Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Unhappy employees are bad for your business

According to data compiled by Bolt Insurance, a whopping 80 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs in some way. And when that dissatisfaction gets so high that employees jump ship, it can cost an average of one fifth of the employee's salary to find a replacement, not to mention the loss in productivity.
This infographic shows the industries with the highest turnover rates and what businesses can do to keep their employees more engaged in their work.

To me, beyond the monetary cost to replace an employee who has left the company, the disastrous and non-quantifiable consequences of unhappy employees are essentially a loss in productivity, a poor delivery of customer/brand experience, and ultimately a loss in the inner innovation power of the organization.

According to an analysis conducted by the Gallup Organization disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion a year due to lost productivity, because they are the lowest performing. To put it simply, if there had been engaged workers in those positions, they could have been far more productive.
Employee unhappiness can drag a company's image down. Take the example of Walmart. 
I guess it depends on the person, but I think that we can all agree that in general - perhaps with the exception of the elderly greeters - most Walmart employees don't seem particularly passionate about their jobs. I don't think I'm being unfair by saying that. Some even seem to really, really, really hate their job. I'm not judging, and I am not saying that Walmart employees should act as happy as Starbucks baristas... I can't help but wonder why they don't. Does Starbucks pay that much better than Walmart? Is serving coffee all day that much more fun than stocking or scanning stuff? Is there really that much of a difference? Is it just that working at Starbucks is cool but working at Walmart isn't? Are a person's identity and sense of self worth tied-in with the image of the company they work for? (If Starbucks is cool, then working at Starbucks makes me cool? If Walmart sucks, then working for Walmart means I suck?) Maybe, I don’t know for sure. I guess I could see a little kid wanting to grow up to be a barista: they make coffee, the coffee makes people happy, so it isn't a bad job. I don't know too many kids who would ever find working register 12 at Walmart fun or cool or rewarding.
Obviously, Walmart has an image problem, and the entire company's identity may be caught in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of substandard customer-to-brand experiences.
Unhappy employees can turn even the best companies into "have beens". In contrast, happy employees can turn even the most average companies into worthy lovebrands.

Ask yourself: Do you feel special when you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks? Do you feel special when you buy a BMW or an Apple computer? Do Starbucks, BMW and Apple employees play any role in that?
Do you feel special when you buy something at Walmart?

Do those companies' employees play any role in that? 
Do you think that those employees' sense of worth relative to their jobs has anything to do with how happy or unhappy they are to work there?
What can businesses do to address the problem? 
In his book Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh wrote about the practice of paying some employees $2,000 to quit Zappos. Though this policy may seem bizarre to some, it very likely winds up saving an organization money by preventing some of the negative outcomes mentioned above. If a very negative employee was allowed to continue acting out over a number of years, the cost to the organization in lost productivity could be much greater than $2,000.
Without being as extreme, Dave Lavinsky’s checklist to motivate employees is a very good resource.
As I
wrote in a recent blog, a more a constructive approach is an engaged and empowered workforce.

How do you motivate your team? Share your experience with us.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Marketing 3.0: lessons from the food trucks

There has been an explosion of mobile food trucks over the past decade around the country. Indianapolis has its fair share, with food trucks serving food to Super Bowl fans in February 2012.

Food trucks are an interesting case study. They were first a spin off of brick and mortar restaurants, revolutionizing the food industry by bringing food to the customers, versus bringing customers to the food like conventional restaurants.  Over the past few years, the food truck industry has embraced digital technology to take the experience to another level.

Now food trucks use Twitter and Facebook to engage their customers, informing them of their location for the day, connecting on a personal level via online technology, as well as physical contact when customers come pick up their food. In Indianapolis, you can track food trucks and follow them on Twitter @IndyFoodTruck. 

Food trucks are about business after all, but the social aspect is not to be overlooked. They are about sharing experiences with food, connecting people. What they do with FB and Twitter is an electronic version of that share.

The food truck industry is doing marketing 3.0. Marketing 3.0 is the convergence of brick and mortar business (in case of food trucks steel and tires) 1.0, using digital technology 2.0 to create a new marketing/business model 3.0.

