Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Magazine Inserts: Missed Marketing Opportunity

I subscribe to a few magazines and come across dozens more every month. One thing I've noticed is that there seems to be a major missed opportunity with magazine inserts: marketing to subscribers.

When you subscribe to a magazine, you get the same blow-in inserts as the newsstand version. Why? Wouldn't it make more sense to, perhaps, thank the subscriber for reading the magazine and give him a value added bonus? Or a tailor-made message exclusively for subscribers? Just something that separates the subscriber base from the newsstand base, and gives a more personal, rewarding quality for the most loyal readers.

My thinking is that subscribers shouldn't be subjected to continuous "Subscribe Now!" postcards when they already do receive the magazine every month. Printing those kinds of cards are pestering to subscribers and generally just a waste of paper. And a missed marketing opportunity for the magazine publishers.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Learn from the Boss

Last night I caught about 15 minutes of a concert on TV featuring Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I've never seen "The Boss" live and while I do like a good many of his songs, I wouldn't say he's necessarily one of my favorite musicians. That said, I think there's a lot we can learn from this rugged rocker and superstar.

The biggest thing that I noticed about this performance was that he was loving every minute of it. He had a huge smile while singing the lyrics to "Rosalita", he was ripping it on guitar, and dripping in sweat. The crowd was having a blast and singing along. He and his band are legendary over the past few decades for putting on concerts that last three hours or more and getting the audience involved the whole time. Even though I wasn't there live, I could feel the energy the whole time.

As I watched his performance and thought about our daily lives, I realized that if us average Joes were to have one tenth of Bruce's energy, passion, and happiness when doing our jobs, this world would be a much better place. Unfortunately, most of us (myself included at times) just mail it in and don't go all out like he does, but maybe we should all give it a shot. Our daily interactions would improve, we would be happier at our jobs, and we would likely live fuller lives.

Now those would be some Glory Days.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Crabby Customer Service

Today I had the privilege of having lunch with my lovely wife after she went for an ultrasound for our overdue baby (41 weeks and counting!). Being in Northeast Philly, we decided to go to an old haunt that we haven't visited in a while-- Chickie's & Pete's on Roosevelt Boulevard. For those of you who have never been there, it's a sports bar that specializes in sandwiches like hot roast pork, as well as crab legs, and crab fries with cheese dipping sauce. Good food, plenty of booze, and always a packed house during any weekend or televised local sporting event, but pretty quiet for a weekday lunch.

So we opened the menus and found a lunch special page. For $8.99 you can get a sandwich, a choice of one side (e.g. fries), and a beverage. Without specifically asking for the lunch special, I ordered a soda, a sandwich, and fries, which I said I would split with my wife since the baskets of fries are quite large. My wife got a sandwich and soda. (Okay, so we didn't fare too well on the healthy eating options scale, but hey, we might not get back there for ages, so why not splurge today, right?)

The meal is served, we scarf it down and enjoy it all. Then we get the bill. Now, mind you, I/we probably could have been more specific when ordering, but the receipt listed each individual item we ordered separately, as opposed to it showing one (or arguably two) lunch specials. As a result, the total cost came out to about $21, rather than $18 ($8.99 x 2). So we pointed this out to the waiter and he says "since you split the fries it doesn't count as a lunch special," or something to that effect, and that if we had specified the lunch specials, we actually would have gotten two baskets of fries (which would have been way to much for us). In sum, we paid more for less.

I wasn't in the mood to argue over a couple of bucks, or call over the manager and make a big scene, so I just let it be. But common sense, or a customer-first attitude, would have sparked one of two options in this young man's brain:

1. When we ordered, he saw that we were looking at the lunch specials page, so he should have asked if we wanted the lunch specials, or he should have said, since you're both ordering sandwiches and sodas and one basket of fries, you can get another basket of fries added on, all for about equal or less money.

2. Or, that not having had happened, he could have said, "Yes, you are correct, let me fix that bill for you."

Neither logical situation crossed through his head, so instead we wound up leaving annoyed, and he wound up with a less generous tip than he otherwise would have earned. So it goes with customer service.

Next time, when I take my wife AND soon-to-be son there, I hope it will work out better!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Good Customer Service Is All Bark AND All Bite

Today I had an interesting chat on IM with my friend who had a negative customer service experience, and we discussed just how important it is get good customer service in order to be happy with a what you're buying.

Here's his scenario, briefly:

My friend's wife signed up for a dog training class and, despite what it said on their website that the trainer would follow up within a week of ordering a class, the trainer never called them to confirm the order. So right off the bat, the company didn't make good on their promise to reach out to the customer. Meanwhile, they were scrambling to find out whether or not the class was still on, or get any other information they might need in order to attend. Two months went by and not a word from the dog trainer left them too far in the dark about the class. A simple phone call would have put them at ease and made all the difference in the world.

To me, when my initial interaction with a company, non-profit, or other organization is negative, I get extremely down on them, and they have a long, uphill battle to win me back. In our chat today, I likened my friend's situation to that of meeting the first salesperson you talk to at a car dealer. If he or she greets me with a frown, or pressures me into buying, or doesn't know the product line, or just generally ignores me, you can bet I'll take my business elsewhere if at all possible, even if it was just a bad moment for that salesperson who is otherwise dynamite. I easily get turned off by poor customer service, and it's tough to win me back, and I suspect that most customers feel the same way.

On the flip side, this past week I've been shopping for a new car insurance provider in order to save some money on my current auto policy. I communicated with three different companies, and each person I dealt with at each company was extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and interested in helping me through the buying process. One would think that this kind of positive attitude would be commonplace for a business when dealing with a customer that is looking to spend money, but unfortunately, it's often anything but.

Even though good marketing or word-of-mouth can bring a person to the door, a good customer service representative is crucial to bringing along and potentially closing the sale, whether it's for a dog training class, a new car, or a new auto insurance policy. It's really the engine that keeps the sale going.

Gregg, if you're reading this, good chatting with you today, and I hope the dog training class turned out to be a success in spite of an *ahem* ruff start.