Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Tag

How to Poorly Represent for Your Brand in 140 Characters or Less

Today, I went to BestBuy with my 15 year old daughter to look for a digital camcorder.  She wanted something that did HD and we found an interesting model for $149.  I suggested that we go back home and read some customer reviews  before buying it (plus, she had neglected to bring her money).

She did her research and in doing so, discovered that the camcorder was on sale for $99 on BestBuy’s website.  I looked at the offer on the website to make sure it wasn’t a “web only” deal.  It wasn’t.  She started to order it online for in-store pickup but noticed that a photo id for the credit card holder would be required.  She doesn’t have an id yet, so we jumped in the car and headed to the store.

At checkout, the camcorder rang up at $149.  My daughter, who doesn’t like confrontation and doesn’t yet earn her own living, was more than happy to pay $149, but I was not.  Moreover, as a 23 year veteran of the Consumer Electronics industry and someone who was familiar with BestBuy’s issue a while back regarding web/in-store pricing, I wanted to be sure that they honored the online price.

I told the cashier that it was $99 on the website.   He started to point me to a makeshift kiosk that had been set up to allow customers to do on-line price checks, but then actually walked over to it himself and looked up the item on BestBuy’s website.  Sure enough it was still $99.  He did a price override and we completed the transaction.

BestBuy has received lots of praise for their innovative use of social media, both internally and externally.  As someone keenly interested in retailers’ use of social media, I naturally follow them on Twitter. I am also very much a Customer Experience aficionado, so when I got home, I started an exchange on Twitter with Best Buy’s Chief Marketing Officer, Barry Judge.

bestbuycmo exchangeAs you can see, Mr. Judge’s first reply challenged the idea that prices should be the same.  Now without taking a big detour into the intricacies of multi-channel pricing strategies, I’ll say that there are absolutely situations where prices can and should differ.  Between physical markets (and sometimes stores in the same market) prices can vary based on the competitive environment.  Between online and in-store for a chain like BestBuy, it gets a little more complicated.  They have to compete with on-line pure plays (e.g. Amazon), but not cannibalize their physical stores, especially if their strategy is to have the two channels compliment each other. In this case, given that it was not a web-exclusive offer and their own price guarantee says they will match BestBuy.com, I replied that they prices should be the same.  Otherwise, it can only lead to a bad customer experience like the frustration of finding that you should have received a lower price and having to drive back to the store for a refund.

I made a few other comments including pointing out that the cashier handled the situation well.  When I suggested that customers don’t care about the different “value propositions” that Mr. Judge had cited earlier; that what matters to the customer is the experience they have, the “tone” of the conversation shifted dramatically.

When I told him that I was well versed in multi-channel retail complexities, I was shocked by his reply.  Not wanting to assume a meaning, I asked him to clarify.  At that point he abruptly ended the conversation.

Of course, that didn’t end the conversation.  I posted a link to the exchange on Twitter and asked for people’s opinions and the replies and retweets have been coming at a steady pace.  It used to be that if you shared a bad experience, 100 people would hear about it.  In the world of social media, those numbers can increase exponentially (ask United Airlines).  With that being one of the fundamental facts for companies to understand about social media, I was really surprised that the Chief Marketing Officer for BestBuy would engage with a customer former customer in this way.

What do you think?  Was I being out of line?  How could this conversation gone differently?

Social media, meet Achilles??? – Not So Fast

An recent article written by Jen Zingsheim at Media Bullseye takes aim at the Social Media “experts” who overpromise the value and underestimate the ability to scale.  Several well documented examples of companies using Social Media (Twitter specifically) to monitor for and address customer service issues have many in the social media echo chamber (myself included) urging other companies to “join the conversation”.  And they should because social media provide a low-cost way for companies to learn from their customers and address their issues.

Zingsheim points out that companies engaging in social media requires two things:

  1. An effective monitoring program to quickly identify problems being mentioned, and
  2. Competent people who can resolve issues without being hindered by red tape.

It’s the latter of these two which Zingsheim says isn’t scalable.  In the long run, it probably isn’t, assuming the objective is to respond to every customer individually AND assuming that the company doesn’t make significant Customer Experience improvements along the way.

On the other hand, if companies use SM to learn from their customers and address the root causes of their issues, the Customer Experience should improve over time and the number problems being mentioned should decrease.

Companies Without Conversation: Comcast Gets Twitter; Circuit City Does Not

Comcast and Circuit City have many things in common.

