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Social Media | From search engine to being found

Back in 2001, when I had an MSN chat account, it was called – GiJoe16 … but do we still have such silly usernames? In fact, we dont prefer to that anymore!

The Internet has civilized – from a jungle to a real geography. Forget about hiding our identity, we want to be more searchable these days. Guyz at google worked hard to cache information and people and today we ourselves want to be found. In fact, we work hard to make ourselves searchable.

Indians can understand the plight of having a name like amit and rahul – two most common names on the desi earth. I strive to ensure that when someone types Rahul Singh in LinkedIn, I appear as one of the first few results. And, Im sure so do many of us.

Basically, the dynamics of the world has changed – we want the world to find us, like our content, share and engage. In a way, this shifts the power from marketer’s hands to consumer’s hands. While brands are still advertising on TV and Print, the key difference is that consumers don’t have a say there. And a completely different scenario is the social media – the consumers can talk, share, amplify, create anything they want… Maybe, that’s the reason why most experts are planning to integrate the offline and the online world. And, consumers are gradually turning into influencers… Honestly, its great to be a part of this transit

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#SSTweetStore | Indian retail meets twitter

Yeah, so several tweeples (including me) were tweeting with the hashtag #SSTweetStore and were hoping their tweet to be the 500th or 1000th and what not – Thanks to Shoppers Stop! (The leading Indian high-end retail chain managed by Raheja Group).

 

@Shoppersstop came up with a twitter campaign and hashtag-based contest – its not about quality or creativity of tweet or number of tweet, it is about probability of the tweet – ur timely luck makes you win!

@Shoppersstop announced prizes for every 850th or 1000th tweet – different giveaways at different numbers for tweeters tweeting with #SStweetstore.

 

 

 

 

Consumers, marketers and enthusiasts tweeted about the event and most of them liked it. The hashtag also trended in most cities!

Positives:

1) Over 22K tweets

2) No creativity needed, even the dumb can partcipate

3) Direct engagement

4) Easy to enhance, relaunch and run future campaigns

 

Negatives:

1) Poor quality of tweets

2) Slow pace – since the gap between 1 give-away milestone and the next was high. E.g.: 500th and 1000th tweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations:

1) This is social media, so they could have easily added a feature to tag a friend with every tweet and hence enhance virality

 

Overall feedback:

While most experts criticized the campaign post it got over and even told that #sstweetstore never trended; in my view it gathered a lot of eyeballs (consumers, experts, marketers, enthusiast) and its just a matter of incorporating knowledge from this campaign and enhancing it with the next one. Good initiative!

 

P.S.: I did not win any of the give-away 😦

 

Voice of Customer | What it is and What it is not!

So, we all love to say – Yeah, I love my customer and they love me too 🙂 But, what we forget is the outside-in view. Do your customers love you – maybe. So, consultants love to charge you big $s and of course you love to pay them the buck to identify the voice of your own customers.

What we forget is the fact that they are your own customers and they would love to interact with you and be recognized by you. Let me quote a simple example – On my trip to the middle east, a Subway outlet at the Mall of the Emirates had a customer feedback form and the lady at the counter was handing that over to every customer. Some used it as tissue, some threw it off, some gave it to their kids to scribble. Certainly, VoC is more than that – its “listening beyond surveying!”

To listen its also necessary to initiate an interaction and not just hand over a questionnaire. Of course we all would love to talk to customers but enterprises face a very small problem – well they have millions of customers. Honestly, a very simple solution probably is to leverage transactional data. For instance, a bank has to anyways service an account holder, the real deal comes when you start generating knowledge out every transaction. Suppose, if an account holder enters a branch to change his communication address, it means that maybe he has purchased a new house  and might now have several financial needs owing to this development.

Social Media is another excellent listening platform. People are talking about experiences and if lucky, about you. The crux is to first listen to customers, enthusiasts, media, competition and market and then initiate conversations that build communities of loyalists.

VoC is more than gathering data and running campaigns. Its about humanizing data, deriving insights and interacting with consumers. In a nutshell, buying fancy marketing automation and analytics tool is good but not good enough. Its only useful if one is able to derive knowledge out of each data point and then use this knowledge in every future communication.

