Wednesday, August 24, 2005

WSJ Helps Google State the obvious

Was reading some coverage on Google's new IM product and came across this quote:

"We think communications is very important for the transmission of information," said Mr. Harik.

Communications important to the transmission of information....Yeah. Now on the upside it's damn hard to argue that. It's like saying words are important to writing. Yes, I might even be so bold as to say crucial...

Here's the link to the Journal article for those of you with a subscription.

Meeting Expectations; Thrilling Customers

Too many organizations are forgetting that it's about meeting and exceeding customer expectations. If I go into a K-mart or a Walmart, my expectations are very different than when I go into a Nordstrom. K-mart gets away with things that Nordstrom never could with me, because I expect Nordstrom to be better. Conversely, K-mart better have the cheapest (or nearly cheapest) price for my item, because, again, that's my expectation-- one that K-mart created for me.

That's probably why I was so disappointed when my sandwich at lunch yesterday wasn't cut all the way through.

What? Okay, let me explain: I discovered a wonderful lunch place a few months ago near my office. They make great sandwiches. Fresh meats and cheeses, good bread and seasonings and, perhaps most importantly, always very well made. What I mean is that the sandwich is always neat -- no stuff hanging out; it always has the right amount and proportions of ingredients -- I'm never wondering if they actually put the cheese on, or something like that; and always cut all the way through. The result is that I can eat at my desk while working and not make a mess. Sounds trivial, but it's important to me.

Yesterday, the sandwich wasn't cut all the way through and it annoyed me -- more than it should have frankly. I think it's because I felt let down. I'm over it now. Truth be told I was over it practically as it happened, but it got me to thinking about marketing and meeting expectations. That's all consumers really want; if you are going to set up an expectation through advertising or marketing, then be sure to meet and exceed it. Your customers will be thrilled.

Seth Godin wrote about something similar, but from a different angle. But in the end, his hotel was meeting his expectation. They told him, through marketing, that the fitness center was open 24 hours. Their marketing probably as told him that they were focused on his needs and comfort. So, He decided to trek down to the front desk with the expectation that they would open the fitness center. They did. He was thrilled.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What's in a Name?

A brand name, be it a product name or company name, should connote in your audience’s mind your key positioning or messages. And, at a minimum it should not work counter to identifying your business. Sounds simple, right?

In branding circles we know that this often takes a great deal of time, money and effort. The starting point, naturally, is selecting the name. Some companies make up a word, like Kodak, which is completely free of meaning and then work on connecting it to their business. Others create descriptive names, like IBM – International Business Machine – which clearly identifies their business.

So, what were the guys who named Green Tree thinking? Green Tree, according to their tagline sells fine meats. What do green trees have to do with fine meats? I don’t know either, which is why it stuck in my mind.

I came across this company the other day completely by accident, but it really got me thinking. I’m sure there is some reason the owners decided to call their wholesale meat company Green Tree. Perhaps it is organic meat – doubtful since organic food companies tend to trumpet that distinction and these guys didn’t. Maybe their plant is on Green Tree Road? But how does that help sell meat?

I think that in today's business climate everyone is on such a kick to differentiate themselves that they are trying to take the easy way out. "I'll be different to the marketplace if I come up with a spiffy name." The problem is that they are coming up with counter-productive names. I think that this happens to the smaller guys, like Green Tree, as much as to the big boys, like Accenture. Instead, I like Seth Godin's point of view: Let's make our products and the stories that describe them more relevant.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I Washed My Car

After my Volvo experience last week, I had to wash my car. I just couldn't take how silly it looked with two dirty doors and clean fenders. I was going to take it to a car wash, when I decided to turn this dealership lack of customer-focus and service to my advantage.

I washed the car with my 3-year old; actually my wife joined in too. It was a blast. We had a lot of fun. Why should I let those fools get me down. So, it made me feel a little better knowing I was able to turn this into something good for me.

I shouldn't have had to create the positive experience, though. Feeling great about getting a sparkling clean car back from the dealership after an expensive brake job was what Volvo had intended.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How to destroy Customer Relationships the Volvo Way

I own a late 90s Volvo. I love it and drive it everywhere. As result I have 95K+ miles on it and it's beginning to show its age a little. I never spent the time to find and cultivate a good Volvo mechanic that I could trust to do the right repairs well, so when things go wrong I bring it to my local Volvo Dealership which, in my case, is The Long Motor Company's Volvo of Edison.

I know I'm spending too much on repairs by brining it to the dealership and I know I should know better, but I always felt a little better knowing that at least the job was being done right. Now I'm not so sure...And it's not because I found anything wrong with my brakes--Yet!

It's the little things that are shaking my confidence in the service folks at this dealership. For instance, I got the car back after $600+ brake job (I know, I know, I'm looking for a good mechanic, write me if you know of one) and found:
  • My dashboard marred by pen mark that I still can't remove
  • My cup holder opened -- I don't drink in my car, why should my mechanic!
  • The car newly washed but they missed both doors on the passenger side -- Yes, the front and rear fender are clean, but neither door is.
I know that each individual thing is small and should almost pass without comment, but taken together it gets one to thinking if they are that careless with simple things, how much attention are they paying to my brakes!

It goes back to my pet peeve of employees just going through the motions rather than really caring about the customer. If they are going to do a lousy job washing the car, I'd rather that they leave it dirty! Now I have to get it washed; it looks silly. Before it just looked normal. Dirty, but normal.

I called the service manager, he said to bring back in. Didn't say he was sorry; said he wanted to check on it. So now I have to trek to this dealership again??? I said it was the closest, but it's not actually close to me, ya know.