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We are often asked, “Are you a B2B or B2C agency?”

This seems to be the initial cut-line for many marketers. With all due respect, it is already steering the discussion down a bad path. As the old country lawyer said, “Son, you are already convicting yourself.”

The answer we give – every time – “we are a consumer-driven agency.”

The fundamentals never change. Whether you sell pizza, shampoo through retailers or specially-machined widgets to a Chinese manufacturer. People engage in what is interesting to them. People buy when they decide you have a product or service that is valuable to them. People make those decisions – for themselves, for their family, for their businesses.

Reinforced another way… by an Apple employee:

“The magic of what Apple has done recently is telling people what they ‘need’ before they know they want/need it. By creating the best consumer product, they have created one that’s arguably more successful in the business market than consumer market – iPad.”

Does your marketing platform have a vision for what is needed in the future? Or, does it merely mimic what the competition is already doing? That is the difference in leading a category and being a second rate brand.

Businesses don’t sell to business. People sell to people.

The correct question in our mind is not “are you B2B or B2C?” The right question is, “Do you know how to create more Zealots for your brand?”

Sorry, we will leave the second opinion of your balky shoulder to an orthopedist, but we can examine and prioritize your business’ marketing plans for 2012.

We offer a 52-point marketing audit report that we will execute for any business, regardless of whether you may be a client of Guest Relations Marketing. It is relatively simple, virtually turn-key process to you. It takes less than 3 weeks and provides you with an objective, 3rd-party, professional, “second opinion” for one low cost, one-time fee.

In addition to a written executive evaluation and presentation of findings, our audit will provide you with three valuable planning tools:

1. Identifying and capturing the right customer and prospect data
2. Prioritizing the right touchpoints for your business, including online and social media
3. Recommended budget ranges by segment

Worst case, we will reinforce your current plans and programs. Best case, we will provide a basis for shifting your budgets or spending priorities. Call us today to schedule this low-cost, no strings attached audit evaluation.

Is this going too far or is it inline?  Should TripAdvisor be accountable for comments posted by its users?  Read the below article posted on Tnooz today and tell us what you think.

It isn’t often that you get a lot of candor from TripAdvisor about the hazards of user-generated content, but parent company Expedia says TripAdvisor “faces potential liability” for content users post in reviews, blogs, comments and social media.

Expedia isn’t saying there is any immediate litigation in the offing, but warns “there is no guarantee that the company [TripAdvisor] will avoid future liability and potential expense for legal claims based on the content available on TripAdvisor’s websites.”

If TripAdvisor doesn’t successfully defend itself from such legal claims, it could face liability for “defamation, libel, negligence, copyright or trademark infringement or other legal theories” based on a variety of laws in the U.S. or abroad, Expedia says.

In 2010, there was talk of hotels preparing a defamation lawsuit against TripAdvisor, but it hasn’t materialized so far.

The disclosure about potential liabilities came as part of an Expedia Inc. financial filing in connection with its proposed spinoff of TripAdvisor into a public company. The transaction, subject to shareholder approval, would be completed before the end of 2011.

Like Expedia, a new, publicly traded TripAdvisor would be controlled by Barry Diller, who would be the chairman and senior executive of both Expedia and TripAdvisor. Expedia Inc. president and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi would be a TripAdvisor director, as would Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor’s president and CEO.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filing had some interesting tidbits about the Expedia-TripAdvisor relationship.

Expedia says it is TripAdvisor’s largest customer and the $171 million [$166 million for CPC and $5 million for display] that Expedia spent in 2010 to advertise on TripAdvisor accounted for 31% of TripAdvisor revenue.

The two companies have negotiated a host of agreements to run for a year after the spinoff, and Expedia notes it plans to reduce its ad spend on TripAdvisor sites 2% to 5%.

Other risks for TripAdvisor cited by Expedia include a reduction of traffic because of Google’s development of Google Places and the possibility that TripAdvisor’s entry into the vacation rental market may not be successful. In this regard, Expedia obliquely references HomeAway:

Furthermore, a larger competitor exists in the vacation rental space, with significantly more users and listed properties, and new competitors with significant financial resources are continually emerging. If property owners and managers do not perceive the benefits of marketing their properties online or marketing their properties with several intermediaries, then the market for TripAdvisor’s services may not develop as expected, or it may develop more slowly than expected, either of which would slow the growth of TripAdvisor’s business and revenues

lg.php.gifposted on Tnooz by Dennis Schaal


Today Skype passed a milestone of 30 million people online at the same time.  Wow.  Of all the outlets online for social media, I think Skype gets back to the heart of the old fashion connection with people.  You can’t hide behind your keyboard or edit and re-edit your responses. Or multi-task, which I am a self proclaimed queen of.  You just get back to connecting with people face to face – online.  What I would give to of had this technology growing up.  So the question of the day is, who have you Skyped today? Make it your new daily ritual.

