Customer Service

Is Event Marketing For You?

Are you considering hosting a customer event? Not sure of the potential benefits or reasonable motive for organizing an event campaign. Often when we ask people why they host customer events is “to sell stuff” and while from a very base perspective that may be true, there a number of other more nuanced motives that can help you decide whether a customer event is the right strategy for you. Here are five considerations that may help you decide whether event marketing is right for you.

  1. Do you have an event idea that will be a memorable or educational experience? Keeping your customer’s interest and needs in mind organize an event that will be informative or provide a solution not necessarily tied to your products or services. Putting their interests first will position you positively in their minds, building the customer relationship and, hopefully, their loyalty.
  2. In the past have you relied entirely on one or two forms of marketing campaigns? Whether they are successful or not a little change in your marketing formula can jumpstart your customer’s engagement and lure new customers. Events are a dynamic way to present information and build your audience’s familiarity with the people in your company.
  3. Is your sales team tiring of the usual routine? Giving your sales team the project of organizing and executing an event can help them gain a new perspective on their customers and the sales process. New opportunities can blossom from employing a new approach.
  4. Are demonstrations or examples a central part of your business? If you plan an event that incorporates a demonstration or samples in a unique way benefits will be more memorable and, in some cases, unanticipated opportunities might arise. Additionally, with more people watching a demo or receiving samples a customer may be more likely to be influenced by their peers. Events can be a more direct and influential sales strategy.
  5. Do you ever see your customers face to face? For a lot of people a little face time can do wonders in building their comfort with a company’s products or services. Often, that comfort will lead to sales and, if the relationship is maintained, a long term loyal relationship.

Of course, there are more factors you will need to consider once you’ve decided an event is something your company could benefit from like budget, theme, delivery etc. Hopefully this list will get your thinking about the possibility of event marketing.

"Good Customer Service Is Good Social Media Marketing"

I came across this phrase in one of Tamar Weinberg’s posts about using Facebook for business & marketing and it really stuck with me. This statement captures a unique point where traditional and progressive business mindsets find harmony. I am a huge proponent of providing high quality customer service, subscribing to the old business philosophy “it’s easier to keep an existing customer than find a new one” as a founding principle for my work. However, a lot of business owners I have spoken to are so caught up in marketing to new customers –increasingly using social media- they have overlooked providing their existing customers with impeccable service to maintain their business. Weinberg’s philosophy though, brings attention to the potential relationship between marketing and customer service in a social media world. In the age of “Yelping,” “checking in” and “liking” marketing and customer service are becoming more and more mutually inclusive.

Establishing a traditional customer service approach – follow up calls, service support, frequent user incentives – can now result in the customer expressing appreciation on social media sites like Yelp, Facebook or Twitter. A positive review or endorsement on any of these sites can help build new customer awareness of your products and services. Or, you can incorporate customer service initiatives in your social media marketing strategy – promote incentives for people who “check in” to your store, maintain a Twitter presence to monitor Twitter feeds to address anyone’s complaints, create a Facebook page that encourages customers to provide feedback (good and bad) – all of which can strengthen your relationship with existing customers; ideally, a satisfied customer will then spread their praise to friends continuing the mutually beneficial relationship.

Good customer service is good social media marketing; keep this in mind as you continue to pursue new customers and provide stellar service to your existing customers.

A Lesson In Customer Service

I received an email this week calling my attention to musician Dave Carroll’s fight with United Airlines. It seems, while on a flight from Canada to the US Carroll watched, helplessly, as baggage carriers tossed around his precious guitar before loading it into the plane. When he got to his destination and retrieved his guitar from the baggage claim he wasn’t terribly surprised to find that the neck of the $3,500 Taylor had been broken. When he attempted to seek compensation from United through their customer service channels he was continually passed from person to person, each claiming they had no power before passing him along to the next person. Finally he reached someone willing to give him a concrete response: No. United Airlines would not compensate him for his damaged guitar. 

So, Carroll took things into his own hands and did what he does best; wrote a song, made a video and posted in on YouTube.


