Public Relations

Customer Experience: A Mercedes Benz Example

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This post is incredibly timely based on my discussions and posts surrounding customer experience.  The Big Data talks is about all of this.  Leveraging data throughout an organization to understand the customer journey, in order to enhance the customer experience.  This is what is going to differentiate brands.

In October of 2014, Loyalty 360 reported that Mercedes Benz CEO advised that Customer Experience is the New Marketing.   I am in fact a Mercedes Benz owner.  I love my car.  In fact, when I gotten into the market for an entry level luxury car 4 years ago Mercedes was my front runner.  I test drove Audi, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes Benz a number of times.  In the end, Benz won out anyways.

It was the first time in my life that I truly understood a man’s obsession and love for a vehicle.  When my dad suggested that I go to Wal-Mart for all season mats and a snow remover, I looked at him like he has a third head.  Was he nuts?  I wanted all Mercedes Benz things for my baby. I wanted to be part of the Mercedes Benz experience.  I wanted to be known as a Mercedes Benz owner, because to me it symbolized that I had the best.  It meant that I was going places, and I was going places because I wanted the best out of life.

This is branding at its strongest.  Having a customer associate their lifestyle and personality as a reflection of a brand because of what that experience means.  I give leniency on the road to other Benz owners, I tend to look for parking beside other Benz’s because I already know those owners will respect my car, and should we happen to see each other getting in or out of our cars their is always a friendly nod and smile.

I recently had to switch banks because of an employer change. I took a day off of work and made sure to take care of it all because I wanted peace of mind.  So you can imagine my surprise when over a month later my car payment bounced in my old account causing an NSF charge that pushed the account into an overdraft that I didn’t have.

Switching my banking information with Mercedes Benz was fairly simple compared to some other companies I had to deal with.  I just had to send an e-mail with a scanned void cheque (unlike other companies that required me to fill out another PAP agreement, provide ID, a void cheque and either fax or go in in person).

Mercedes Benz claimed that they had not received the e-mail despite me forwarding through the e-mail I sent to them originally a month prior.

They needed more time to investigate and in the interim a second attempt for payment went through the old account with a secondary NSF charge.  Thankfully this time my bank reversed the charge because I had put a stop payment on the account.

In the end Mercedes agreed to reverse the NSF.  I felt really elated.  So thank you Mercedes Benz Financial for doing so.

But what could have been done to make it a better customer experience for me and ensure customer retention?

  1. Mercedes Benz Financial could allow customers to change their banking information on their website.  This is where customers go to check their balances and payment history, and would make tracking of online activity and confirmation so much easier.
  2. Empower customer services representatives to be able to to act immediately for the customer rather than confining them.  By looking at the activity on my accounts, calls made, and the correspondence they would have noticed that I had been with them for 4 years, there had never ever been a missed or bounced payment, and that my finance was coming up for renewal.
  3. The data Mercedes Benz has on me would have given them pretty powerful insights into my behaviours, patterns and interests.  They also have had call profile outlining the reasons I call them and whether I am difficult or easy to appease.

Using these insights and empowering their reps can save them thousands of dollars in efficiencies and provide a best in class customer experience.  While I can’t say that I would change my car (because I do love the brand and the car), I do see great areas of opportunity for a beloved brand to kick things up a notch, to provide an even greater brand experience.

 

 

 

 

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What Jian Ghomeshi has Taught Everyone About Digital Communications

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CBC_JianGhomeshi-394Like many Canadians, I’ve been watching Jian Ghomeshi’s personal and professional life collide in a cataclysmic way.  Some could argue that when you are a celebrity the lines between personal and professional are blurred, and much of what most people wouldn’t lose sleep over are things celebrities need to think twice, three times or even eleven times about.

I’m not going to get into what my personal thoughts are regarding this case.  I think this needs to be tried in court of law and not in the court of public opinion, however the fact that much of this is taking place in the realm of public opinion brings me to the point of this post.

Everyone has a personal brand, many people’s personal brands are tied to their professions, many of these professions use digital tools in public to promote and/or talk about their work.  My blog is an example of that for me.

Jian chose to use the digital space to begin the dialouge about his personal situation.  On October 26, he tweeted this, which links to a very serious and very public Facebook Post. As of this post, his tweet has been re-tweeed 5,400 times, and those re-tweets will also be re-tweeted. I assume he was doing this to take control of a  situation that he suspected would spiral out of control.

What Jian needed was to have a strategy in place for his digital identity.  Sounds silly right?  Like, how in the world during a personal crisis would anyone stop and plan?  The fact is, most businesses have regular communications plans in place, but they also have crisis communications plans there as well.  Those plans are created when there isn’t a crisis and when everyone was level headed and thinking clearly.

We’ve watched many celebrities have digital melt downs (Charlie Sheen, Amanda Bynes – who’s still having one apparently).  Their public posts and commentary resurface in media stories or as evidence in court. For Jian, his statements made about consensual sex and safe words are things that he will be held too, especially now that there is a pending police investigation.

What could celebrities do to plan for a potential digital crisis?