Both companies sell products and services that deliver video and internet to American consumers.  They also share the dubious distinction of consistently scoring near the bottom of their respective industries in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index surveys (see here & here).

With limited competition, Comcast’s dismal rating doesn’t pose as great a risk to their future profitability as does Circuit City’s score, which is clearly reflected in their ever sinking stock price.  Over the last few years, Circuit City has not executed well at meeting customer expectations.  As a result, they have lost a big chunk of their base and aren’t attracting new customers as fast as the old ones are leaving.  Consumer Electronics retail is a commodity industry and customers can buy their CE products just about anywhere. Bringing customers back to Circuit City should be the company’s top priority.  Doing so will require a number of things, but consistently meeting or exceeding customer’s expectations would be a good place to start.

Another good place to start might be engaging with customers within their Social Media channels to better understand where the experience breaks down, and to offer unexpected support for problem resolution.  Interestingly, both companies are also getting involved with Social Media.  Circuit City maintains a blog on its website and both companies have started using Twitter; however, the ways in which they are using it couldn’t be farther apart.

Comcast has been receiving a significant amount of positive press from their use of Twitter. Frank Eliason, Comcast’s digital care manager and the man behind the Twitter account, comcastcares, tells me their   Twitter program started back in March ’08.  Using a number of monitoring tools, Frank and his small team listen to the stream of “Tweets” coming from Twitter looking for comments about Comcast.  When they encounter one, they immediately reply to the person who made the comment, usually asking if they can help.  As of this writing, comcastcares has made over 10,000 updates and has over 2700 followers.  They operate comcastcares like some kind of proactive help desk, contacting customers who have publicly shared that they are having a problem.

Think about that for a minute.

A company that is actively trying to address every complaint made about it on Twitter.  Every problem solved here equates to a customer whose expectations have been exceeded.  Those customers will are going to tell others about their great experience.  More importantly, by listening to its customers, Comcast is learning about the things that are getting in the way of a great customer experience.  It’s a feedback loop that can be used to drive improvements into their operational programs.

Circuit City on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand the basic concept here.  They established their Twitter account, Circuit_City, about the same time as Comcast, but roughly six months later, they haven’t even broken triple digits in Updates. Circuit City isn’t using Twitter to listen for and help frustrated customers or to find opportunities for improvement in their operational procedures.  Instead, they are treating Twitter (and their CityCenter blog) like any another advertising channel.  There is no conversation, just one-way messaging.  There is no “How Can I Help You?”, there’s just “Here’s some more stuff that you should buy”.   Most of the tweets are links to posts on their blog which is focused on products that Circuit City sells.

One could argue that Circuit City does not have as many detractors as Comcast, but there are clearly opportunities out there.

Earlier this week, I saw a Twitter user contemplating going to Circuit City to purchase a wireless card (see the accompanying Twitter thread).  When he tweeted “Circuit City sucks!  Why are they still in business?“, it would have been a great time for Circuit’s Twitter team to step in and try to salvage this experience.

Unfortunately, Circuit City isn’t listening, they are just talking.  Business as usual.

I <3 TweetDeck

One of the best things about Twitter is the powerful interface (API) that allows third party applications to be developed,  Since it was introduced in October, 2006, hundreds of Twitter apps, hacks & mashups have been built to extend the product’s functionality.

I have been a regular Twitter user since early 2007 and currently follow close to 800 people, which isn’t that large compared to some other Twitter friends. The big problem for me (and why I don’t follow more people), is that with that much inbound traffic in my Twitter stream, I can easily miss tweets that I would want to see.  It reminds me of that classic scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel are have a job wrapping chocolates.

I’ve been thinking that the answer to this problem would be an application which lets me filter my Twitter stream into manageable groups.  I could have one group for “Local People”, one for “Thought Leaders”, one for “Friends in Australia”; you get the idea.  I even started talking to some local developers about building an app like this.

As it turns out, I was not alone thinking stream filters would be a great idea.  Yesterday, I learned about a new Adobe AIR app called TweetDeck that features full integration with Summize, and lets you (wait for it……) create customized groups of those you follow on Twitter.

