What Were They Thinking??…Denied at The Bake Sale

May 16, 2010 2 comments

Here we go with part two on the subject of deep discounting. I continue to be baffled how organizations do not seize opportunities to move their product and delight the customer through deep discounting. The most recent of this insanity was at the junior high school open house where my son will be attending next year.

The junior high school was holding an open house for current and incoming students. I took my son along with my two daughters to learn about the place my son would start his next few awkward years…the dreaded years known as junior high school.

The open house was very nice. It is a great school in a great neighborhood. My son eventually hooked up with his friends and there was a pack of about 12 of us roaming the halls. We met teachers, fellow parents, current students and visited many of the classrooms. At one point we passed the ever-present-at-these-types-of-events… The Bake Sale. As I see these I picture in my head a scene from earlier in the day where a group of women or families fire up their ovens and bake grandma’s best cookie, brownie and cupcake recipes. They have hopes of selling gobs of these sweet treats to show off their baking skills, but more importantly, to raise money for their cause. A noble and necessary undertaking.

As my pre-teen posse and I pass by the table of goodies, I am accosted by their desirous requests for their share of the baked goodness. Sure, I’m game. I like sweets as well as anyone. So I look at the price sheet and here is where the wheels come off for me. Remember, I have a dozen or so kids between the ages of eight and twelve in a loose, ungulating 30-foot orbit around me. A dollar for a tiny chocolate chip cookie?? Two dollars for a sad little cupcake?? I quickly do the math and realize that I could easily be out $25 in the next 30 seconds if everyone is to enjoy their choice of treat.

Ok, everyone, hold on. I get it. It’s about the fund raising, not about enjoying the treat. Wrong! The days of one-sided transactions are over. Even if it is for a good cause, there still needs to be value to the person opening up their wallet!

Ok, back to the story…

So I walk calmly over to the Bake Sale table, confident in the fact that I’ll be able to negotiate a screaming deal since I am going to likely be their single biggest sale of the day. I think to myself, I’ll be getting a 50% discount at least. The kids will be happy, the bakers will be happy and I’ll be happy about not only getting a couple cookies, but also about not having to throw down a Jackson or two. Everyone will win! Yeah! Victory for all!! Not so fast. Apparently I have some militant bakers who want a dollar for a quarter-size chocolate chip cookie and two dollars for a sad little cupcake that barely filled up the corrugated paper muffin cup. No deals for Robert today. The kicker here is that the night was winding down and the table was still full. Cookies, brownies and cupcakes were piled high. Within 30 minutes this place would be a ghost town and the mountains of baked goods would shortly be thrown away or taken back home, either way, the objective of raising money for their cause would be toast.

Needless to say, their overzealousness about the cause and willingness to not give a little on their side made everyone a loser. They could have added some more money to the cause, but chose not to. They chose not to make everyone happy by hiding behind their pride and their cause. The kids didn’t get baked goods and I continue to be amazed that most people still don’t get it. What the militant bakers failed to realize is for me, it wasn’t about the money, it was about understanding their customer and partnering for a solution where everybody wins. Instead nobody won.

My dozen orbiting pre-teens were fine with the whole thing. I think they saw things the way I did and didn’t mind missing out on a treat.

Shortly thereafter the open house was shutting down. My kids and I said our goodbyes to their friends and their parents. On our way out of the school I glanced over to the Bake Sale table that was still overflowing with no customers in sight.

On the way home we stopped at a popular juice place. We were greeted with a smile and asked if we wanted a sample of anything on the menu. We shared a large Raspberry Razzmatazz. It was probably quite a bit healthier than the baked items we declined a half hour earlier and definitely tasted a lot sweeter…literally and figuratively.

Robert Fosmire has more than 15 years leading small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue. He is a believer that putting the customer first is central to all successful businesses.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why Don’t Organizations Understand That Discounting is a Win-Win?

I continue to be amazed at the way companies don’t “get it” when it comes to deep discounting to move product off the shelf. I recently experienced an opportunity for the seller to unload a substantial amount of product AND make their customers happy. But unfortumately both failed at both.