  1. Create separate accounts, one for their personal use and the other for their professional use.
  2. Use their personal account for close family and friends, and their professional accounts for work related activity – this would definitely include “stunts” that they want leaked as private.
  3. Determine a digital crisis communications “team”, including approval and posting processes.
  4. Ensure that their management team has access to their professional accounts.  This would assist in someone being able to take control of the brand in the event the user becomes reactionary to negative circumstances, or in the worst case scenario…if it needed to be shut down and deleted.  (Hey – this is also an option and a completely viable and realistic option.  Sometimes if the situation is bad enough you just don’t need millions of people hurling insults at your brand that you can get real time notifications about.)
  5. Craft messaging that is consistent around all of their digital channels, that is practical given the situation.  Not everyone needs to know everything.  (The media can leak things all the want, but you will have your chance to defend your brand publicly.  Your digital spaces just might not be the appropriate channels.)
  6. Think of the tough questions that may be directed towards them during the crisis and what the decision will be on answering them via digital channels.  (Direct to a spokesperson, provide a phone number, a blanketed statement, advise that the individual will not be using their accounts for some time).

I know I’ve labelled this a digital crisis communications plan for celebrities, but realistically this applies to anyone and everyone who has developed a digital brand presence.

The Future of Communications and Marketing in Digital

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digital-communications-interns1Today in the market we see a lot of jobs that are geared to having communications or marketing practitioners “specialized” in digital media.  Is this the way that the industry will move forward?

Here is the thing… in certain regards it makes sense that you have individuals who are familiar with publications, or broadcast and of course digital.  However, a well rounded practitioner should be well versed in all areas of communications.  As we move forward with technology, more and more it becomes apparent that these mediums bleed into one another, and have become tripods with each one depending on the other.

Yes there are definitely shifts in the way organizations spend their advertising/communications/pr dollars, with more moving away from print and into digital.  That being said, it does not mean that all the mediums disappear and one will emerge the champion.  Audiences consume information in so many different ways, and the most  important decision you need to make as a practitioner is where to find them, if that medium makes sense for your target and what you are trying to achieve.

When you divide the three mediums so specifically, you end up with departments that compete for dollar spends based on their specific “specialty”.  I’m not disputing that it does not make sense that happens, but I will say that divisions like that mean that it becomes a personal interest on obtaining larger dollars, rather than whether or not it makes overall sense for a campaign or an organizational objective.

I firmly believe that at this juncture in the evolution of our industry, being a digital specialist should not exist.  I’ve mentioned this before, and I will mention this again – digital is another medium.  It is another tool in the tool belt for marketing and communications practitioners to use.  There should be no reason why anyone on any team should not be familiar with all three mediums, have some exposure to all of them, and have a firm grasp and understanding how they all should be used.

Teams should be educated in all ways that each of the mediums change.  That being said, I also believe that every professional should have a vested interest in self education and keeping themselves current and relevant as well.  The future of digital in these professions is that it will be common place – as it is in every day life already.

Strategic Communications and Public Relations

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Targeted-Magnify-XSmallHaving had the opportunity to become a well rounded communications practitioner, it is really interesting to see how people use the word “strategic” when speaking about executional things. It’s almost as though the word “Strategy” or “Strategic” has become a buzz word and somewhere along the line, it does get confused with tactics and/or execution.

Press releases, websites, contests, a page in a magazine, a commercial, Facebook pages, Twitter pages – these are all the tactics.  HOW you use them and your plan for that, should be tied into a bigger concept that is then linked into a specific objective.  Confusion over the word “strategy” is prevalent in all communication/marketing disciplines and this truly impacts creative as well.  Creative is encompassed into a large part of what we do and being creative also requires strategic thinking.

This post was inspired by my friend and colleague Lisa,  (@lisawrites) when speaking about the creative process and creative strategy.  Much like the communications process, the creative idea (images, layout, copy and design) has to link to some overarching theme that does inspire, engage or cause something to happen.  Pretty or Twitter or a Website are not a strategy, but they are definitely tools that can be used to make something happen or reach an objective.

As common as this is, I do encourage communications and creative teams to think like this:

  1. What is your organizations overall objective?
  2. What is your organization’s overall goal/s for the year?  How do you understand these goals linking into achieving their objective?  (Not sure – then ask!)
  3. How is this campaign or idea going to help the organization achieve the above two things?
  4. What is the main objective for this campaign?  How does it link to your organization’s objective?
  5. What are your goals for this campaign and how does that tie into your organizational goals for the year?
  6. Who are you trying to reach?  Why do you need to reach them? (Creative teams need all the above information and absolutely need to be linked in at this point and moving forward)
  7. When do you reach out to them?  What do you want them to do/say/think/believe?
  8. Where are they? How will you reach them?  (Here are the tactics!  See how far down the list it is?  All the other stuff needs to happen first before we get here!)
  9. How will you know if what you want them to do is being done? – In other words – what are your metrics of success or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
  10. What are your benchmarks?  What will you do if your KPI’s are not performing the way you would like?  What other areas of support will put into this?  What is your plan B?

