Monday, August 31, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Deb Nelson, Hewlett-Packard

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with Deb Nelson, the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Technology Solutions Group, Hewlett-Packard, and is responsible for worldwide marketing of HP’s services, software, servers, storage, and networking. She will be presenting her keynote speech, "Preparing for Customer-Centricity 2020: How to Evolve the People, the Process & Technology to Meet Future Needs," on Thursday, November 5. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.

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Deborah Nelson is responsible for worldwide marketing of HP’s services, software, servers, storage, and networking. She leads marketing across five global business units to deliver technology solutions that help medium-size and enterprise organizations achieve better business outcomes.

Previously Deb was responsible for world wide marketing of HP’s personal computers, work stations, hand held products, and mobile and wireless solutions. Deb has held a broad range of marketing positions over her 20 year career. Her experience spans management of software, service, hardware products, channels, and partners, marketing communication, marketing research and business development in HP’s America and European Gail and worldwide organization.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your roll at HP.

Deb: So, as you may know, HP sells technology and technology solutions to consumers and businesses around the globe. In fact, just over a billion people around the world use our technology every single day. I am lucky enough to run marketing for HP’s enterprise business and we sell to businesses and governments around the globe. Our portfolio is a combination of business and IT services. This means different support services, consulting and outsourcing, as well as software, particularly around helping customers better manage their IT processes as well as information. And then a number of products ranging from servers to storage and networking.

What changes have had the biggest impact on customer centricity over the past few years? What do you think will change the most in the future?
Deb: Today, technology plays a fundamentally different roll in business. Technology today isn’t just supporting the business, but powering the business. Think about any business process whether you’re taking an order, replenishing inventory, even communication. It’s all powered by technology. And that means that today our customers, so CIOs, Chief Information Officers and their teams, they’re not just running IT projects, but they’re running business initiatives. They’re not just managing silos of applications and operations and strategies. They’re really managing and integrated IT platform that drives business change. That means that they need to measure technology results by the ability to either accelerate a company’s growth to help lower costs, something everyone is really interested in right now, or mitigate risks. And that means technology decisions today are really business decisions.

Now for the future, we think that customers will have even more choices about how to get accesses to different business services. And we refer to this trend as “Everything as a service.” And that means that anything from just raw computing power to a business process to personal interactions, I mean, think about your consumer life, whether that’s email or other services that you get out of the cloud. That everything will be available to you whenever and however you want it. That means that customers will get to choose based on the best value. And therefore understanding and really anticipating customer needs and preference are will be very very critical.

Why is it so important for a company to have two way communications with their customers today? How has this relationship changed?
Deb:In today’s environment, we are lucky to have so many options to have a two-way dialog with customers. It’s not mass communications environments of previous decades. Today the explosion of media channels really gives the ability to have a true two-way dialog with customers. We don’t have to guess what customers want anymore, they’ll tell us. Social media has given us so many more listening points that where we can get feedback and have interactions with customers. This means it’s really critical for any organization to be enthusiastically engaged with all of their stakeholders and be a part of these dialogues going on. In fact, for us, we know that our target audience the enterprise business it buyers are actually some of the most active users of social media. We actually did research with Forrester that looked at all the different roles that people play in social media. And they said that our customers are actually off the chart as far as social participation, whether it’s someone who is creating content, so publishing a blog or publishing our own webpages, all the way up to one who is just reading and accessing information through this wide plethora of media we have. So at HP, we’re responding to our customer’s adoption of this exciting set of new social media and we’re changing how we engage with our customers whether that’s through different online interactions, blogs and podcasts such as this. We’re changing how we buy media, we’re changing the breadth of people that are participating in that so that we have the folks inside of HP that customer want to talk to like our technical engineers and presales folks. (This is so these employees can ) directly interact with customer about the technology and our technology solutions. And our goal is to have business conversations that lead to business.

Tell us a little about what you’ll be presenting at NACCM this year.
Deb: My talk is about preparing for customer centricity over the next couple of decades. And I’ll share some ideas about what you can do today to help get people, processes and technology ready for whatever the future brings. As a part of this, (I’ll be speaking about) deploying effective strategies for listening to customer and communicating with them in ways that meet their needs now and in the future. And I’ll talk about what a company needs to focus on to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty, which has changed rather dramatically over the last five years, and will continue to change. Before, in our space, quality, deliverability and reliability were the number one drivers of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. But today, these are really just the anites to enter into the game. So I’ll talk about what HP is doing to increase and measure customer loyalty. And finally, I’ll discuss some of the things we’ve learned at HP about when and how to stick to business basics and when to embrace new methods and technology to maintain a strong customer focus.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Deb: It’s been a pleasure talking to you Jenny, and HP is a whole company that is really focused on delivering great experiences to customers. In today’s environment, we have a lot more tools to do that and to be able to have a two-way dialogue. I often hear about how some organizations feel threatened by social media, or feel that it’s a risky journey. But we really view it in a different way. We think it’s a super opportunity to be engaged real time to find out what’s on customers minds. And I’m really excited about speaking at the Customers 1st Conference in November, and it’ll be a great opportunity for me to hear from others to hear about what they’re doing to be engaged with customers.

