I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today reflecting on what cartoon monkeys can teach us about customer service. Come on over!
It’s amazing what a little gesture can tell you about a company.
A few weeks ago I spent a day on-site with a client, going from meeting to meeting. We were walking through a parking lot between buildings, deep in conversation, recapping the last presentation and planning the next one.
Suddenly, my client stopped in her tracks, then turned around. I thought she had dropped something, but no… she walked about five feet away to where a piece of a broken Bic pen was resting on the asphalt. She picked it up, walked another ten feet to a trash can, threw it away, and then rejoined me.
So what, right? A neat freak. Big deal.
The next week, I was visiting different clients in a different city. After a morning meeting, four of us headed out to lunch. As we stepped off the elevator and were walking through the lobby, I saw one of my clients veer off course, then bend down to grab a stray piece of paper.
In both cases, there was no hesitation. It was as automatic a gesture as you’d see from someone picking up a stray candy wrapper in their own front yard.
These weren’t cleaning crews or maintenance staff or physical plant workers, people assigned to keep the grounds clean. These were white collar managers and directors who went out of their way to pick up litter, to do something that many would consider beneath them. But why?
Because they care. Because they take pride in working for their employer and want to present a polished image to the outside world. And because they want to set an example for their fellow employees that everyone’s on the same team, that the good of the company is a common denominator rather than the interest of a select few.
Flying home from that last client visit, I sat on the plane across from two middle-aged professionals weary after a week on the road. They had never met, but started talking and realized they worked for the same prominent local company. We had a short flight from Atlanta to Memphis, but it was long enough to air some dirty laundry. With three or four drinks in them, and speaking loudly over the hum of the engines, they swapped stories about unfair overtime policies, union grievances, scandals involving managers, and more. As a plane full of passengers (probably including other employees of the company) listened, they bashed their company for a solid hour. Instead of picking up real litter, they spread figurative trash. It was painfully embarrassing.
Maybe I witnessed anomalies. Maybe I could just as easily have heard employer-bashing at the first two companies and rave reviews from the last one. But then again, maybe not.
There’s an old saying, you can tell a lot about someone based on how they treat the people they don’t need to impress. I’ve been a supplier for all three companies — and we all know you don’t need to impress suppliers. Want to guess which companies treated me well and which one didn’t?
I wonder…maybe measuring corporate culture is easier than we think. Maybe you just scatter some litter on the ground, sit back, and see what happens.
(photo credit 123rf.com)
I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today celebrating my 20th guest post by thinking back on a recent trip to Knoxville. The pungent aroma of skunk is involved. Want to know more? Of course you do!
This Valentine’s Day I’m guest blogging at Eli Rose Social Media with my thoughts about customer love and loyalty programs. Come on over!
There are a few things in life that are pretty much universally liked. Chocolate. Sunsets. Puppies. That kind of stuff.
I used to think The Princess Bride belonged on that list… until I heard about the guy who caught flak for scaring his fellow airline passengers with an Inigo Montoya t-shirt. Oh well.
As far as I’M concerned, it’s still a great movie, notwithstanding any potential ties to terrorism. But I will confess, there’s one part of the movie that bothers the heck out of me.
It’s not Andre the Giant’s acting. Or Cary Elwes’s smugness. Or Fred Savage’s whininess. It’s a plot hole the size of the Grand Canyon.
Westley, gentle farmhand Westley, goes off to find his fortune so he can win over Buttercup, sweet innocent Buttercup. When he returns, he explains how he was captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, worked his way up through the ranks, and eventually assumed the identity of the brutal, merciless pirate before returning to Florin to find his true love again. What a heartwarming story.
Wait, WHAT? How is sweet innocent Buttercup not bothered by the fact that her Westley spent years murdering and pillaging as Dread Pirate Roberts?!
That’s a plot hole. And it bothers me EVERY time I see the movie.