Authored by Iain Dodsworth, TweetDeck is one of the most useful Twitter apps I’ve seen to date.
It offers four major columns in which to organize Twitter data: “All Tweets”, which is your “with friends” timeline, “Replies”, “Search”, which will keep a running search window open for a term you’ve selected, and “Group”, which lets you make a sub-set of those you follow on Twitter.  You can have multiple groups.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

The other interesting departure in this app is that it maintains a local database on your computer, so if you wake up in the morning and Twitter is down (a real possibility), you could still look at and reply to tweets “offline”.  TweetDeck stores you offline tweets and submits them to Twitter once the FailWhale goes away.  Now that’s a useful feature and a great workaround for the API limitation that prevents other external clients from seeing older tweets.

TweetDecks is still very much “in Beta” and likely to have a few issues of its own, but the feature set makes it well worth checking out.

Who Are You Twittering For?

I really like Twitter.  It has connected me with many more great people in the last two years than any of the other Social Media channels I participate in.  A while back, I started using Twitterfeed to send a tweet whenever I posted a new blog entry.  Shortly after setting that up, I noticed that Greg Verdino had a separate Twitter account for his blog feeds.  I asked him why and he told me that it allowed his followers to decide whether or not they wanted that information.  I considered doing the same, but figured that posting a new blog entry qualified for “what are you doing”, so I left the feed as it was.

Recently, I loaded Mobile Scrobbler on my iPhone and set up a new Twitterfeed that listed the most recent song that I had listened to every 30 minutes.  As a music lover, listening to new music is “what I am doing” a lot of the time, so this seemed a natural thing to post to Twitter.  It generated some great conversations about music and connected me with a lot of new friends who also introduced me to some other great artists.

It also had a downside.  Several people whose friendships I value, stopped following me.   I didn’t know why, so I half-kidding, I asked “was it something I said?”.  The answer I got was that the frequent tweets about what I was listening to was just adding to the noise in their Twitter streams.  In other words, the music feeds were not adding value to these followers.  Curious, I publicly asked my friends in Twitterville whether they liked or disliked the music feeds.  I got about a dozen replies with the opinion split about 50/50.  OK, some some people find it to be of value, some do not, and some of those find it annoying enough to stop following me altogether.

That got me thinking about what I wanted to be using Twitter for.  Before I follow someone, I check out their blog or website and look at their recent tweets.  If I see something that looks interesting I follow them.  Usually, the people I follow are saying much more than just what they are doing.  Meaningful interaction is more important to me than reading a bunch of 140 character status updates. Following over 700 people, it’s easy to miss the valuable tweets because of the noise, so If someone I am following stops being interesting or never interacts with me, I stop following them.

Which brings me to my dilemma.  At the end of the day, it’s important to give your audience something of value or they will just a soon take their eyes and ears somewhere else.  Posting music feeds is clearly a “what are you doing” thing and some of my audience has found it to be valuable.  On the other hand, I can see how it can be noise to someone else and I don’t want to drive away friends who I otherwise have interesting conversations with.   The solution it seems is to follow Greg Verdino’s lead and create a second Twitter account for my music, photo and blog feeds; which I have just done.  I have turned off all Twitterfeeds into my main Twitter account (which you can follow here).  If you want to keep up with the other stuff, by all means follow me here.

Study:Majority Use Social Media to ‘Vent’ About Customer Care. Are You Listening?

An recent study commissioned by a Burlington, MA-based provider of voice-recognition solutions found that 72 percent of respondents used social media to research a company’s reputation for customer care before making a purchase, and 74 percent choose to do business with companies based on the customer care experiences shared by others online. The online study of 300 volunteer respondents doesn’t qualify as statistically accurate, but it is informative from a directional standpoint.

59 percent of the respondents said they regularly use social media to “vent” about their customer care frustrations. Readers of this blog know that I occasionallyventhere and so do many others that I follow. Michael Arrington’s recent Comcast experience is a high-profile example which has received a fair amount of discussion in social media circles. If you haven’t heard the story, ends up with an executive at Comcast contacting Arrington because of a Twitter post that he had made about how frustrated he was with Comcast.

Two thirds of the study’s respondents felt that companies don’t take online complaints seriously. Think about that for a minute. Empowered by the powerful online search capabilities, customers have grown accustomed to instant access to information and have developed increasingly high standards for customer service. They no longer need to be tied to a company. Add in Social Media, where the customer has a global voice and you now have citizen marketers who can potentially impact a company’s reputation for good or bad.