I heard in a recent discussion someone talking about digilogue. Digilogue is the convergence of analogue and digital, in other words, brick-and-mortar world 1.0 converging with online world 2.0.

When you think of Google or Apple, I bet you think digital. However, both companies are great illustrations of what digilogue or marketing 3.0 are. 50% of Apple’s revenue is generated from its stores (1.0), the other half from online sales. Apple shaped its customer touch points strategy on the best analogue model, the Ritz-Carlton.

On a different note, Google promotes online advertising via print mailing. It mails vouchers to business and customers who can in turn credit them to their Google adwards account.

Marketing 3.0 is the combination of 1.0 physical/material channel and 2.0 digital channel. Large companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Zappos do it. How about you? Why do you think Amazon customers buy both eBooks and hardcover books? Because they like the convenience of eBooks, but can’t get away of the feeling and smell of a paper book.

People want the convenience and speed of digital, but they also want the physical connection and touch of products or front-line staff.

One challenge online businesses face is the lack of physical interaction with their customers. To bridge that gap, they have to focus on unparalleled customer service to address any questions, claims, frustrations… In a recent article, an Amazon customer expresses his frustration dealing with poor customer service from the online giant. Zappos has adopted a similar customer care model as Apple, taking inspiration for the Ritz Carlton.

Let’s go back to our food trucks. How do they leverage online technology to enhance the customer experience?

Kianta Key shares 4 lessons she learned how to use social media while growing her food truck business.
1.Digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter use geo-location technology to notify followers of your location. At low-cost, food trucks interact with their customers, promote their business and day-specials, and notify customers of their location. FB and Twitter also provide the opportunity to partner with local business and cross-promote products/events… It becomes a community gathering tool.
2.Key to success is customer engagement like any other business. The great thing about food truck is that they bring the food experience to the customers, which in itself is a big step in terms of engagement. You can take the experience further by asking followers to choose what items they want to the menu for the day, offer suggestions. In other words, you personalize the experience and make customers feel engaged.
3.Strategy to engage customers is vain if you don’t follow up and respond rapidly to customers’ claims and requests. Follow-up is key to sustaining customer engagement. Customer engagement is about create a dialogue (two-way conversation), not a monologue where you just promote your business and notify of your location.
4.Emotional and personal connection is essential in developing long-term relationships with your customers. Sharing your story is a way to build that relationship, providing genuine content, not just promotional content. Let customers be part of your story telling.

Content becomes as important as context. Combining business 1.0 with technology 2.0 helps organizations create a new marketing/business model 3.0. 

Share your stories.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What the F.... groups!

About 18 months ago I attended my first Centric event (Centric is Indianapolis' innovation think-tank). The theme was “Innovation is the shit”, or how Delta Faucet, well known for making faucets, came to manufacture toilets. It was a provocative title (and presentation), which focused on how deep consumer insight research can bring innovation.  

I do agree that innovation is the shit.

How do you gather consumer feedback to bring innovation to your company? There are 3 main channels to collect consumer feedback. Focus groups, CRM/Big Data and consumer insight research.

This cartoon describes perfectly how it is hard to translate consumer’s feedback into a product. Along the way the message is lost in translation.

The danger of focus groups is that they make us feel like we’re getting close to our customers, which is good, right? The problem comes when we ask focus groups questions which they are not really equipped to answer. If you are trying to figure out which advertising approach to use, focus groups are great for getting comparative feedback on how people react to different ideas. If you want to get a handle on what people are thinking about a particular topic right now, focus groups are excellent. But they are not very good for helping us invent the future. This is because customers invited to be part of focus groups have their brain or their mind already formatted in a certain way.  Their brain is pre-conditioned. Some of them come with their own agenda; others are easily influenced by “leaders” in the group; others are just there for the fun or the money, in other words not fully committed. You will never get objective, unbiased information from focus groups. According to Doug McColgin from Collidea, “focus groups are a great tool for validation, but are decidedly lacking when it comes to inspiration. If you're trying to get consumer insights from a focus group, you are depending on consumers to deliver objective truth on your topic from memory. This creates numerous problems: people like to give the answer they think you want to hear, people are swayed by others' opinions, people's perceptions differ from reality, and many opportunities lie in details that don't seem relevant enough to bring up”.

