up neglecting their existing ones. This might work in the short term, but eventually these companies will find themselves losing more customers out the back door than they bring in through the front door. Additionally, the onset of social media is driving a major change in customer behaviors and habits, making it highly risky not to focus on existing customers. Social media has brought the customer experience to the forefront of discussions, so it is important for companies to be more vigilant than ever before.

As a result, some people will tell you that you need outstanding customer service. But customer service is not enough. You also need marketing that connects with your current customers. In fact, you need to consider the entire customer experience, and support it with a customer-centric culture, one that promotes an equally exceptional employee experience. And, of course, you do need outstanding customer service.

The Hidden Power of Your Customers is based around the principles of Customers Rock!, and the sections of the book follow the ROCK acronym:

R: Relevant marketing – Organizations need to market to their customers in a way that is relevant to them, including recognizing them as customers, using their language, and meeting their needs.

O: Orchestrated customer experience – Every place a customer interacts with a company needs to provide a consistent, planned experience for the customer that is beneficial to both parties. We can’t leave the customer experience to chance.

C: Customer-focused culture – We can’t just expect that a company will become customer-centric because it hires a few great customer service personnel or states that it cares about customers in its marketing. We need to ensure that customers are part of everything that our company does so that customer-focus becomes part of the company DNA.

K: Killer customer service – Companies need to take customer service to the next level, and it needs to be an integral part of the customer experience. Customer service is where the rubber meets the road, as many buying and renewal decisions are based upon this critical touch point. It has to ROCK.

The book is also supported with many case studies (based on personal interviews I conducted with company leaders), lots of practical tips, and fun personal stories – all written in the Customers Rock! style that you are familiar with here on this blog.

The Story

This past summer, at the end of my Marketing via New Media class which I teach at UC San Diego, my students were encouraging me to take what I know and write a book. I told them I had a book in mind already, I just hadn’t made any inquiries about it yet. I went home that evening and tweeted out that I was thinking about writing a book. Less than a week later, I received an email from an editor at John Wiley & Sons. In it, he said that he was interested in working with me on my book. He said he enjoyed this blog and felt that I had good material, and good credentials, to write a book. I actually had already written a book proposal the year before but hadn’t tried to do anything with it. I asked the Wiley editor whether this should be a social media book, and his recommendation was no, it should not be; he felt there were already quite a few of those out there (and I agree).

So, after giving Wiley’s offer some thought, I agreed and signed the contract. The book was off and running!

I then spent the next four months doing interviews, pulling together information, and writing the manuscript. It was completed on February 1 (I think I missed out on most of the family holiday activities this past season). Since then, I have been working with Wiley on a few rounds of edits, approving cover artwork, seeking “blurbs” (endorsements) for the book, and getting a top-notch thought leader to write the foreword (Thank You, Brian Solis – author of Engage! for being so gracious).

The book is now just about ready for prime time, so I felt it was high time to share about it with you all. The attendees of my recent session at SugarCon got a sneak preview of some of the concepts, and I will be giving more talks in the next few months before the release where I will have the opportunity to sign some pre-release booklets and get the word out about the book.

Will You Help Me Share About It?

I am thrilled that the book releases in just a few months (July 20), and I plan to continue blogging, speaking, and sharing about it on my social networks. Will you help me? Here are a few ways you can get involved in sharing the Customers Rock! philosophy that is in The Hidden Power of Your Customers:

  • Share about the book on your own blog or social networks. Here is the link to the book on Amazon.
  • Go to the Amazon page and click Like (right under my name, at the top of the listing)
  • Pre-order the book
  • If you are in San Diego, come to one of my Book Launch Parties (more info on these as it gets closer)
  • If you are not in San Diego, you can help sponsor me for a Book Signing/Event in your city. I will gladly come to your city for a signing if you help arrange the event; please contact me for details.
  • Submit to write a review of the book on your blog! I will be reaching out to bloggers for reviews to take place in early July; please leave me a comment or drop me a note at becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com if you are interested.

Again, thank you all for your support, encouragement, and loyalty over the past 4 1/2 years of this blog. Customers DO rock, and I can’t wait to show you more about that in the book.

Let me know what you think!

 

Recession-Proof Marketing

new-lifeWhen I was speaking at the SXSW Interactive conference last week, I had the chance to catch up with one of my good friends, Saul Colt from FreshBooks. Saul is the Head of Magic there, and he is the one who is responsible for the fabulous customer dinners that they do with their customers. These dinners are focused completely on the customers and providing them networking opportunities with each other; they are NOT about pushing FreshBooks! In fact, these customer dinners are part of the reason FreshBooks was named one of the Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008!

Saul has honored me back by interviewing me on what it means to market in a recession.  Take a listen, then go listen to Saul’s complementary video on his blog. Thank you, Saul, for the opportunity!


Becky Carroll (CustomersRock.net) shares thoughts on Customer Service! from saulcolt on Vimeo.

Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008

I was asked to spend a few minutes recently on the Big Biz Show (a nationally-syndicated radio program) discussing my thoughts about business in 2008 with a look ahead to 2009. I thought I would share some of those insights here at Customers Rock! to inspire you for the upcoming year.

