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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BlackBerry Ltd working with Google Inc to secure Android devices

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I loved blackberry. When it came out, I was so addicted. My first blackberry was a pink blackberry pearl. I didn’t know how I had ever lived without a phone like this before. It did everything I needed it too, and while I wasn’t overly pleased with having to add a data package for the first time, BBM changed my life. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever text at all.

I was a staunch blackberry supporter and refused to support Apple products. I am Canadian, and I was going to support a Canadian over American company any day!
Being Canadian, we didn’t have a Silicon Valley so to speak, but Waterloo, Ontario became the place to be. Blackberry offered flexible working situations for its employees allowing work from homes most of the time and on the odd occasion coming into the office.

I applied for a community manager role, and went through 3 interviews. I was so thrilled, and with the career path I had chosen, it would have meant everything to me to work at Blackberry.

I was offered the role with Rogers Digital Media which I ended up taking after also being offered a position with Telus. I questioned my decision at the time, and wondered if walking away from Blackberry was the right decision for my career.

Little did I know, that shortly after that Blackberry would start unhinging. I held on to my blackberry at all costs. Eventually however, I couldn’t deny where things were shifting and I gave in to an iPhone and iPad.

I hope that this strategic move from Blackberry, can help a Canadian legend closer to the global tech giant they once were.

Financial Post

Waterloo-based Blackberry Ltd. has forged a partnership with Google Inc.’s new Android for Work service, enabling cross-platform business enterprise on BlackBerry devices, according to an announcement on Wednesday.

As BlackBerry’s market share continues to dwindle – 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2014 – the company has shifted its approach to competitors, most notably Google’s Android operating system, allowing Android apps to run on the company’s BlackBerry 10 platform. With the latest version of BlackBerry’s operating system (10.3.1), many Android applications are now accessible directly through BB10’s Amazon Appstore app, although a number of them suffer from compatibility issues.

BlackBerry also created a partnership with Samsung late last year that brought the company’s popular BES 12 enterprise mobile device management software to Samsung Android devices.

“I am not afraid of competing when I know I am more nimble. I never think [that] going alone is the right strategy. But we have a value add that…

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Big Data: Do Analytics really work?

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It seems that the big buzz word today is “Big Data”.  Every where you turn someone, somewhere is discussing what “big data” means for companies, and digital teams, and business models!  The questions is…is big data working?  By that I mean, as digital strategists, planners, UX ers, community managers…. how does big data really work for us>

The aim of the game is that we are all supposed to be forward looking right?  We’re supposed to be anticipating where we should take things for our brands and tightening that bond with our audiences.  Analytics, for the most part – took place in the past.

Yeah -it already happened.  And it’s not necessarily a predictor of where we should be going, no?  Especially when you consider that people use technology based on what is given to them and not necessarily on how they would like to use it.  I liken that to the debate that companies have around deciding whether to mobile optimize a site or go responsive based on the data around how users visit their site.  If mobile devices show as a lower proportion of the audience visits, then what does that really say about the audience.

The questions becomes – are the users desk top users and therefore that is the user base to cater for, or is it that because the site is only built for desktop experiences, mobile users are frustrated and forced to use their desktops?

Big data means that we have to consider that this data from the past, may not actually be a true reflection of how users want to use our digital properties but rather how they try to use it based on its limitations.  Our job is to think about the future and anticipate those changes or identify the gaps that big data just won’t give us.

We have to be creative in filling those gaps, through survey’s, mapping customer experiences, understanding drop off rates and the user flow that took place before a user leaves a site –  to create the story of what that digital experience needs to be in the future where data doesn’t exist.

6 Canadians among final 100 up for one-way trip to Mars

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I just had to re-post this blog because as Canadian how could you not be fascinated by other Canadians who are brave enough to risk their lives for the rest of mankind?

Maybe this might the moment (or at least in the next 9 years) that all people on earth finally start to realize that we are one kind -race and religion have no baring on our future.  Our future will be based on human collaboration.

In order to survive the next ventures that are going to exist for our species, we are all going to have rise above the pettiness of fighting for land and ideologies. It will be this planet with or against other intergalactic species in the pursuit of exploration, technology, energy and co-habitation.

Taking warring ways beyond our stratosphere can have no positive contribution to our civilization and our ability to advance as a species.

Global News

WATCH: Two B.C. women are among 100 semi-finalists around the world for the “Mars One” mission to the red planet. Ted Chernecki reports.

A half-dozen Canadians remain in the running for a controversial plan by a Dutch-based organization to establish a colony on Mars by 2025.

Mars One, the non-profit organization spearheading the project, says the six Canadians include four people from Ontario and two from British Columbia.

READ MORE: N.S. man out of running to live on Mars

A seventh Canadian, a 29-year-old man from the Yukon, who was also selected, dropped out for personal reasons.

The organization says the four women and two men are among a group of about 100 from which they will select a final 24 people to man the missions.

One year ago, 75 Canadians were selected from more than 202,000 who applied in 2012.