United Breaks Guitars quickly became an internet hit. As of today it has been viewed 7,682,624 times, spawned two more videos and been made available on iTunes. Carroll also made a slew of appearances on news programs as the video made the social networking rounds. After four days of a rapidly growing negative PR storm United’s stock dropped 10% costing investors (in an already weakened industry) $180 billion. United could no longer ignore the claims of this angry customer and, after Carroll refused any money – he felt it was too little too late – they made a $3,000 donation to Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. What is the moral of this story? Social networking has made consistent high quality customer service essential to controlling your brand image.

YouTube, Yelp!, Four Square, Facebook, Twitter they have all given customers a forum to voice their praise and, all too often, complaints. The ripple effect of a singular bad experience is no longer limited to a person’s immediate social circle. Now, after notably bad table service you can hop on any number of sites/aps and voice your disdain therefore broadcasting your ills to, potentially, millions – as uneducated or unchecked as they may be – and immediately influencing that restaurant’s image.

This new customer service dynamic poses a number of challenges for businesses; how to get a bad review removed, how to politely respond to a negative tweet, what to do about an unwarranted attack. All of these questions now haunt small and large businesses alike. However, the answers aren’t as high tech and complex as you may believe. The answers can all be found in establishing and maintaining exemplary service from the very first moment of customer engagement. Spend the extra money to train your servers properly, take the time to revisit customer service values, enforce high standards of worker responsibility and review and promote easy to use customer friendly channels of communication. If United had spent the time to consistently train and review the work of their baggage handlers, stewardesses, and CSRs they would have avoided the drastic market response and costly image saving campaign. If you invest in high quality service, anticipate problems and determine solution methods you not only prepare yourself properly for when they occur but, most likely, you will find you don’t have many problems to fix. 

The Loyalty Investment

This past year many of our clients faced cut backs that frequently resulted in either reduced or, in some cases, lost business for us. We, like so many other small businesses, are accustomed to quickly adapting our services and business development approach to our customer’s needs and the larger economic climate. Whenever a project was cut loose we would usually reassess the customer’s initial needs to see if we could propose a modified solution that fit in to their new budgets. If the interest was still there we often revised the project scope and deliverables – shortening the length of a course or restructuring ancillary materials to be more multifunctional- so that a slower economy didn’t also mean suspended business development for our clients.

Why, you may ask, did we not simply turn around and pursue our client’s competition? They would surely be interested in services and content which would help strengthen their market position. Well, the answer boils down to loyalty. We have always tried to work with companies and individuals whose ethics and goals are complimentary to our own. We like to dig in and really understand their business in order to determine how we might best serve them. This is much easier to do if the people are just as curious and hard working as we are. It is also a much more sound investment of time and effort to develop quality relationships with our clients if we know that by providing them effective and loyal service they will continue to bring their work to us.

When the economic climate shifted dramatically and our clients’ budgets drastically reduced it was not as though that professional investment also took a dive. In fact, if anything the spirit of alliance was only strengthened. These were people and businesses that needed our help to keep their eye on the long term; needed to improve their workflows, continue their training and adapt their business development/marketing plans. 

Yes, we could have probably made more money last year by abandoning this sense of loyalty. But, we chose as a company not to panic and begin taking business from anywhere. Instead we decided the greater potential for long-term profit was in continuing to invest our loyalty in long time customers.

This isn’t to say we didn’t pursue any new business. In the instances when a project could not be afforded and the lost revenue needed to be supplanted we took it as an opportunity to explore new verticals and expand our services. We found opportunities in new arenas, like marketing and higher ed, that were conducive to our existing services. We also mined Bizucate’s current employee skill sets and identified new services –social media consulting, for example -- which we could offer to our clients. Both of these exercises carried the unanticipated benefit of reinvigorating our company’s core passion for embracing chances to learn.