A Rockin’ Year with Some Great Companies

This past year, I highlighted several companies where “Customers Rock!” for them. These companies have great customer focus, operate in a way that is customer-centric, or just did something really, really cool for their customers.  Before I get to the Top 3 Customer Rock Stars, below are some of the runners-up:

  • Urbane Apartments – remarkable customer experience with Urbane Loves Pets and Freedom Lease
  • Ikea – focus on the customer buying experience
  • Comcast – social media listening turns complainers into fans
  • Coldwater Creek – making customers feel like royalty
  • TurboTax – customer engagement via social media
  • Wells Fargo – WOW customer experience and corporate focus
  • Hometown Buffet – personal attention makes the difference
  • Starbucks – customer-focused coffee specials
  • Musician’s Friend – above and beyond customer service

Check out the links above for their stories – all of them inspiring. And now, with no further ado…

Rock Star Number 3: FreshBooks

Freshbooks is an online invoicing and time tracking service.  They are a Customer Rock Star because they do everything with the customer in mind. More importantly, they spend time with their customers – lots of it.  In my post “Freshbooks Rocks: Getting Personal with Customers”, I described how the Freshbooks team, including their CEO, spends time having meals with customers whenever they travel. In fact, last year when they went to SxSW to speak, they rented an RV and had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with customers along the way! The best thing about these customer meals (I would know, they invited me to one, as I am a Freshbooks customer), is they are NOT about Freshbooks pitching their products and what they do. Rather, they are about their customers getting to know each other better, as these people all live and work in the same city.  Along the way, Freshbooks employees get the chance to hear some great customer insights.

Customer listening is a focus for Freshbooks, and it is what gets them into my Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008. Congrats, Mike, Saul, and team. Freshbooks Rocks!

Rock Star Number 2: Zappos.com

If you aren’t familiar with Zappos.com and you buy shoes, you should get to know them. Zappos.com is an online retailer that started by selling shoes over the web; they now also sell many other things such as clothing, accessories, and jewelry. Their main focus, however, is not the products they sell – it is customer service. In fact, their tagline is “Powered by Service”. I met Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, this past February when I spoke at the Customer Service is the New Marketing event. Tony shared with me that they don’t want to be known as a shoe company with great customer service; Zappos.com is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes. I like his focus.

One can find many, many stories on Tony and Zappos.com, as they have become fairly well known for this customer service. I have my own story from Christmas this year. I was looking to find my husband a new pair of Keen sandals, and I couldn’t find his size at Zappos.com. I gave them a call to see if they might be getting some in, and they told me they wouldn’t have any in time for Christmas. However, what happened next really impressed me! The call center rep looked up the sandals on the web and recommended a competitor’s website to me!!  She told me they had the size and color I was seeking, and they also had free shipping both ways (just like Zappos.com does). After thanking her profusely, I asked her why she recommended a competitor to me.  She said, “We want you to be happy, and we want you to come back to Zappos.”  I was, and I will!

Customer service is more than just a focus for Zappos.com; it is their company’s culture and what gets them into my Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008. Congrats, Tony and team! Zappos rocks!!

Rock Star Number 1: Bungie Studios

Who? Bungie. Bungie Studios is the maker of the popular video game series Halo. They are known for treating their customers very well, but the reason they are my number one Customer Rock Star is that they take care of other people’s customers, too!

This past March, a video gamer who is a big fan of Halo had a problem with his gaming console/hardware. It was a special console because he had collected original Halo artwork and autographs on it from the team that developed the game. Unfortunately, when he sent in his console for repair, the artwork and autographs were accidentally erased.  Result: one very sad video gamer.

Bungie Studios heard about this through some blogs and decided that, although it had not been their mistake, they wanted to do something to help make it better. So they gathered up a HUGE amount of Halo-3 goodies and sent them off to this depressed gamer even though they had nothing to do with the problem. As you can imagine, he was thrilled to get this fabulous box of “swag”, as it was completely unexpected. (You can see photos of some of his gifts on my previous post about Bungie.)

In my opinion, what was even more cool was that the blog post describing his “swag bag” received over 600 comments from fans of the Halo video game, all glowing about Bungie Studios. What a great way to touch your customer community!

How did Bungie Studios do it?

- They were listening to their customers, using social media.

- They had previously built up a strong community (see their website for forums, insider information, and an open and honest attitude including Bungie podcasts, photos, and webcams!)

- They decided to “do the right thing”, even though they were not the ones in the wrong

- Bungie has prioritized customers as a critical success factor for their business – and has acted on it.

Clearly, Customers Rock! for Bungie Studios.  Way to go, Bungie Studios, on being the Number One Customer Rock Star for 2008!

Looking Ahead to 2009

This year, a focus on customers will become more important than ever as companies struggle with the economy worldwide while consumers and businesses alike become more conservative with their spending. Customer retention will be critical, as will encouraging customer advocates to share their great experiences with others.  Stay tuned to Customers Rock! for more great ideas and stories of how companies are doing it right, all throughout 2009.

(Photo credit: ussr)