Plot holes can take an otherwise pleasant experience and throw a wrench into it. Which makes it that much more important for us to be aware of plot holes in our own stories.
Take Southwest Airlines, for instance. You know, the ones who do things a little differently, the “Bags Fly Free” guys… who just announced a $40 fee to board early. That’s a plot hole. Here’s another: Southwest’s CEO saying “never say never” to bag fees.
Compare that to Virgin Atlantic, where the first class experience oozes style. Mood lighting, custom cocktails, all that jazz. And now, an art gallery featuring works by street artist Ben Eine, with select pieces for sale if you have a few grand left over after buying that first class ticket. It’s a crazy story… but it’s a consistent one.
We all write our own scripts. Some of us are just a bit more careful than others.
I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today with a post on blind spots, and why you need to monitor them. Come on over!
I’m at Eli Rose Social Media today pondering unicorns. Come on over!
Two days ago my water heater tried to kill me.
It started with a leak last week. Fortunately, our water heater sits in a drain pan in the attic, so the leak wasn’t dripping through the ceiling. But it was a leak nonetheless, and needed fixing.
So we placed a phone call and the plumbers came, put in a new water heater, and left.
Then they came back a couple hours later because we noticed a growing water stain on our ceiling and a steady drip-drip-drip onto the kitchen floor. Turns out someone had jostled a valve loose in the installation process. Whoops.
Then the plumber asked my wife if she wouldn’t mind just keeping this leak thing between them rather than getting his boss involved. Clearly this guy was one misstep away from getting fired (which always inspires confidence). He reassured us that once the ceiling dried, the sagging would disappear and a quick coat of primer would cover up the water stain.
Then on the way out the door, the plumber mentioned “hey, you might want to have someone take a look at the plug on that water heater, it looks a little corroded.” In other words, I just fixed your water heater but there’s something wrong with your water heater and it’s not my problem any more, good luck and see ya!
Over the weekend we discovered that the water heater was a bit too aggressive for a house with young children, so I headed up to the attic to adjust the thermostat. By this time we’d already placed a call for the corroded wire, but in the meantime I needed to turn the heat down.
If you’ve never adjusted your water heater temperature before, it’s a five-step process:
- Safety first: unplug water heater before opening panel to adjust temperature.
- Note with concern that the water heater plug seems stuck in the outlet. Maintain precarious balance on beams while trying to jostle plug loose.
- Make slight progress in removing the plug halfway from the outlet, observe with greater concern that one prong seems to have separated from the plug, then yank hand quickly away as SPARKS AND FLAMES begin to shoot out from the outlet.
- Scream obscenities at aforementioned SPARKS AND FLAMES while frantically trying to pull the plug completely out of the outlet without falling through the ceiling.
- Go back downstairs, turn off the water heater circuit breaker, and run the dishwasher before all the hot water cools off.
So why am I using a plumber who left behind a water stain on our ceiling and a fire hazard in our attic? Two words: home warranty.
The home warranty is also why it took several days and two followup calls from the time the corroded wire was originally reported until an electrician showed up at our house. In an unmarked truck. After not calling to set an appointment.
I’m not too pleased with my home warranty right now. Surprised?
Whatever your business, there’s a lesson here. When you make a promise to your customers and depend on someone else to keep that promise, you are vulnerable. Your brand is in someone else’s hands. Maybe it’s an installer, or a contractor, or a consultant, or a marketing agency, or a research firm.
Stop thinking about your suppliers as suppliers and start thinking about them as ambassadors for your company and your brand. If that scares you, you may need to rethink some of your relationships.
I sure wish my home warranty provider would.
Memphis. Say the name and people have immediate associations. Barbeque. Elvis. The blues. All jewels in the city’s crown, for sure. But for my money, there’s no better attraction than the Memphis Zoo.
We’re fortunate to have one of the best zoos in the country, and my membership card gets a workout this time of year. It’s a great season to go — we usually have the place almost to ourselves, and the animals are more active in the cooler weather.