Once you have these in your pocket you can execute.  By no means am I implying that this step by step process is linear at all! In most cases, it will be more matrix like with lots of back and forths and adjustments, all while being sensitive to deadlines and budgets.  As a rule of thumb I try to follow the above.  Now, more than ever in my career (especially because I work production focused advertiser initiatives a.k.a – the actual execution), I see how critical the above steps are.  Not all campaigns will perform the way you hoped, but that also means there are key learnings that can be pulled from that to understand your organization and its objectives even better.

5 steps to Social Media Readiness

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Photo credit: www.socialable.co.uk
Photo credit: http://www.socialable.co.uk

Ready… set… go…..

Buzz words are great – and in all aspects of business we hear them.  However, when working in the digital and communications space what does the term: “social media readiness” actually mean?  While it can vary by organization to organization, in a nutshell it means: how ready are you or your organization for engagement into the social media space.

In one of my former roles as a Marketing and Communications Manager,  I would hear almost every day directly from the CEO how we needed to use social media to promote their product.  Due to the company culture it was very much,  a “do it first and ask questions later” atmosphere.  The idea of marketing and the focus on being executional/tactical in nature first,  superseded the notion of ensuring that the company was ready to do it or that they actually understood what they were doing while doing it.  The largest mistake that any company can make in marketing and communications is to put the cart before the horse.  Once you put something out there, especially online – it is there.  Reflecting your company, your brand and your products.

This organization was not ready for social media.  They understood it in theory, and they definitely understood the execution – “Put a video on Youtube”, “Start a Facebook page”…. but had no long term strategy, or any idea what they should be doing with their social assets past that. So, how can you do a temperature check?  Here are 5 steps to take in finding out how ready your organization is for social media:

      1. Executive level buy in:  You definitely need to ensure that your leadership is in support of the idea.  Some might be, and some might not be – some may not understand it at all.  To erase some uneasiness it might require some education around social media products.  These can include business case studies with organizations that are similar in nature to yours – or if you are willing – using your own personal accounts to demonstrate how things can work positively.
      2. Educational tools:  Even if an organization understands the practice of using certain social media networks, you can create or provide tools that make things easy for them to digest and stay current. Hubspot provides a lot of great white papers and e-books that can be easily disseminated or referenced.  In my former roll as a Communications Coordinator for the Government, I actually created a social media dictionary to assist our senior management team in learning the lingo.
      3. Social Media Policies: OK – so naturally your leadership is going to have concerns around all the possible things that could go sideways if they enter into this space, from employees exposing secret info publicly to the public bashing them.  Work with them to create social media policies that they feel comfortable with; if possible check with your legal and HR teams to make sure everything is covered.  If all else fails – there are a ton of templates online.  Hey, we are in the age of sharing!
      4. Don’t scare your staff: Your biggest fans are right under your nose.  The people who live and breath your organization everyday.  Once you have buy in – don’t leave them out of the education process!  They can be your organizations biggest advocates and evangelists online.  Keep them in the loop and ensure that they understand your social media policies and procedures.  Give them some ownership and a voice and you will see how quickly things can become viral!
      5. Put pen to paper:  Plan!  Like any other communications or marketing initiative you must have a plan in place.  If you work for an organization that doesn’t see the importance of this run!  As the saying goes – fail to plan, plan to fail.  Except that you would be letting the organization fail publicly in a space that spreads information at rapid fire speed.  A social media plan should outline the networks most relevant to your organizations needs, how you intend on using them, content plans and schedules and how that integrates with your overall marketing plan.

The Pinterest…..

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Image

I would love to be able to tell you that Pinterest is the hot “new” thing.  But in the world of digital things move so rapidly that it I can’t say that this is the case.

As with all other social media platforms, this is just another medium that can be used to an organizations or an individuals advantage.  The interesting thing with Pinterest is of course that there tends to be a lot more repinning than the addition of new content, but I think what it best does is really institute the shift of perception in sharing things.

That beings said, as with all hyped social media platforms business are wondering how they can use Pinterest to their advantage.  Here are some things to consider before embarking into a new social medium:

  1. What is the core function of your organization?  Does it require a visual component?
  2. What is the mandate or objective of your communications and marketing departments?  Just because a new social media platform arises, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it or that it can serve your organization and communication objectives.
  3. Determine if you have sub-brands or products that could works for this particular medium.
  4. Go ahead and register the company and/or product name with Pinterest.  Even if you decide not to use it, you’ve at least acquired ownership of your name.

My two cents?  I think Pinterest should partner with Instagram.  Who knows, by the time this post hits that may have already happened 😉

Digital Media Summit 2012

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I had the pleasure of recently attending the Social Media Summit, and the celebrity guest speaker was out of this world! Arianna Huffington was charming, hilariously funny and made it easy to feel like you had known her all your life. I think the most important piece of information that I garnered from (other than what it takes to be totally fabulous), is that getting into the digital space has nothing to do with age or even understanding the full capacity of it. Arianna noted that people told her that she was not young enough to be getting into a space that was for young people – and well – I guess the proof is the pudding, no? An AOL deal of $315 million USD I think is a very large and loud statement of whether or not she made the right decision.