Seen on a recent blog … “Driving Every Loyal Traveler Away – the new Delta.”

Delta’s business is built on a “mass customer” model.  Yet, their marketing model creates tiers, or customer castes.  No surprise then, that the many customers feel resentment.

Can Delta really expect its most loyal (read: frequent) fliers to be Zealots – to engage in acts of referral?  More importantly, do others really care to hear about Delta from them?

What do you think?

Thought you’d appreciate the following article.  Interesting take we’re seeing over and over … the trend towards more casual, yet personal luxury touches.

Call it rational luxury. And one company that thinks they are playing by the rules instead of irrational exuberance is Hyatt Hotels Corporation. This week the company is opening the Andaz Wall Street, which owned by The Hakimian Organization, Peykar Brothers Realty and Gorjian Properties. It’s the third luxury boutique hotel Hyatt has opened under this moniker and company executives think it’s the right product even if the so prognosticators think it’s the wrong time. Come spring, another Andaz is scheduled to open further uptown on 5th Avenue and 41st Street, and on February 1 the Ivy hotel in San Diego will adopt the Andaz name.

While the hotel adopts many characteristics of the traditional boutique hotel, such as an edgier design than a typical hotel, the defining factor here is service, according to every executive I spoke to at an opening event yesterday.

“One of the key things I reflect back on is how we got to where we are today and engaging with our guests and asking them what they want. We wanted to craft something that is truly responsive to needs in the market,” said Mark Hoplamazian, President and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corp, said at the event. “We will demonstrate what authentic hospitality is, which is a mission in our company.”

While “authentic hospitality” sounds like a buzzword used by every hotelier, Andaz goes further than any brand we’ve seen to break down barriers between the guest and staff. So much so, that the phrase once again means something. Even the name is meant to connote the brand’s service ethic. Andaz means “personal style” in Hindi.

There is a heightened sense of intimacy in the hotel that is real and genuine because of the initiatives put forth into the brand’s DNA. For example, rather than being shuffled from staff person to staff person during the check-in process, a “host” greets a guest upon arrival. They make sure bags get to the room, serve an espresso or perhaps a glass of wine to the guest, and check in the guest with a portable tablet computer. They’ve eliminated the need for a front desk entirely with this.

But the “host” is just that. That person is the guest’s conduit to a perfect stay during the entire visit. They also act as a concierge and will handle all the needs a guest may have. While we have not yet had an opportunity to stay at Andaz, it’s a formula that will surely create a more highly personalized experience. And, with a single point of contact, guests will connect with their host in ways that aren’t possible when dealing someone different at every point of contact like at many hotels.

“I think Andaz is going to mean many things to consumers,” Jonathan Frolich told me. He is the recently appointed GM of the soon-to-open uptown Andaz. “This is a new approach to hospitality. We are providing a non-traditional, less formal approach to service with zero compromise with finer things in life. We’ve mixed attention to detail with a great mix of style, flair and fun. We are not here to be cool and trendy.”

To that end there will be no nightclub or desire to create a “scene”, said Frolich, just a comfortable upscale environment that is highly reflective of the hotel’s location.

Take the restaurant, for example. At Andaz Wall Street, the open kitchen hides nothing. Guests can walk full circle around it and see their meals being prepared. And most interestingly, the bar has no bar. Incredibly informal liquor is displayed on tables and the bartender can move around the table in the same space inhabited by guests. It’s more like being in someone’s home – albeit a lot cooler one than the people we know – than in a hotel.

And that is the point. The philosophy can even be seen in the clothes. Created by design house Theory, there aren’t separate uniforms for different departments. Rather, a collection of separates has been designed that staffers can make their selections from.

“Andaz is really about delivering exceptional experiences in a non-traditional environment that is less formal and fashionable without comprise to attention to detail,” said Toni Hinterstoisser, GM of the to Andaz Wall Street.

