Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Click Here

I'm moving. You'll find me here

Monday, June 04, 2007

This Job Would Be Great if it Weren't for Those Pesky Customers

Recent posts on a couple of blogs I read regularly have roused my ire against marketing professionals; to wit, Dustin Staiger's transcript of a grocery store's holiday weekend ball-drop and Mike Wagner's hotel toothbrush fiasco. These posts expose a service provider mindset that is becoming more and more commonplace these days: front line service employees (let's just call them FLSE's from here on out, you know, to keep things simple) are not only occasionally lazy and incompetent, they are sometimes actually indignant that customers would ask something of them—that money-spenders would have the gall to interfere with their otherwise pleasant shift. (I know, you're saying, "But you said you were mad at marketing professionals. It sounds like you're really mad at FLSE's." Just keep reading.) My first question is, how and when did this sort of behavior become acceptable? (OK, that's actually two questions.) Of course, the answer to that question(s) doesn't matter nearly as much as Dustin and Mike's question: how can this issue be resolved? Sure, there are a few spot treatments: retrain, or perhaps even fire the perpetrators (on very shaky grounds). On a slightly broader scale, one might work with managers to help them observe, identify and correct this sort of behavior. But honestly, I think the scrutiny should go deeper into the organization. (Here comes the part about marketing professionals.) I see these problems as marketing problems-as issues brand managers and CMO's need to address. I would ask, have the marketing managers/execs truly caught the vision of the company? Do they wholeheartedly ascribe to it or are they simply making a paycheck, as are the previously mentioned FLSE's? (And if the latter is indeed the case, how can we blame the FLSE's?) Have marketing managers/execs implemented the company's top-down vision into every aspect of their marketing plan including service provision? What tangible, daily-practicable initiatives have managers and execs clearly stated in their service provision processes? What initiatives have they defined clearly enough in their FLSE job requirements that "failure to perform" said initiatives could safely become grounds for firing an employee without reserve? (When is the last time your CMO and your VP of HR had a company-changing discussion?)

In past posts, I have made reference to the May 2005 Harvard Business Review article entitled "Creating the Living Brand," by Neeli and Venkat Bendapudi. Take a moment and put down your copy of insert latest popular marketing book title here and read this article! The concept of the branded service employee is still not quite catching on with many marketing execs (and authors). Ultimately, it's not just about the final product, nor is it just about the idea. It is the FLSE's who translate these things into felt value. They are the implementers. Put more concretely, they make dollar bills appear in cash drawers. It is their branded service provision (which is completely different from "good" service provision) that makes me want to go to back to QuikTrip for gas rather than any other convenience store (read: "commodity") in town, using the only store credit card I have in my wallet, driving past 2 or 3 other convenience stores on the way, even if I don't have to deal with an FLSE face-to-face on that particular trip. Branded service provision is what keeps me coming back to Cold Stone Creamery every time my wife and I decide to take our 1-year old out for dessert. (Well, that, and the Mud Pie Mojo.) And, call me a dreamer, but I believe it is one of the most significant ways for brick-and-mortar businesses to win back customers from the Web. More on that later.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Hello Again

My mother loves Neil Diamond (how is it I made it my entire life thinking that really was his true family name until just now??); hence, the title of today's post. My 9-month hiatus is over. Back at the same company in the same internship, again with high hopes of making a transfer, I will be eeking out the same, incredibly riveting information this summer that kept my 2-person readership glued to their computer screens last summer.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Today is the last day of my internship. It marks the end of one experience in my transfer; an experience that has been as rewarding as it has been a significant learning experience. If you haven't yet had a chance, read the impetus behind this blog at this post.

I will be blogging again soon, hopefully after this transfer is finally complete.

Until then,

Chris Posey

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Had Lunch with Dustin Staiger Who Has Been Quoted by Tom Peters and Whose Blog Receives Regular Commentary from John Moore

Over the course of my transfer into corporate marketing and my venture into social media (blogging, to the layman-Dumb and Dumber, revised), I have learned of the compelling nature of one very important marketing/blogging skill: name-dropping. So today, I will dip my toes into this pool and shamelessly report that yesterday, I sat down and had lunch with Dustin Staiger of "Casual Fridays."

Now, my reference to Jenks marketer and guy who has been quoted by Tom Peters is not intended to be gratuitous; I actually wanted to pass along a gem I pulled from our discussion.

For the two of you who follow my blog regularly, you may remember a previous post on my blog citing Jennifer Rice's insightful rebuttal of Laura Ries's concern over Weber's positioning strategies. Yesterday, Jennifer's post came up in my lunchtime conversation with Dustin. We made quick discussion of it and moved on. Later, as we were contemplating the evolution of social media, I expressed concerns I have had with the life expectancy of social media (as I have presented in my blog in a previous post). Then, reaching back to our previous discussion about Rice/Ries (a name similarity which I glibly made a comment about as I stuffed chips and salsa into my mouth, realizing later that I may have been mispronouncing my two positioning/branding heroes' last name for years), Dustin made a great point. To paraphrase, blogging is not the end all, be all of social media. Social media is not about "what you do...[but] how you do it" (Rice). Just as McDonald's is not positioned as a hamburger joint but as a place of convenience, social media is not about blogging but about (in Dustin's words) an "exchange of ideas." (I had to keep saying this phrase over and over in my mind during lunch yesterday just so I wouldn't forget it for today's post.)