We’d like to thank Deb Nelson for speaking with us today and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at

See you in November!

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Friday, August 28, 2009

It's harder to hold on to today's customers

Mike Linton of Forbes recently commented on the difficulty that is keeping customers for your business. We all know that it's far easier to keep customers you currently have rather than acquire new ones.

However Linton makes the point that as long as you have a brand that stays relevant and listen to customers needs. He also points out that it's important to stay relevant in your customers mind when it comes to value and pricing.

Everyone is hurting today in this economy. How are you ensuring that your customers are going to receive the best price and value from you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Verizon tools help you fix FiOS yourself

The reports today that Verizon has implemented tools to help customers fix their FiOS services themselves.

The New York-based telecom unveiled its Verizon In-Home Agent, a computer program subscribers can download to help them trouble their own television or Internet connections without having to call the company’s customer service.

The application, which for now is only compatible with the Windows operating system, gives users the ability to run the same troubleshooting applications technical service agents run when customers call them. In addition, the program can help users set up their Wi-Fi connections, configure e-mail accounts, set up voice mail.

Will Verizon fix its customer service woes by allowing customers to fix things on their own--or will it be more of a disaster for the telecommunications giant?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

4 Lessons in Customer Service

This post in the Online Business Advisor details a few lessons learned from a recent stop at a store while searching for a laptop. Customer service in the online realm shouldn' t be different just because you are not in the customers physical presence. Reviews of bad customer service can float very quickly now with the social web age. So here are a few lessons learned that all businesses should take seriously.

1. It's important to know when customers want to buy. There should always be a point in your site that can get consumers easily back to the shopping cart, and it should be easy to navigate to as well.
2. Customers should not be aimlessly searching your site. There should be easy navigation, a clear call to action, and prominent offers should be visible.

3. Make sure to offer alternative to consumers and that they alternatives are easy to find.
4. The web doesn't close, its a 24/7 business so even if you're not around there should at least be a FAQ page with commonly asked questions and answers to help consumers when they are stuck.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Dan Wiersma, Sony Electronics

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with Dan Wiersma, who 2000 as Senior Vice President for Professional Services was promoted in 2005 to Senior Vice President for Consumer Service at Sony Electronics. He retired from Sony this past June. He will be joining the panel, "It's Not Business as Usual: Leading Loyalty amidst a Disruptive Business Environment," on Tuesday, November 3 in the Creating Uber Loyalists: Cracking the Code on Next Gen Loyalty, Engagement and Advocacy. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.

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Hello and welcome to the NACCM: Customers 1st podcast, I’m Jenny Pereira and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Dan Wiersma. In 2000 Dan Wiersma joined Sony Electronics in 2000 as Senior Vice President for Professional Services was promoted in 2005 to Senior Vice President for Consumer Service. He retired from Sony this past June. He will be participating in the panel “It’s Not Business as Usual: Leading Loyal amidst a Disruptive Business Environment.”

And with that said, I would like to welcome Dan.