Rates at the Wall Street property start at $275

Our last newsletter noted the value of unexpected rewards versus “expected” or earned frequency programs.   But, what is the best way to ensure that unannounced or promoted touches (or rewards) generate the customer delight you intend?

Personal recognition goes to the heart of creating Zealots.   We have seen examples of this countless times through research, through personal experience and through other anecdotal examples. Personal recognition matters, whether you are an upscale brand, a mainstream brand or a niche marketer.

One of the best examples out there is the door greeter at Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart, the great monolith. A retailer based on volume and low prices.   Does a door greeter add value in their philosophy?  Apparently, quite a bit – it is fundamental to their operation.  No, it is not truly personal in the sense of knowing your name and customizing your experience, but in terms of putting a face and a smile as a first impression to its customers?   Priceless, as the advertising line goes.

What are other examples of personal recognition that have impressed you?

The following poll by Skyscanner demonstrates again that airlines are the prime exhibit in an industry that doesn’t get how to nurture and build zealots.
Case in point – this survey failed to even suggest that security and safety MIGHT be an issue of importance.  With the recent thwarted terrorist attempt on a Northwest flight, I’m pretty sure that would be a bigger concern than those noted below.

Communication transparency is at the height of building a successful zealotry experience and it is at the core of problems travelers have with airlines.

Skyscanner’s recent survey has revealed the things that irk travelers most and 27% said that dishonest announcements about delayed flights are what really peeve passengers.

Passengers appreciate clarity from the start as this allows them to resort to plan B if needed” said Barry Smith, Skyscanner co-founder and director.

“It seems strange that airport security will confiscate an innocent bottle of water, yet we are permitted to board with these potentially lethal electronic devices. If an iPod could bring down a plane, would we really be allowed to fly with them?” said Sam Baldwin, Skyscanner travel editor.

Being “woken up to be sold something” won 17% and “ear piercing trumpet calls and bragging about landing on time” came in with 12%. Being told the plane is late due to the “late running of the inbound aircraft” (obviously!) and “long security queues” both took 8% of the vote.

A previous Skyscanner poll revealed that people with BO and Bad Breath were the most annoying fellow passengers to fly with.

Marketing’s job is to get ‘em in the door, right? It’s operations job to service them and hope they will return. Which is why most companies spend the overwhelming majority of their marketing budgets on getting prospects to the door. And, that might not be the most efficient spending – especially if you are desiring repeat customers.

There are six stages of customer relationships and half occur once the guest walks in your door. Many marketing programs and agencies focus on one area, failing to account that all touchpoints are collective and ultimately impact results. But, what about potential touchpoints after the business is concluded and your customer or guest has departed. This generally gets short shrift. Yet, savvy marketers know this is where you often develop a true loyalty and basis of referral.

Some quick facts to consider in future budgeting debates:

  • It is 5 to 10x more costly to win new customers than to keep existing customers coming back
  • Cost of new customer acquisition can be several hundred to several thousand dollars
  • Estimates are anywhere from 75 – 90% of marketing is spent against initial trial programs
  • Referral and retention programs generate the highest ROI, but are typically far less than 10% of a company’s marketing budget

The sales process: you’ve wooed the prospect, warmly greeted them, solved their need, provided them with product or service to their expectation. Now, what? Back to mining for more prospects. Instead, consider continuing the dialog with this guest.

A startling example of the effect of being relevant and engaging in social media.

The original news stories related to “United Breaks Guitar” – a story about mishandled baggage (and customer service) involving a guitar:

Sampling of You Tube videos on the story received the following viewers as of mid-August:

Fox News Channel: 142,000

CBS: 25,000

CNN Situation Room: 19,700

But, get this! The musician who owned the guitar took his story to song (and a YouTube video) when United didn’t respond to him in a timely manner.

In his own way, this musician parodied the whole story in song – a less than flattering portrayal of United’s baggage handlers and service reps. The views to his video: 5,005,000. That’s right. More than 5 million viewers. Comparison point? CBS Evening News averaged about 6 million viewers for 2008. My Name is Earl – season-ending show last May drew about 4.8 million viewers. Imagine … getting your gripe (or plaudit) across to as many viewers as a network evening broadcast?

People watch and read what interests them. Even on-line.

Watch the video:

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