Beyond good old family fun, though, the zoo has been the source of a couple great lessons for me.
Lesson #1: people have different priorities. For instance, in the Teton Trek exhibit most people might be distracted by, oh, the HUGE GRIZZLY BEARS splashing and playing only inches away. But do you see that waterfall in the background, waaay back in the shadows on the other side of the exhibit? As far as my son is concerned, that’s the only reason to visit this part of the zoo. This is the same kid who almost threw a tantrum when a hippo shuffled by and momentarily blocked his view of a gushing water hose. I could try to make him understand why I’m so interested in bears and hippos, or I could just let him enjoy waterfalls and hoses.
I find myself in a similar place sometimes when talking to prospects about non-response bias or the advantages of online consumer panels or other market research minutiae to people who really just want to know whether customers are going to hate their new tagline. So this is a good reminder to spend more time appreciating what others view as important, rather than trying to convey the importance of the things I care about.
Lesson #2: everyone is someone else’s stomach. I’ll admit to being a bit biased in my animal preferences, and I view hoofed mammals (antelope, gazelle, etc.) as “filler” — like the canteloupe in fruit salad. While walking past one of those filler exhibits a couple weeks ago, I noticed a sign exhorting visitors to appreciate the essential role of these animals in the ecosystem. Pity took over and I stopped to read the sign, which essentially described the antelope as nature’s way of transforming grass into lion food… an external stomach, more or less. And then I realized that we all play that role for someone. Sometimes we get to be the lion, but eventually we all have to play antelope. (Note: This doesn’t mean I like them more now.)
Whatever our profession, it’s natural to get caught up in the mechanics of what we do and lose sight of why we do it. But there’s something both humbling and gratifying about seeing the big picture and my role in it — knowing that my research is the antelope for the marketing lion, which is in turn the antelope for the customer lion, etc., etc. The circle of life continues.
So thanks, Memphis Zoo, for hours of entertainment and a new perspective or two along the way. See you this weekend!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I work in an industry that tends to get a bad rap: marketing research. Business luminaries like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford took potshots at us. No one is making a reality show about our industry (and if they did, it would probably air on PBS). We get ignored, yelled at, hung up on, called spammers and phishers, etc., simply for trying to ask people about their opinions.
But with all that acknowledged, in the spirit of the season here are a few reasons I’m thankful to be a marketing researcher…
I get a unique glimpse into many different lives and lifestyles. From low-income single moms going to night school to earn a degree, to ultra-wealthy investors worrying about the next stock market hiccup. From second-graders talking about pets to seniors talking about healthcare. Vacation planners in the UK, software users in China, boat owners in the US, airline executives in Africa. I hear about their passions, their worries, their headaches and hassles, the things that make them smile or grimace. It’s a healthy dose of perspective at times.
Every day offers something new. Right now my active client list includes a hospital, a collegiate athletic program, a wealth management firm, a software development firm, and several others. In a couple months it will look completely different. Because we’re a custom research firm, we’re always tackling new questions and challenges. It’s great.
I get to see the impact of my work. Sometimes it’s pretty innocuous, like a new ad campaign shaped by our research. Sometimes it’s pretty direct, like determining which package ends up on a store shelf. Sometimes it’s an “aha!” moment on a manager’s face in a presentation of findings, when they start to see things from their customers’ point of view. However it happens, it’s a nice feeling.
I get the occasional serving of humble pie. Like hosting an online focus group and watching helplessly as a participant nodded off to sleep in front of her webcam. Or approaching someone for an in-person interview, only to have her spit a Tic-Tac at me. It helps remind me that I need to laugh at myself every now and then.
Whatever you do, I hope you have your own list of reasons to be thankful for your chosen career. And if that career happens to be as a programming director in charge of new reality shows, I won’t be insulted if you don’t call. But it’s your loss.