We know this level of flexibility is more often the luxury of small businesses –- especially those well versed in ways of bootstrapping -– and that, at the end of the day, practical needs (payroll, accounts payable etc) need to be met. However, the basic philosophy behind remaining loyal to your client base is one that can be exercised on a number of levels. Whether it is the decision to give a little of your time “off the clock” to provide advice or to serve as conduit for information or introductions that could help a struggling customer where you can’t companies large and small can benefit from the loyalty investment.

As we start a new year (with some cautiously optimistic forecasts) we have already seen a slight return on the loyalty investment from clients who have reinstated previously suspended projects and have expressed interest in the new services we added to our roster. By keeping our focus on the larger picture we will continue to grow our business ethically. 

Embrace Techonolgy, Cut Down Drive Time

At the risk of being redundant with recent reports, gas prices are on the rise.

613_blog What does that mean for your customer service? I've been reading where some small businesses, primarily delivery services, have started doing one of two things: including a gas charge in their fees, or simply not servicing areas that are more than 30 miles away.

I just mentioned in last week's post about not cutting your prices, and I'm here to tell you that charging a gas fee isn't the route to take, either. Customer service is the key to ALL business success. If you keep the customers happy, they'll keep coming back for more. Remember this was discussed here. If for a moment you can look past the increased costs of doing business and envision ways to keep up with the demands of the customer and help stabalize cost, embracing technology is the way-to-go.

Maybe now is a good time to evaluate the customers that you serve. This isn't a one size, fits all approach. The project manager at XYZ Accounting may not mind conducting project meetings via video teleconferencing (VTC), whereas the sales manager at XYZ Foods breaks down at the thought of having to appear on camera...

The first step is to realize what technology options such as gotomeeting and web video conferencing are available to you and which would be a good fit for you and that particular customer. Once you understand this, have a conversation with the customer about how much you value their business and how important it is to you to keep costs down and being able to keep the processes moving, then introduce your new meeting and follow-up options.

I know that I may  be making this sound more dramatic than it is, but my motive is to get you to think of what's possible outside of raising your fees or charging extra fees to visit the customer. I'm BIG on customer service and I don't think that the customer should have to pay to receive this feature. Get creative and keep the lines of communication open.  You'll be glad you did.

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Going For The Discount During A Recession

Are you a bit confronted or tempted to cut your prices during this economic downturn?

J0400966 If so, you are not alone. Professional services companies are faced with this reality, too. Today, I'm here to spare you the anxiety of possibly cutting prices. Freddy Nager over at
Atomic Tango, a creative strategy agency, gave these reasons why cutting your prices could do more harm than good:

1. It sends the message that you've been ripping your customers off all this time.
2. It means you'll have difficulty increasing your prices to "normal levels" when the economy starts jamming again.
3. It kills your profit margins, so you won't have the cash to do what might really make a difference to do during a recession: better marketing.

Freddy's blog also shares the importance of marketing the value of your services. Which leads me to my next point...

Yes, times are tough in this country, but don't lose sight. Remember who you are, what your product or service brings to the market, and how it's making a difference in the businesses of your current customers. It's time to visit Sales 101. Don't let a prospect pigeonhole you into lowering your prices, instead gently remind them of the customers your product or service has already helped (name-drop) and stick to your story.

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What's A Cup Of "Joe" Worth To You?

J0438525_2 Have you ever stopped to wonder about that? When you meet with a prospect at the local coffee shop,
that eventually turns into business...what's the dollar value of that cup of Joe?

Before I go there, I must say that getting to that cup of coffee has a lot to do with what you said yesterday, last week or last month that even got you the meeting. What you used as your pitch plays a HUGE role in how you plan to keep the pipeline full of prospects/business. The key to keeping that script fresh in your mind is to rehearse it as often as possible. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Look beyond the $4.85 Vanilla many of those Lattes led to a new account? It's all in how you look at it. In fact, if you stopped reading this blog and went to your local coffee shop right now, you'll most likely see business happening all over the place. Those conversations you'll witness are far more than coffee.