There is a large, very popular surf apparel company that does giant warehouse sales every few months in Orange County, California. The company makes pants, shirts, shorts, jackets, sweaters, hats and accessories for men, women and children. Their lines are cool and hip and high quality. Like all apparel companies, some of their designs don’t sell as well as others. The company takes these products (of which there are tens of thousands of items), they rent out a local vacant warehouse and put out all this product at what they say are deeply discounted prices and here is where the failing begins and ends. Their idea of deeply dicounting is about 30% off which would be a pretty good deal except for the fact that the products they are selling were the ones that didn’t quite strike a chord with consumers to begin with – the colors are a little unorthodox, the logo in a strange place or the design a little too hip for the true mainstream. So the result is hundreds of people walking around the warehouse looking for the needles in the haystack, also known as the mainstream items where 30% is a welcome discount. The problem is that there are very few of these items so the customers get very frustrated and a limited amount of product is sold. So why not discount the “odder” product even more. I wouldn’t buy a purple or lime green t-shirt for $10, but I certainly would for $5 or even $8! And I’d buy several at the lower price. And I’d buy a bunch for my kids. And I know a lot of other people who would do the same. The result for the company would be more of their product in the market and a lot more revenue, and here’s the kicker…a bunch of happy customers!

So, as I walk out of the warehouse with many others empty handed, I think about whether I will ever go back to one of these sales, I think about all the branding they are missing out on by my family not wearing their label, and think about the missed sales and opportunity to delight the customer over a couple bucks.

Robert Fosmire has more than 15 years leading small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue. He is a believer that putting the customer first is central to all successful businesses.

What I Learned from My Daughters’ Lemonade Stand

April 30, 2010 6 comments

I took a picture of my daughters and their friends and the makeshift lemonade stand they made for selling their sweet and sour yellow concoction. It was a picture of them really selling it. Passing cars, walkers, skaters and cyclists were all recipients of their enthusiastic pitch. They were out there giving it their all, not for the money, not for a legacy, not to feed their egos, but for one thing…to make people smile.

For some reason this was one of those pictures I actually chose to print out. Very few pictures I take actually make the cut to be printed out. For our family, printing digital pictures is normally limited to when a school project calls for a real photo-paper photograph or when one stands out to the point where it is actually worthy framing. I estimate we print less than 0.5% of the pictures we take. But for some reason this picture spoke to me.

Days went by and the smiling faces in the picture stared up at me from my dresser every night and every morning. I propped that little photo up against the lamp on the dresser because because something about it was special. It wasn’t just a cute picture of the girls (although it was that too), it wasn’t because these are my daughters and they are great because they are mine and I love them and cherish them and all that…it was different.

After a week or so of the picture saying goodnight to me and greeting me every morning – it hit me. The response I was having was related to what I do for a living. For the past 16 years I have been helping companies provide great customer experiences. Experiences that these companies and I hoped would make our customer more loyal, stick around longer and ultimately spend money…something that we have done a good job at. Through data, analytics, specialized treatments, targeted messages, incentives, loyalty programs, and on and on we have been successful at improving loyalty and retention…or have we? Sure we have, we increased this metric and that, improved top-line and bottom-line results, increased Net Promoter Scores and the like.

But even with all these things, with all this technology, all the social media, is it just incrementalism? Does the real game-changer for customer-centric organization lie in the most obvious place…their people?

My daughters wanted to sell Lemonade so bad that they about cried when I told them to wait until later. They way they approached the sale was that of a pure passion to satisfy the customer. Their signs had happy faces and the words, “have a nice day”, they greeted every customer with a beaming smile, they were enthused and it showed, they gave customer “free” refills and on and on. Their only goal was to satisfy their customer or prospective customer. And you know what…customers paid more for this service. They weren’t paying more for the most delicious lemonade they’d ever had, it was for the way they were being treated. The enthusiasm the girls showed became mutual, the connections deepened, a bond of trust and desire to contribute to the other party’s happiness began to form.

Their little Lemonade stand made over $50 that Saturday. The posted price was 25 cents. They certainly didn’t sell 200 cups of lemonade.

They were passionate and real and wanted to see their customer smile. The favor was returned in spades. A true passion for the customer can be profitable…in more ways than one.

That picture is getting a little tattered but I guess that was bound to happen now that it goes everywhere with me.