Mars One says the mission will cost about $6 billion…

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Updated: To Centralize or Not Centralize Digital

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I was inspired to write this post because of taking a new role, and having had the opportunity (at this point in my career) to see all variations and attempts at different digital business models.

While digital is a technology driven field, I do think that there lies some significant differences between digital and IT. For these reasons, there are markers between the two and for the most part the people who play in these arenas are able to identify them while understanding where the blur is. At the same time we understand that we also need one another.

All that said, I think that digital taking on IT business models may no longer the most efficient use of time and resources. Digital is considered disruptive in nature. It surprises me just how much of an IT business model digital departments adopted in the push to centralize things, rather than looking for business models that challenged the traditional architectures of what frustrated digital people about IT in the first place.

Without a doubt there is need to have a centralized place where there can be an inventory of digital assets, and aligning with enterprise wide technologies, standards and securities.  I agree that it makes sense to have guardians of the realm so that people aren’t running all willy nilly all over the place inventing broken experiences and orphaned or abandoned digital assets.  I get it.  I really do.  And more than anything I am a big proponent of not allowing things like this to happen in companies because of negative brand impact, user experience and more critically adoption and engagement that is such a central focus of Digital ROI and big data.

That said, most digital departments really need to look at their business model.  In small to mid sized companies a completely centralized digital business model makes sense.  They are more agile and flexible, making adapting to change and new technologies less rigid.

However, once you move into larger organizations this stops being efficient.  Now you have business units competing for dollars, shifted around as priorities of importance and girdlocked in process that allows technology and user experiences to become outdated and frustrating. This very quickly turns into brand trust and perception, things that take forever to develop and can so easily be broken.

Digital fluency needs to exist in all areas of the business, all the more reason why centralizing digital no longer makes sense as a business model.

Here is the structure I propose and why digital needs to become a more decentralized business model:

  1. Each business unit should have a dedicated digital team that controls, manages and governs their digital assets.  This dedicated team needs to sit within the unit to best understand the business needs, audience and goals they are trying to achieve.
  2. Having a dedicated team means that there needs to be dotted line reporting.  These roles should ultimately roll up into digital but have a dotted line reporting structure into the business unit.
  3. Vendor contract negotiation and relationship management for any technology that plugs into digital assets for the business unit, should reside in this group.  Ultimately at the end of the day, vendor shortfalls impact the digital experience.  Users have one experience.  They can’t see the difference.  If a vendor isn’t delivering which ultimately impacts brand perception and users, this group needs to have the authority to let them go and find better options.
  4. Digital Departmental budgets.  More and more independent business units need to begin considering that their budgets need to be inclusive of digital spends.  IT needs to take care of the enterprise wide infrastructure without a doubt.  Parametres need to be set, however digital departments within the unit should have their own budgets to provide ongoing website maintenance, ad hoc campaigns, or added features that may not have risen to the top of the IT priority and budget chain enterprise.
  5. This structure should also remove lock downs on existing or new digital assets.  It made sense in the past to have front end dev, CMS’s and SEO locked down in old world structures.  People in the business unit  were not digital or tech savvy enough to understand what they were doing or the ramifications of what an error on their end could cause.  With digital people in existence, much of this has changed, therefore the ability to do front end things needs to be opened up to allow for customization and elements that may short term in nature.
  6. Lead the overall strategy with regards to device roll outs within the unit. Sounds insane right?  But digital needs to work closely with the business unit and with IT to determine what makes the most sense.  Otherwise you end up in what I call the digital  “black hole.”  That’s the place where your sales team all got new iPads that would enhance their abilities in the field all while the enterprise infrastructure and business unit technology was never optimized or able to support a mobile experience.
  7. Regular regroups with the enterprise wide digital team.  Being ultimately tied back and part of the digital team, means that regular meetings need to happen.  Weekly with the reporting manager, and monthly with the digital team as a whole.  This would allow for idea sharing, resolution sharing, and identifying what the common trends are across the enterprise that may require deeper and more extensive research or dedication.

 

A CIO’s Christmas List

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I know that this is a little early in the year – but I don’t know if this just for CIO’s or for any techie. In 2013 I posted my list for tech girls, 2014 my cousin posted this…. it gives everyone a full year to get thinking about their techy loved ones.

A CIO's Voice

aciosvoice.jpg2014 has been a great year. Things are looking better. Hopefully the momentum will carry into 2015.

I have tried to be really good by being the best CIO I can. So Santa, this year, I would like the following:

  • Apple iPhone 6 plus. I have decided bigger is better but I haven’t figured out how to carry it.
  • A development team that can hit the ground running and fix code quickly.
  • An approved IT budget where I don’t have to make drastic cuts and figure out how to do more with so much less.
  • A migration plan to get legacy applications into the cloud.
  • Not to be hacked by foreign governments.
  • One of those toy helicopters. I think your elves are messing with us. I have yet to fly one of those straight and have it last longer than 3 days without breaking it.
  • A new set of golf clubs…

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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.