Nick O’Neill over at Social Times recently asked if a large brand like Walmart could monitor all the comments made about them on Twitter and contact people that had a poor experience in their store. After measuring the volume of Tweets pertaining to Walmart at around one every half hour, O’Neill suggested that the answer is Yes. Of course, companies are skeptical about the need to participate in social media. How much of a difference will reaching out to a couple dozen irritated customers a day (most of whom are nowhere as influential as Arrington) make? I would have to say that today it’s probably not as impactful as many of us in the Social Media Echo Chamber would like to believe.

On the other hand, intercepting and satisfying a pissed-off Michael Arrington can go a long way in preventing a social media comment from escalating into a much larger public relations issue. Moreover, as Millennials. for whom social media is a typically a natural extension of their lives, move from consumers to customers, it’s going to become increasingly important for companies to be listening and engaging in these channels. These customers aren’t going to be letter-writers like their parents were. They are going to be vocal about their experiences, expectations and frustrations as customers publicly and on-line. Companies who learn to listen and engage now (and I don’t mean using Social Media as another one-way marketing vehicle) will be better positioned to compete for these new customers in the future

<via ClickZ>

Don’t Get All In a Twitter Trying to Explain Twitter

Fellow Blogger Socialite Greg Verdino shared a new video explaining Twitter from the Common Craft gang. This is a great way to explain your Twitter Addiction to your friends and co-workers.

If you are already on Twitter, you can follow me here. If not, what are you waiting for? It’s fun and if you are worried that others won’t understand it, send them the link to the video along with an invitation.

The Power of Community

peavatars.jpgIn the ten months that have passed since I became addicted to Twitter, I’ve seen the platform used in powerful and unexpected ways. It was the first place that I heard about several news events like the bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the tragic school shooting in Finland. It’s also been used to relay events as they are happening. David Armano (@armano) witnessed a teen save an elderly woman from being hit by an oncoming train. Armano posted updates of the events to his Twitter account immediately after it happened, long before either the Chicago Tribune or CNN posted their stories.

The most powerful thing for me continues to be the way Twitter facilitates the development of new and real friendships with people all around the world. At 140 characters per tweet, you certainly don’t develop these digital friendships overnight, but with a steady interaction over the course of weeks and months, you find yourself very much attached to these people. In many cases you interact with your digital friends more frequently than your physical friends and like your physical friends, these people are human; each with their own set of life’s ups and downs. When a digital friend shares good news, like the birth of a child or a promotion, the community responds with congratulations. Likewise, when they share bad news, like a sick child or the death of a parent, the community rallies around them with words of support and offers to help.

I’ve experienced this support from my digital friends first hand, so I knew that when Susan Reynolds (@susanreynolds), informed her Twitter followers that the had been diagnosed with breast cancer, the community would be there to support her. True to form, Susan created a blog to document her journey. In one of her first posts, Susan described how using bags of frozen peas helped to ease the pain following her biopsy. She jokingly named the blog “Boobs on Ice“. Shortly after, people started changing their Twitter avatars to “pea-vatars” and Cathleen Rittereiser (@cathleenritt) tweeted that we should all donate the cost of a package of frozen peas to a fund for cancer research. That little spark has now developed into a full-blown fund-raising campaign, named in Susan’s honor, called the Frozen Pea Fund.

Frozen Pea Fund logo

The site will officially launch tomorrow (December 21, 2007), the day of Susan’s surgery. Money raised will go to Making Strides, the breast cancer campaign of the American Cancer Society.

As of this writing, at least 145 146 people have changed their avatars to a Pea theme. Members of the community are suggesting ideas for spreading the message. CK (@ckEpiphany) suggested contacting Green Giant or BirdsEye (there’s an opportunity). Someone else suggested communicating the campaign to the head guys at Twitter. Tonight’s conversation has been almost exclusively centered on Susan with people getting creative with their tweets, changing words so that they contain the letters “pea”. Some have gone so far as to change their Twitter name (on Frozen Pea Friday I’ll be @DougPEAcham).

Wow, talk about the power of community. I often get funny looks when I talk about Twitter with people who “don’t get it”. They have a hard time understanding why anyone would “waste” time talking telling perfect strangers what they are doing. I don’t see it as wasting time. I see it as investing in real and lasting friendships. Susan is going to have a small army of digital friends to support her tomorrow and over the coming weeks as she recovers from her surgery. It’s a community brimming with compassion and I’m humbled to be a part of it. Won’t you join us?

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