Category Archives: Customer Service

Being Treated the Right Way

I continue to appreciate the great creative coming from the folks at Ebiquity in their TV ad campaign for Discover Card’s Late Payment Forgiveness. Using the concept of “we treat you like you treat you,” we see various individuals who, like anyone reading this, failed to get a credit card payment off in time to post by the due date. As an alternative to the irritating practice with most credit cards who charge a late fee, raise your APR, and lower your limits, Discover offers forgiveness if you use their “It” card.

What makes this enjoyable to me is the way it’s done, with the customer service person who looks, sounds and talks just like the customer calling in. Here’s an example:

There’s so many messages going on here:

  • First, wouldn’t any one of us prefer talking with a customer service representative who is just like us, who gets us? Duh.
  • Secondly, forgiveness for being a human and making a mistake is always in good taste. We’ve all been on the wrong end of bad customer service.
  • Thirdly, these ads are always good for a laugh.
  • Fourthly, it’s easy to recall these ads and what they’re about – awareness of Discover Card’s new “It” card.
  • Lastly, there is unlimited variations that could be used, keeping the campaign fresh and new for a longer period of time.

As I have said on many occasions, good, solid creative can make the difference in an ad campaign’s success and long-term viability. Good marketing will always win out.

Can you think of other ad campaigns that you’ve enjoyed?

I’d love to hear,


Can Bad Public Relations Help Your Brand?

Wow, pretty provocative statement huh? How in the world can bad press help your brand?

There have been plenty of examples of public relations gone bad lately. It’s like watching a train wreck with Charlie Sheen. Your best common sense tells you that this guy is really sick, but it’s hard not to be mesmerized by a person so successfully driving their brand into the ground in flames. Now I’m sure many would say that Charlie Sheen didn’t really have a positive image anyway, so this isn’t the crash you could say is significant.

Charlie is not the only bad P.R. going on. With the announcement by the NFL Team owners that they were instituting a player “lockout,” the “good ol’ boys billion club” made it very clear that their fans were not going to get in the way of them padding their pockets with even more hoards of gold. It’s interesting that only one team in the NFL, the champion Green Bay Packers, have to disclose any financial information whatsoever, since they are the only publicly owned team. We don’t really know how much money the owners are making, but they have surpassed most all definitions of the word “greed.”

How is it that any entity could possibly consider bad public relations to be in their best interest? I think in Charlie Sheen’s case, the fact that the guy secured over 2 million Twitter followers in record time says something to the power of negative press. He’s now in a position to have his say and to have an audience to say it to. It’s hard to argue with gaining that much social media equity so quickly.

In the case of the NFL Team owners, what a great way to gauge the intensity of fan enthusiasm for professional football. If there is a huge uprising in negative content, searches or newsreels, the team owners have hard evidence that they have a product with strong market loyalty and passion.

In fact, as Laurie Sullivan says in her article Complaints Via Search Can Be A Good Thing, “There’s always going to be bad feedback. The real question is how good a job is the brand doing at making themselves accessible.” This kind of criticism from customers can give your Customer Service folks the ability to really engage with them, to deepen the relationship, to show you are a company that cares, and you want to hear it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. After all, bad things are going to happen, mistakes will be made, it’s just how you handle it that can make all the difference in the world.

I’d love to know your thoughts.


Your CMO Outsource


Be Transparent In Your Advertising and Promotion

I had recently been doing research for a client and found an organic Google listing on the Search Engine Results page from, it was the third listing.  Specifically I was looking for industry information on the heating and air conditioning business and was enticed by what I read “Plumbing and HVAC Industry Report.”  Knowing that Amazon was a trusted source I clicked.

When I got to the page to order this, I found it was a downloadable PDF and there was the cover page for me to view.  This looked like exactly what I wanted and I placed my order.

After the PDF downloaded, I opened the document, and on the cover page was some new information that hadn’t appeared previously on the order page.  It said, “Plumbing and HVAC Industry Report, Industry Breakdown: 1997 to 2001”

What?  How old is this information?  For anyone of you doing any kind of marketing research, you know that information that is nine or more years old is basically worthless.    I had just spent $24.95 for information that was so ancient, it should have been free.

I did the natural thing, I immediately tried to contact Amazon to inform them that this was not what I wanted and not to charge my card.  What I was amazed about was that there really is no customer service to speak of. simply has a “Help” webpage of commonly asked questions.  Since this was a download, apparently I was unable to cancel the order.

My next step was to contact my credit card company to dispute the charge.  After investigating, they wrote and said that “no error was found” in the disputed transaction with Amazon Digital Services and that “the disputed transaction has been credited to your account and absorbed as a loss by the bank.”

Well, I’m not out any money but why in the world should my bank absorb this loss?  This was Amazon’s lack of advertising honesty.