In next parts we will see a next step on utilizing VoC for business results.

 

 

Control of End-to-End Processes is the Key to Effective Order Management

In my position, I end up going though many articles and surveys and I came across one the other day that said almost 65% of all companies running sales order management systems had as many as 11 order management systems.

Yikes.

This not only seems like a waste of money and resources, but the perfect storm of inefficiency and miscommunication.

Communication Chain

Purchase order management isn’t just a communication chain between you and your suppliers, it’s also a chain with your business itself that includes many processes, including opportunity to order capture, order capture to order fulfillment, order fulfillment to order completion, and order completion to order settlement.

For instance, a common problem is having too much inventory. One side is working to reduce the level of inventory in the warehouse using lean principles. But on the sales side, someone could be trying to sell something, and the system is showing the product isn’t available. If you have 11 different processes working, or in this case, not working together, it’s a cacophony of waste and duplication of orders.

That’s why order companies should look at it from an end-to-end process, starting from the time the order is taken to the time payment is made. Stringing those processes through multiple departments is a recipe for disaster. Those processes should all be aligned.

20 Steps to Perfect Order Management

Ray Wang, Forrester vice president and principal analyst with the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm, offers a video that features the 20 Steps to Perfect Order Management. Wang developed these steps to help companies deliver the perfect order — one that consistently meets customer, supplier, partner and employee expectations.

Of course, the biggest challenges are having the right technology for your company as well as the funding.  The purpose of the 20 Steps, according to Wang was to provide a blueprint for determining how well an organization was aligned with the steps and the idea that it could help companies consolidate applications and decommission others.

Going back to the 11 order systems in the survey, Wang says, cutting that number down to three could save a company as much as 20-23% in cost savings.

A Solution That Pays for Itself

While there has been some resistance to invest in given the sorry state of the economy for many businesses, it can pay for itself rather quickly, especially a hosted solution. By consolidating and saving time and money, businesses can free up capital for other new technology projects and purchases.

It also makes a difference customer service-wise. The repetitive and low-margin orders can be handled by Web-based channels and companies can place a higher priority on more human interaction into the higher-dollar-value orders.

And , as they say on TV, that’s not all. Increased accuracy of orders, simple tracking, and scaling your processes closer to your customers, tends to create more return business and better customer retention.

In this new customer-driven environment, it is imperative to improve collaboration by creating more visibility with your trading partners at both ends of your supply chain. One of the best ways to do that is by consolidating your order management processes.

Database, Now in 3D – Part 2

 

This is obviously the next blog of the series – Database, Now in 3D , which talked about bringing a new dimension to database – Delight! This post talks more on ‘how’ rather than ‘what’; the approach every marketer must take in order to leverage databases. Let’s see few techniques:

– Barcode your customers: Create a single view of every end-user and look at him as an individual, the way a barcode clearly distinguishes between a Gillette razor and a Dove soap 😉

– Identify the Emotional Quotient: Consumers today are constantly speaking (thanks to the growing Social and Digital channels), as marketers the logical 1st step must be to listen constantly and listen across channels. Connect these conversations with emotions and emotions with needs. This can truly help every marketer design their offerings and convey them at the right time, so that your communication is not a spam but a ‘helping hand’

– Don’t feel shy to talk – Once you are well-versed with listening, emotions and needs; then go and talk before someone else does. Most marketers today are busy deciding how to place their company logos, color combination, etc. Wake-up! your brand ambassadors are all there and till the time you don’t talk (sense ofcourse), they will never know you care. So, employee silency policies dont always work!

– Review – We all make mistakes, achieve, rejoice, complain and so on; the crux is to learn from every single process and enhance every single data-point. Identify the practices that yields results, reward the consumers who deserve to be rewarded, spend efforts on influencers and so on.

 

These were simple steps to create consumer delight from your very own database, however its not that easy to put the execution steps in a blog you see. I shall soon be back with a whitepaper on the same providing detailed measures and processes for execution… Watch this space!