Robert Fosmire has more than 15 years leading small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue. He is a believer that putting the customer first is central to all successful businesses.

Social CRM Applications Most Businesses Can Benefit From

Social CRM

Social CRM is one of those buzzwords (like regular CRM) that is nebulous to most people and means different thing depending on who you talk to. To make matters worse, many executives don’t get CRM and as a result it gets a bad rap. Now add another term that many execs don’t get, “Social” and Social CRM may as well be headed the way of the dinosaurs. Well, fear not, I am here to explain in layman’s terms what Social CRM is and the specific applications where most companies can benefit.

In all examples of Social CRM below, just like CRM classic, the most critical thing to do is to listen to your customers. So without further adieu, let’s get into it.

1. Listening & Insights: You guessed it, listening to your customers and prospects is number one on the list. The social world can deliver incredible insights about your company if you have the right methodology for listening. Failure to listen will result in zigging when your customers are zagging. Companies must monitor, map and measure in order to filter out what the customers really want.

2. Customer Service Response: Companies must respond to customers quickly. There is an expectation of immediate gratification. An upset customer can make things very difficult for companies and as a result can no longer afford to respond slowly or with anything less than great service. It also provides another opportunity for customer delight for happy customers!

3. Referrals from Advocates: Believe it or not, customers and partners know more about your services and products than your company does. Customers can speak to another customer in their “voice” and in many cases may be more effective at convincing the prospect than all your “marketing efforts”.

4. New Products: Before you spend millions of dollars and months (or years) developing a new product, take the time to toss your idea into a social network or two. See the response and interest as you float ideas. In addition, the networks should be monitored for natural product ideation.

5. Seamless Customer Experience: Customers would like for your company to be a single entity, especially for customer care and marketing. They often get multiple answers within a company as well as within a department! Customers want a consistency no matter who they communicate with.

6.  Personalized Experiences: Understanding how your customers behave in the social world will allow you to provide unique, relevant experiences. The best companies understand this and adopted early strategic and technology CRM solutions. They are now the ones that understand the power of truly “knowing” their

7. Event Management: Companies need a social strategy that can be applied when things are happening. This can include anything from a product launch to a conference. Social media should be used to gather input and provide feedback in real-time during an event. Social media can be used to promote events, connect participants/customers, improve the event in real-time, and track mentions for lead generation. It can also be used to provide speakers with questions and understand audience and participant perception.

8. Sales Leads: Finding where your prospects and customers “hang out” helps you (strategically) understand them. Tactically it provides a place to start selling. This will go a long ways toward putting away the destructive and expensive shotgun.

9. Sales Response: Rapid Sales Response provides companies the ability to target buying groups and communities.

10. Social Response: Triaging support requests. Think of this as customer care in the public forum. Once a company effectively monitors social networks, they still need to respond to the issues that come up.

Robert Fosmire has more than 15 years leading small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue. He is a believer that putting the customer first is central to all successful businesses.

Improving the Effectiveness of Email

Improving Email Effectiveness

Everyone who sends out marketing email wants their message to be read and acted upon. Unfortunately people get so many emails that it is hard to stand out from the crowd. The key is to motivate the user to open the email then provide them a reason to take action.

SUBJECT LINE: In order to increase the likelihood that the email will be opened and clicked through it is important that the subject line is compelling. I know this sounds obvious but it is the number one reason marketing emails do or don’t get opened. The subject must grab the users attention.

UPPER PORTION OF THE EMAIL BODY: Since email clients are now providing preview features, the same attention-grabbing approach needs to be given to the upper portion of the email body.

PERSONALIZATION: That compelling, attention-grabbing subject line and upper portion of the body should be personalized whenever possible. Individually the attention-grabbing headline or personalization are more effective than not having them, but when they work together, their effectiveness skyrockets.

HAVE A PERSONALITY: Have a little fun. Don’t take your message or your product too seriously. I’m not recommending you make a farce of it, just lighten up.

RELEVANCE: The days of “spray and pray” are over. Don’t get into bad habits of sending everything to everyone. Take the time to learn about the targets. Use transactional (behavioral), demographic, psychographic or any other information available to make things more relevant. External data can be purchased from a number of sources and appended. Some good off-the-shelf segmentation sources are Experian Marketing Services http://www.experian.com/business-services/marketing-services.html and Prizm by Claritas http://www.claritas.com/MyBestSegments/Default.jsp.