The moral: it's not a question of if blogging will go the way of the chatroom, but when it will inevitably happen, what will come after, and how prepared you and I will be for it.

Name droppingly,

Chris Posey

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How do you like that for name-dropping?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Picture of Disquietude

Have you ever held someone in high esteem--all the way up until you actually met him or her? It was at the initial meeting that you realized that this previously assumed upstanding Dr. Jekyll was actually the troglodytic Mr. Hyde. Over the course of my internship, this has happened to me not once but twice. The immediate response is disappointment, and the long term response is avoidance.

Transfer this analogy to business. Have you ever made a decision to visit a service firm (including restaurants) based on reputation, word of mouth, and/or an appreciation for the strength of the brand, only to be disappointed by the front-line experience? You suddenly realized that the highly-touted service provider was really no different than any other provider in the same industry. Or perhaps the high price of the service followed by the low quality of the service provided made it painfully clear to you that the company was only in it for the money. You were, in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, "the picture of disquietude."

This morning's post by John Moore articulated one such Hyde-like quality that has tainted many a strongly branded service--and its employees (enter Jerry Maguire): "You play with your head-not with your heart."

Now, my idealism and naivete are not so blinding that I don't realize that there is really only one purpose in going into business (enter Jim Cramer): to make money. However, to keep from repulsing those first-time visitors who revere you simply because of your brand reputation, your brand must permeate your service, top down. To wit: no doubt, someday I will join my near 6 month old daughter on her first trip to McDonald's. And I can tell you without a doubt that if any aspect of the service provided to my sweet, wonderful, beautiful, perfect, litttle baby girl who is now and always has been cute (yes, even from Day One) contains "Satan's signature" (back to Jekyll/Hyde), not only will we discontinue our visits at that point, but I will become the biggest brand whatever-is-the-opposite-of-evangelist you have ever seen. I know Ronald McDonald just wants my sweet, precious baby girl's paltry allowance, but if that becomes clear to me, I will be introducing her to the Whopper on our next dad-daughter date. The careful avoidance of such a traitorous transgression should be adhered to not only by the company as a whole, but also by the service providers whom the Company has made the conscious decision to hire. Are they working from paycheck to paycheck? Neither I nor my very intelligent and cute baby girl should be able to sense that.

I'm not simply speaking of the provision of good customer service here. I'm speaking of maintaining brand consistency throughout the service organization. I don't want just any old restaurant for my perfect little angel, I want the McDonald's brand. I don't want to take my baby girl to just any old fun amusement park, I want for her to be immersed in the Disney experience that comes with a brand that permeates the firm, all the way down to the people who sweep up the mouse-covered candy wrappers strewn all over the park.

Fall short in providing the service expected from and consistent with your strong brand and you may very well become the rarely frequented, much avoided "Blackmail House."


Chris Posey

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Friday, July 28, 2006

The Oldest Trick in the Book

Remember back when you were seduced by your cable company? You do, don't you? You were sitting on your couch, no doubt watching the old bag, basic cable, and a temptress cleverly disguised as an innocent little commercial lulled you away, dangling delicious digital cable before your wanting eyes. If only you would call me and give me a try...I'll even let you use me for 3 months at a discounted price! That was all it took. You made the call, your wife looking on suspiciously. And for 3 months, you immersed yourself in cheap, delicious decadence together. (I'm still talking about you and digital cable.) But as is the case with most naughty relationships, time wore away the painted face of digital cable, and you began to recognize what you got yourself into-when the bill arrived in the fourth month and you discovered with horror that you were from then on betrothed to the baggage of paying over $100/month for a service that is now starting to wreak havoc on your marriage ("I want to watch DIY!" "Well I want to see -fill in this blank with the latest chick-flick title-!") and causing you to neglect your children ("Come on kids, lets all watch I, Robot!" "But Dad, this is the third time this week!" "Shut up and eat your pizza rolls!"). It's the oldest trick in the book-lure them in with low prices and when they're addicted, stick it to them!

I present this analogy on the report of a record-setting quarterly net income of $10.36 billion confessed yesterday by Exxon Mobil. Wow. We are indignant! "How can they do this?" we ask. "To me??" As if the oil companies owe us something higher, more noble than to make money off of us.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. This morning, as I was sitting tenderly in my car after shelling out $30 to fill it up, I thought to myself, "Maybe the oil and gas industry simply pulled off the most effective long-term marketing scheme ever attempted!" You see, all my life, they have teased me with gas prices that have hovered right around a dollar per gallon. Then the wars came and gas producers realized that sure enough, they had me, hook, line, and sinker. They stayed the night with me and washed their make-up off the next morning-and it was not pretty. They were indeed successful. My driving habits have not changed whatsoever. But today, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, and to the oil and gas industry I say, nice one.

On a more adult note, Seth Godin has a great post today about money and marketing. I think he and Herb Kelleher must have been conversing-Seth's 3 tips comprise the very strategy that made Southwest Airlines what it is today. After you read his blog, take one more look at The Imperative-yes, a little shameless self-promotion.


Chris Posey

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