 

 

 

Database, Now in 3D – Part 1

 

Last month I called at the call center of one of the major banks in India coz I wanted to switch my primary account and hence needed some information before coming to a decision. I was satisfied with the information and hence gave all my details for further contact. A rep from the nearest branch came and completed all formalities. Last week, I went to a branch of the same bank near my office and enquired about car loan, they inturn took my personal details again. Since, then I have been receiving several calls from various places from the same bank, and they don’t even understand that the person with an account and the person needing the loan is the same person – THAT’S ME!

Don’t worry; this is NOT a ‘complaint blog’. The point I’m trying to make is that – organizations today are so database heavy that they lack a single view of each consumer. No doubts, they use deduplication tools on a regular basis to filter these data off! But, the question is – only deduplicating data gives a clear database? Of course Not!

The problem is that most organizations look at database in 2D i.e. Detailing (contact details, relationship value, etc.) and Domain (the kind of services the user takes from the organisation, usage, best product fit, etc.). But, today is the era of 3D, even Vikram Bhatt makes movies in 3D, so do MNCs lack on it…

The concept on 3D database adds another D – Delight! Each database entry is not just a combination of fields and tupples… they represent “REAL LIFE INDIVIDUALS” who eat, sleep, aspire, work, play, enjoy, cry, spend and save like your organizations’ Business Intelligence & Marketing Employees.

 The key is – Identify Emotions to Deliver Delight

In simple terms, if a user tweets about getting a new job or a bank account holder requests for a 6 months bank statement or a broadband subscriber utilizes his one month data plan in 10 days… the common link between each is that “each of these consumers are speaking”. But, as organizations, marketers are busy talking on TV, Advertising on online banners, enhancing reach via print media!

 

This is what we do – Feed the consumer (baby) with our preconceived message

But the fact is – consumers are talking about their needs and if you are lucky about you

 

All we need to do is to add depth in our database, by listening to each consumer… now the question is how??

The answer is coming up very soon in my next post! Keep thinking (in 3D ;))

 

 

Focus on the dollars, not the dimes

 

There is a saying in the US: “Don’t nickel and dime me”, which means to accumulate money in small amounts. There are examples of this in many areas of customer service and it is one of the business practices that drives many consumers crazy.

And it’s what drove me crazy at my recent stay at the Al Bustan Palace, one of Oman’s top hotels…

The immediate experience is one that envelops the senses: the soaring atrium and huge lobby area filled with the smell of incense; the ground-floor rooms with direct access to infinity lagoons so that you can literally swim outside your room; the beautifully kept grounds.

Sure, the hotel is expensive, but I expected that and when you book a top hotel you expect to pay a premium. However, what I didn’t expect was to have to pay steep charges for internet access for both our computers even though they were used in the same room. I didn’t expect to pay for using the catamarans when every other water-sports centre I have ever experienced provide these for free, and I wasn’t anticipating the sky-high cost of breakfast.

Now InterContinental, the managers of the Al Bustan Palace, would argue that if you stay in a luxury hotel you should expect to pay top prices and I would agree with them. But what I find irritating is to pay top prices and then find I am ‘nickel and dimed’ on services which are provided as standard in much lesser hotels. As far as I am concerned, internet access is more important to me than having access to the TV and hotels don’t charge for that, so why should they charge for Internet?

The problem with this ‘nickel and dime’ approach is that you are continually reminded of how much you are paying throughout your stay – that is not what you want the guest to focus on.

 

The five rules for creating a great customer experience

Richard Chase and Sriram Dasu are behavioural scientists and they investigated what influences our perceptions of the customer experience. They suggest five rules for creating a great experience which help us to ensure that customers focus on the high points of their experience and overlook the low points:

  1. Finish Strong. Finish on a high – do something unexpected at the end of the experience; perhaps give a small gift as a souvenir at check-out. The Banyan Tree Hotel and Resorts give guests lovely little stuffed fabric turtles as a memento of their stay for example. Giving a small gift (providing it isn’t tacky) helps to create a positive moment at the very point you are asking the customer to part with their cash.
  2. Get bad experiences over with early. If customers have to do something onerous, get it out of the way as quickly as possible. In the case of hotels, pre-register guests online so that their first experience of the hotel isn’t one of lining up at the front-desk and filling in a registration form with exactly the same information they provided when they booked.
  3. Segment pleasure, combine the pain. Spread the pleasure along the touch-line. So provide those little touches of fresh cookies served with coffee, cold face-towels on the beach etc. They cost very little but create little ‘spikes’ of pleasure. Combine the ‘pain’ by bundling internet and other facility charges into the room rate so that you experience them in one step rather than every time you wish to use them.
  4. Build customer commitment through choice. Give guests full information about your charges (like water-sports) on your web site so they are transparent and expected. Guests can then make informed choices about the package they need and, most importantly, won’t be surprised by them.
  5. Stick to rituals. Create on-brand rituals that customers associate with their stay with you. For example, whenever I stay in the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong I always anticipate and appreciate the welcome Chinese tea that is served in the room whilst I am unpacking.

Your consumers are marketing for you!

And they don’t even ask for a pay cheque…

In a today’s competitive arena where every organisation is talking about ‘enhancing toplines’, what most of them are missing out on are the FREE EMPLOYEES who are working day-in and day-out to increase your brand equity. These are your consumers… don’t believe it – refer my post ‘WOM is WOW’ (shit, even I unknowingly recommended a brand in that post :o).

The only common thing between dinosaurs and B2C marketing is that they are both EXTINCT!

Dude, that doesn’t mean that all marketers (including me) become accountants. It means we have a tougher task at hand – give our customers delight so that they pass this on to the rest of the universe (Its almost like position 69).

So, last year we witnessed group buying via sharing and referencing reaching never-seen-before heights. Groupon achieved $1bn sales in less tha 3 years which the like of ebay took 7 years! China’s group-buy ‘Taobao’ achieved 1Mercedes/minute. This shows the power of  WOM and sharing!

 

We are all living in the world of Advertising 2.0, where the consumer says: I don’t mind ads because they pay for my attention by giving me valuable content “for free”! (content here refers to great offers as available on groupon or free downloads and so on)

The days of anti-viruses are over … today marketers have to themselves create a viral! Creating a viral is no rocket science if you know what would have delighted had you been a consumer yourself!

Today, sharing is one of the major enabler to brand building that makes rest of the universe refer/incline towards your products and services. People share what they love – so start romanicing with your consumers n they won’t ditch unlike my 3rd GF 😉

WOM is WOW

I was struggling with my terrible Idea USB Internet modem and was in a complete mess because of its great speed (it can’t even win a race against a SNAIL ;)). Flooded with options and service providers calling up to follow-up with me, I was jacked and couldn’t have believed none. One f9 day, my frnd on FB posted that he liked TATA Indicom Internet – I landed up asking him and other like-minded strangers n bang !!!! got all my queries solved….n bought the device!

 

Reading between the lines, what employees of two of the major service providers couldn’t – got solved by referrals from consumer… so is this the C2C era???

 

In a study conducted by social networking site myYearbook, 81 percent of respondents said they’d received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74 percent of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision.

Word of mouth is spreading like never before… It can make a Rahul instantly buy a device and It can also bring down the tyranical rule of a nation on its knees. Gaining the right set of information (supposed to be our right) is getting easier and instant…. thats cool! For marketers it again implies – Honesty is the best policy – to long run success…

 

 Building WOM is more about commitment and delivery rather than creating a hoax. We are coming back to the old days of ‘being transparent’; and this phenomena is creating positive waves for its preachers and leads to customer dlight and referrals with an increased probablity of the prospect to buy rather than u striving to sell! 

 

 

Fashion says “collective wisdom is universal foolishness”

Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person…eeeehh!!! thats so wiki….

Rahul says:

Even if you say you don’t care about fashion and don’t dress to make a statement, you are making a statement (that you don’t care about fashion).

This is how different fashion is…. its an attitude and not just branded labels!

Globaly people have a notion of coining fashion as expensive designer wears or wearing the in-thing, showing off…. that’s universal foolishness and fashion is exactly opposite of that:

Do what others dont!             Wear ur own thing!          Dont show-off…Just Flaunt! 

Let Everything you put on send a message.

Trends change, thats no big deal. They even recycle, again not a big deal. the real thing is – Be U!

Fashion is not a hype, Its Art… for life!

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