Effective email marketing will increase the success of your business by:

Increasing sales
Improving customer retention
Attracting potential customers

Robert Fosmire has more than 15 years leading small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue. He is a believer that putting the customer first is central to all successful businesses.

Increasing Customer Retention with Email and Contact Center Integration

April 20, 2010 1 comment

Do you ever see a commercial for something, a new ad campaign or a new product for example. Then within a day or two see that same campaign in print or on-line, or both? That’s called integrated marketing and it is done on purpose. A common definition of integrated marketing typically includes the following: “It aims to ensure consistency of message and the complementary use of media.” In the customer care world it is no different. Providing the same information in multiple channels will be more effective than just hearing it over the phone. After all, when done correctly, customer care is another opportunity to market your product or company…leading to more sales and higher retention at lower costs compared to traditional advertising.

Just like consistent, complimentary messages makes marketing significantly more effective, it is the same with customer contacts. For example, once a customer contacts your company, an email follow-up including a summary of the conversation will be a welcome reinforcement for the customer. Assuming the contact center agent was accurate in his information, the email will reinforce what was stated. The result will be a more informed customer that will likely not call again (at least about that subject)!

Whether your call center is a small or large operation, it is easy to have dozens (or more) canned emails that can be sent right from the agent desktop. In most cases, the agent can slightly alter the message to tailor more accurately to the conversation.

This is an example of a very simple thing that can be done to increase customer satisfaction, add credibility, reduce repeat calls and provide a medium for additional sales opportunities.

Customization of phone and email contact will improve the effectiveness even more. This will be covered in an upcoming post.

Robert Fosmire has more than 15 years leading small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue. He is a believer that putting the customer first is central to all successful businesses.

How to Really Show Your Customers Value

I know everyone is sick of hearing the word recession. So let’s all agree that the recession is the new reality. Ok, that’s out of the way. The reason I bring up the recession is that since the new reality started, customers have been given more of a voice than ever before to get what they want/need from companies they do business with.

So how can you show your customers the value that they demand? Based on my experience, customers have a few (mostly obvious) things they want. I say obvious but in our desire to save money we tend to make things more difficult for the customer and more costly for our companies.

Again, from my experience, here is what customers want:

  1. They want companies to value their time. Customers want to have easy and fast access. Give customers multiple ways to contact your company and respond quickly. We are in an age of immediate gratification, where, when and how customers need it.
  2. Customers want access to knowledgeable employees. This goes hand-in-hand with number 1. Customers want to resolve their concerns quickly and also do not want to feel like a batter (one strike, two strikes…) who has takes a few swings at getting their issue resolved. It is not ok to give companies so many chances for problem resolution. Most customer care organizations have some sort of first contact resolution as a key metric. The problem is that most companies approach this from the perspective of saving money rather than satisfying customers. This needs to repositioned by management as what is good for the customer rather than a cost-saving initiative.
  3. Give customers what they want. So many companies continue to offer products and services the way the model T was sold, “you can have any color you want as long as it is black…”. That quote from Henry Ford was from 1909, a hundred years later there are still too many companies that behave this way. With technology as the great enabler in this arena, we can do mass customization like never before in history.
  4. Contact choices. American’s desire to call you is waning. Providing chat, communities, peer resolution, searchable knowledgeable bases are all things that give customers the choice they deserve.
  5. Consumers have an increasing intolerance for bad experiences. Customers are quick to complain to social media networks, the BBB and other places they can vent. That means that the historical notion that an unhappy customer complains to 10 friends now may mean that an unhappy customer complains to 100, 1,000 or even more “friends”.

Consumer businesses where customer care and servicing that are not strategic to a business ma be living on borrowed time.

Customers want their needs and desires to be acknowledged by companies they do business with. They can experience this when a company offers multiple contact options, speedy resolution, empowered, well-trained employees and product customization. Companies that have the customer-centric mindset and operations will acquire new customers, retain current customers, and grow their businesses.

Robert Fosmire has over 15 years managing small and large customer-focused organizations. He believes in the power of unique experiences to drive loyalty and revenue.

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