My question is this: If I received this kind of service and lack of transparency in the small transaction I experienced with Amazon, why would I take a chance in buying a “Kindle?”  Frankly, Amazon needs all the help it can get competing with Apple’s IPad.

So, when you promote products or advertise services, whether online or in a store, be sure to be transparent and tell the whole truth.  Otherwise you can end up reading blogs like this that have a tendency to spread very quickly and the old brand takes a big hit.

Have you had any experiences like this?  Let me know.



The CMO Outsource

Do You Mean It When You Ask?

Windup robot

My wife and I were talking the other evening about an interesting customer service idiosyncrasy we’ve both noticed at our local grocery store.  When we are finished shopping and we go to checkout, regardless of which cashier is helping us, they universally begin with the question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”   Happens every time without fail.  It’s a great thought, however we have realized that these employees are simply reciting a question they were ordered to ask.  There is no genuine feeling behind it, it’s simply something they’ve been told to do, much as a computer that has been programmed to auto-respond.

We’ve even had some fun with this.  After the question and contrary I believe to most responses, I answer, “No.”  At least half the time, the cashier proceeds as if nothing had happened.  The other times I get this incredulous look and the witty riposte of , “What, oh, well, uh, I, don’t, uh, well, uh, hmmm.”  (Does not compute!)

I truly believe that the intent behind this effort is to provide excellent customer service, to show the caring side of the grocery store, and to make me feel welcomed.  Unfortunately, when it is not a genuine concern, and in this case it is apparent, then it fails in its intention.

Do you have customer service contact employees that are just going through the motions, that are just reciting lines out of a manual like an automaton?  Is the culture of your company such that this type of behavior is rewarded?  If so then your company’s brand is also reflecting this lack of authenticity, a lack of genuine caring for your customer.  It may take time, but it will affect your ability to grow and achieve your sales goals.

In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin-Are You Indispensable? he speaks of company cultures that encourage and reward behavior that simulates an assembly line, where employees are expected to do exactly as the manual dictates and not to have any original thought.  The problem, as he states, is that once this behavior is engrained, it is difficult to break away from.  Just as employees who act as robots are inexpensive and easy to replace, so your customers will also find other sources for what you do or sell.

So, do you mean it when you ask?

I would love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource Ain’t Square, It’s Cool


In one of my previous posts “Put The Local in Your Locale” I mentioned a relatively new social network called  I thought it had some real potential but unfortunately they were not in the Kansas City area.  After writing to them about my wish that they be here, my request was granted.  I just received word that along with several other cities, Kansas City is now on the map!

This kind of geo-targeted social network has real potential for those of you marketing to a consumer who is likely to purchase at your location.

Here are some of the features of and then I would like to explore some potential applications to help you determine if it’s right for you.

Members of check-in by logging onto the site from there mobile phone and letting their friends know where they are so they can come to that location. will also offer other locations nearby that may be places of interest to members.  Currently there are applications for IPhones and Android phones with a Blackberry application in the works.  There are also nice links to Twitter and Facebook.

Members have the ability to make recommendations of things to buy or enjoy at certain locations and tracks how many times members frequent a particular location, based on the number of times they check-in.  Points are awarded for check-ins as well as bonus points for dragging friends along with you.  As points accumulate, badges can be unlocked, with the ultimate badge award being classified as a “mayor.”  Businesses can offer “mayors” certain privileges or freebies to entice them to come in as well as encouraging them to bring their network of friends.

Additional applications are being developed by which includes an Inbound Ticketing system and a customer conversation community called “Get Satisfaction.”  For businesses that wish to actively participate there are plans available from $19 to $899 per month depending on reports, tracking, mayor offers and customization that is desired.

Applications for

  • The obvious are restaurants and bars – mayors can be offered free drinks or appetizers once they check-in. Friends of mayors get special recognition. Weekly specials can be promoted through their customized site.
  • Museums – special shows and artists can be promoted and people can join as “friends of the museum.”
  • Sporting Events – not only can the events be promoted but businesses close by can benefit from online promotions to members.
  • Non-profit Fundraising events – what a great way to encourage participation to those members who have a social awareness.  Mayors can receive special recognition by attracting the highest number of friends who also attend.  Companies that belong  to receive some public relations exposure by being associated with a cause.
  • Gyms – hey it’s cool to be working out and even cooler when you can tell your network exactly where you are.
  • Bowling Alleys – Mayors that bring in a whole team can receive free food, drinks or a game.
  • Retail Outlets – clothing boutiques can take on an online personality and promote sales and specials. members can talk about what they like about your place.

These are just a few potential applications.  I’m sure many of you can come up with several of your own.  That’s the beauty of this kind of network, it is really only limited by your imagination.

If you need to drive in-store sales, don’t be square and lose out on a great new marketing tool because is very cool.

Let me know what thoughts you have.