There has been a lot of emphasis on CRM and Big Data the past few years. CRM can be the enabler to driving significant improvements in marketing and sales performance – and significantly improved customer service, however its direct impact on innovation has yet to be defined. Database analysis allows marketers to get a more accurate idea of consumer preferences, tracking behavior across channels and synthesizing the information to render more complete behavioral pictures. CRM and Big Data are great at keeping records on buys and preferences, tracking present trends and identifying what might be future trends. However, both track only existing and expressed behavior, that is consumer habits from a plethora of data. Unlike focus groups or consumer insight research, with CRM/Big Data you don’t get the emotional behavior of the consumer. Big data is good at understanding the what and when of consumer habits. Consumer insight research captures the why and how. According to a study by Gartner, the leading Information Technology research firm, only 50% of Fortune-1000 companies using CRM systems reap a significant return on their investment.

People don’t know what they want. Focus groups or CRM can’t express what people don’t know they want. Tim Kastelle wrote a very good article about how he found out he was buying Coke for the wrong reason. According to Doug McColgin, “going out into the consumers' world is far more effective for exploring what could be. Observational research, or watching a consumer interact with products in their natural environment can provide value in several ways. Compensatory behaviors, or ways consumers will teach themselves to work around poor design or find unintended applications for existing products, can be the basis for a new product. Differences between what consumers say they do and what they really do can provide a foundation for new marketing copy. There's no substitute for entering into the end-users' world to see and hear and experience life as they know it”. Deep consumer insight research enables companies to uncover unmet and unknown needs. Needs that consumers don’t know they have, or simply can’t express it.

In other words, companies need to FUnK up the way they think.

How does your company understand its customers’ needs? How does consumer insight drive innovation in your company?

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to create customer engagement by providing a unique experience

In our saturated marketplace and overload information era, it is harder and harder to make personal connections and engage with customers. Customers are never more than a text, search, tweet, post or question to Google or Siri away from finding another option to fulfill their needs if you can't get it done. Same process if they're just not having the experience with you that they expected. Customers have become so volatile, unpredictable and their consumer behavior so hard to track. How do you get customers back to stick to your brand and buy your products? By creating a unique experience that will engage and connect them to your brand.

In one of his blogs, Harry Klein suggests companies should move from B2B and B2C to P2P (People to People).

Engage and empower your workforce

Good social adoption starts with a focus on people, not the technology. It is important to get your employees engaged because customer engagement is a shared responsibility across the organization. Great customer experiences come from great employee experiences. In order to engage customers with you brand, your people must be empowered to create a unique experience, across all functions. From R&D (designing or creating a new product – see Apple products), to production (manufacture zero-default product), to marketing (tell a story, create a unique message), to sales (sales people don’t sell a product, they must sell a vision and an experience), to customer service (your customer service staff must be empowered to resolve customers’ complaints themselves and instantly without escalating to a supervisor – the Zappos way)… Every employee must be empowered to recognize a customer engagement opportunity and act on it.
That means investing in people and processes, as well as technology. Finding ambassadors within your company to champion social media, and selecting tools for your business that your employees use at home, can help to promote social behaviors internally. Gamification principles are a growing way to encourage adoption and social-savviness within your organization. When implemented correctly, with added consultancy and strategy, it acts as an essential element to ensure adoption at all levels by addressing individual's specific drivers and needs.    