Having a perfect elevator pitch isn't about big words and confusing jargon, it's about truly understanding your target market and having the ability to tug at their core emotions in 30 seconds or less whenever you're asked the coveted, sometimes dreadful, "What do you do?"

I found a useful tool to help hone in on my elevator pitch.  Practicing what you're going to say allows you to break away from the unneccesary information and get to the point of the message.       

If your coffee talks are down, maybe it's time to take a look and a listen. Grab a buddy, pitch and ask for feedback. Your pitch is your ticket to getting more time over coffee and in turn, greatly affecting your sales goal.

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What's Good Customer Service Worth?

A huge part of business is about relationship so why not invest in the relationship approach with our customers? I usually measure my customer relations factor with a simple scenario: Following up well after the sale has been completed, and the invoice submitted and paid. That takes some dedication and it’s not easy. Staying in touch takes time and commitment and it‘s easy to get bogged down in getting new business and being most concerned about the next
“big deal”.

There’s no escaping the fact that we must have a plan in place to touch our customer base. Coffee once a week, picking up the phone and calling from time-to-time, an eNewsletter or mailing out a holiday card every year, something must be done and it has to be planned or it just won’t happen.

When the economy is at its peak, many companies take a slash and burn approach to customer service because it seems that under every rock there are new business prospects just waiting in the wings. With the state of the nation slowing down, a slash and burn approach can upset end of year projections.

What is the cost of good customer service? Dollars aside, I think it’s about understanding what your customers value – it’s about sticking your neck out to give them what they want. Many things in life are measured by time or money. Most of us are more willing to give of our time than we are money and in the case of offering good customer service, I think it requires a little of both. It takes time to plan what you’re going to do and actually implementing the plan. The money part is usually consumed by the actual plan or by you taking the time to put the plan into action.

Whatever you decide, don’t let the cost of good customer service discourage you, get creative. There’s an abundance of options and ideas out there that have been created with people like us in mind who are out to take things to a different level when it comes to how we run our business. See what you can find.

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Where Has Good Customer Service Gone?

First, let me start by saying Happy New Year!

I’ve been spending most of my holiday with family and friends and overall, the experience has been refreshing.

On New Year’s Eve day, I decided to eat breakfast at a local restaurant. The experience left me thinking, ‘Where has good customer service gone?’ After being seated by the host, I decided another available location in a booth was more preferable than the table I was initially given. I asked if I could move and was surprised to hear the host say, “That’s another section, I’m not sure, let me go check.”

I didn’t need to hear the turmoil of the host not knowing and that being another section. I was expecting something like, I’m sorry that’s reserved or “Oh sure, sir, go right ahead!” Whatever happened to that?

This leads me to this post today. They say in life you should never waste an experience. Always use what you’re going through for the greater good of someone else. So I guess it’s safe to say that my turmoil is for your good.

What does it cost to retain customers vs. acquiring new ones?

According to authors Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy’s Leading on the Edge of Chaos, acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers, a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by10%, the average company loses 10% of its customers each year, a 5% reduction in customer defection rate can increase profits by 25-125%, depending on the industry and the customer profitability rate tends to increase over the life of a retained customer.

There you have it! That’s it in a nutshell. What are we doing to keep our current customers happy? It’s a matter of sales and excellent customer service. Many times the sales team is there to close the deal, then the customer is passed on to a formal customer relations program to ensure that the customer’s overall experience is managed. This is all good. In fact, I highly recommend having systems in place for retaining the customer. That’s ‘getting it’ when it comes to the profitability and success of your department or business.

I’ve been a customer of L.L.Bean for years and my experience has always been excellent. They go out of their way to accommodate my needs and they guarantee their products. Sure, I bet they get new customers logging on or entering their stores everyday to make a purchase, but they understand the value of paying attention to the customers they already have, and how profitable customer retention is to their bottom line. That’s being better than good.

The New Year is here...2008 is upon us, how are you planning to be better than good to your customer? Leave me a comment, I’m open to how we can maximize the lost art of “good customer service.” At Bizucate, we plan on making that a focus of ours for the new year.

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