Get personal with your customers
To maximize customer engagement, it is important to nurture your prospects as individuals, with their own stories, rather than anonymous transactions. Social media channels are a key way to interact with customers and build those human relationships. A recent webinar titled High-Tech Tuesday Webinar: Profile of Marketing as a Technology Buyer hosted by Laura McLellan speaks to this point. Social media (84%), digital content creation (79%) and digital advertising (76%) are the three most common digital marketing strategies companies are planning on. The sample includes both B2C and B2B companies. Of these, social media is the most effective in creating and sustaining communication with an entirely new segment of customers that aren’t being listened to today.
Missed opportunities like these cost companies revenue in the short term and damage brands for the long term.
Customers are more informed and have more choice than ever before, so if their expectations aren't met, they'll move on quickly. Engaged customers, however, reward consistently strong service by spending more and becoming influential brand advocates on social channels.

The key here is to use all marketing channels (social media, customer service line, sales force…) to TELL YOUR STORY.

Why Storytelling?

  • Storytelling is a proven way to develop brand identity, build your client base, and increase sales.
  • "Humans remember stories," says Christina Cheng, area manager of the Chicago Magnificent Mile AT&T store. "So explaining things with stories instead of specs is a much easier way for people to understand how technology can help them."
  • In this era of over flooded information, storytelling is the best way to differentiate your company from competitors, to create a unique experience for your customers.
  • Stories immediately focus on engagement, experiences, and emotion – key customer touchpoints.
  • Narrative makes your message relevant and memorable through personalization.
  • Through narrative, you can create campaigns to challenge the big players, even on small budgets.
  • Storytelling conveys to customers, the media, and investors the information, hard facts, and dry data they need in an easily digestible way.
  • Creative narrative is guaranteed to get people’s attention and keep your business front of mind.
In short, narrative can be extremely powerful and can do great things for YOUR business. Every business has a story to tell. What is YOUR story?

Create advocates

When customers are engaged, you become their primary buying choice. They are loyal. They become advocates for your company. With social media, engaged customers can – and do – endorse your company to tens of thousands of people instantly.

By taking the time to listen to your customers across social channels, your organization can become empowered to turn a customer's negative experience into a positive one. A potential public relations disaster can become a positive story for if your company responds to customer complaints on social media (Twitter, Facebook) in a light-hearted and personal manner, winning your consumers back. The best way to turn your customers into advocates is to own mistakes, failures and successes. Be accountable. After all, we are all humans.

More than 70% of customers will spend more with a company because of a history of good service. That's where the real upside potential is for companies. And it's why customer engagement is set to overtake productivity as the primary driver of profitable growth.

Social media is a key channel for mobilizing customer engagement in this interactive economy.  Customers are truly engaged when they feel known and that is what the best use of social media can achieve.

The Whole Foods experience
Whole Foods is a great example about creating a
unique experience. In addition to the in-store experience, the company has been successfully executing its social media marketing plan, playing a significant role in its growth, by engaging customers and turning them into advocates.
Its social media strategy is built around the company website and 6 additional social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, their blog, and recent additions of Foursquare and Pinterest.

Its Twitter accounts are used primarily as a customer service tool, responding to individual customer questions and requests. Whole Foods even has several niche twitter accounts for such specialty topics as wine and cheese, as well as separate accounts for most of the local stores.

Whole Foods’ Facebook and blog platforms allow the company to promote widely its product information, health, recipes, or cooking tips, engaging as well as educating its customers. It also uses both platforms to develop its brand awareness.

Here are several key reasons why Whole Foods social media strategy is a successful difference maker for its marketing campaign:

1. Whole Foods, while a large, international company, puts priority on the local component of its strategy. There is a community manager assigned at every store, who manages customer engagement through multiple platform accounts. The company focuses on being where the customers are.

2. The company’s decision making process is decentralized, with very loose control from corporate headquarters. The HQ assist and collaborate, but the local stores are empowered and keep lots of freedom of initiative.

3. All of the efforts are continually focused on improving relevancy of customer engagement. Whole Foods is not afraid to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.

4. Each social media platform has its primary objectives – with some flexibility and adaptability maintained. All platforms are fully integrated in the social media strategy, each playing a different role.

5. The company believes in letting customer engagement and conversation occur as naturally as possible. Whole Foods listens, observes and applies new ideas from what it learns from customers.

Which ones can you apply to your business?  Share your experience.