Congrats on your recent retirement from Sony last month. You were the Senior Vice President of Service Platforms for Sony Electronics. Tell us about your tenure there, how did you see service evolve, how did customer needs and expectations evolve?
Well thanks; I appreciate the invitation to do this podcast today. You know I spent nine years at Sony, responsible for the professional service group from 2000-2005, and then the service platform organization from 2005 until my retirement on June 1st of this year. You know the service at Sony evolved from the traditional break/fix service of the 90s to into more of a integral part, and the overall business in the nine years of my tenure there. I think in the professional side, value added services and manage service became a bigger part of the service in that overall business in that period. Things like remote monitor had long been used in the IT world, and became part of the broadcast and professional world as that market became more digitized. The need for lower costs, outsourced services and networked systems required new approaches to customer service needs. I think on the professional side, that’s what evolved there. In the consumer world, customers networked and applications required servicers to upgrade their capabilities to be able to solve much more difficult and integrated situations as well. Tools like log-me-in became a much more common use for solving customer service issues in a networked world. Not just for PCs but any network-based programs. Customers became much more able to search using the initial web 1.0 approaches, so we had services; we had to provide better support tools to help them find what they are looking for. Drivers became synonymous not just with PCs, but literally every product in the digital world. You know the web 2.0, whatever it is in the future, 3.0, 4.0, changes the game again as customers can now use social networking to communicate with each other with their experiences. So we had to change again with the implementation of some social networking capability, which was just getting underway in my organization when I retired June 1st. So overall, I’d say the expectations of customers increased significantly over my nine years at Sony. Much more information was available to them, they could find out about our products and services. You could not keep things kept up inside any more they became much more available externally, and you had to share those externally. We had to be open, you had to talk to customers, which was a really great thing because they could tell you what you’re doing right and wrong, so it gives you the opportunity to improve what you do and your products and services, assuming you’re listening to them. Of course, that’s what we’re working strongly to do at Sony. So that’s how I saw things evolve in my nine years at Sony.

What's been your proudest moment at Sony?
Wow. I’ve had many. But I would say my proudest is working with what I thought was the best team of people you could hope to be a part of in the organization. And I think it’s really part of the company’s success, the people. Everyone in our organization stepped up four years ago when I became head of the service platform. We created a strategy and looking back over that period, by all of the measures we had that related to customers, our loyalty scores improved in every sector of the organization. We adopted the Net Promoter Score methodology, I’m assuming most of the listeners here are familiar with. And we did it not only for service, but for all of the consumer business in the organization, and people around the world in other regions and corporate areas started paying attention to the methodology and started adopting it. I was extremely proud of this since I was the one senior executive leading the effort in the company. This couldn’t have happened without the incredible dedication of the people that I had in the organization. And I was extremely proud to be a member of that team, and that really dramatically improved the customer service of the organization over the four years.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to customer-centricity?
Dan: I’d say paying attention to what customers are saying. In order to do that, you have to have an organization that can listen to when a customer is “hot” and not to loose your cool or critical in really telling you that you messed up and maybe you don’t feel that you did. So it’s really listening to the customer. And this goes back to my previous comment about my pride in the company. It’s really related to the people that I have the privilege to work with in the organization. We train our people to be really good at listening to customers, spent a lot of time over and over and gave them additional tools and capabilities. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars training our employees to be good listeners. It wasn’t always perfect, but our front line people, and our national frontline customer relations team, they were just the best at this. Without them and the support of the organization to that approach, we couldn’t have accomplished the performance that we did. So I’m really passionate about people first in the customer centric equation.

Second, I’m really passionate about the measures and the analysis of the measures to tell you what to do. In the past, we had a lot of measures but we didn’t pay much attention to the measures and what they were telling us. We began establishing a regular monthly customer experience meeting with our entire management team, and that included not just the operations level, but human resources, IT, admin, literally everybody in the organization and their supervisors to focus on the measures and the action plans that we needed to use to improve the customer facing performance. People knew I was really serious about this and came well prepared to address the issues and implement changes. Some of them came quickly, and others took time. And quite honestly we did some experimentation. And people were excited about the idea of trying new things without feeling that if they didn’t work, they were going to be punished for them. I applauded all of the efforts that they did on a regular basis and we learned from that over four years, and we continued to improve our results as part of that process. So the people and measures are two key things that I was incredibly passionate about in terms of customer centricity.

Where do you think companies go wrong with delivering the best service to their customers and how can they overcome that?
I think, and maybe this goes back to a little bit of the history in some respects in regards to the service organizations and maybe depending on who you are and what company your in. This may be right or wrong, but I think many see service as an expense. Especially, in my experience, those product-centric companies don’t see service as a value-added opportunity to delight customers. Not only can companies fix “busted stuff” but they can also gain valuable customer feedback that the product people can use to improve the quality of the products and the customer experience. I don’t think companies take advantage of “rich data” that is available to them via the customer service groups in using it to improve the overall customer experience. At least at Sony, we were probably the organization that got more one-to-one face customer information than any other group including the sales and marketing organization. So that information is really rich in customers telling you what’s going on. And I think the concepts of Net Promoter Score, when used deeply; provide you the opportunity to use that information. I think we proved it, at least in one product area within the company made significant progress by using our data as well as some of their own to really focus on some of the customers and solve some real customer issues at the sales, marketing, out of the box, service experience level. It defiantly panned out. I think companies may go wrong as not thinking of service as a significant part of the data repository for customer information and use it to help them improve their business.

You'll be speaking at the NACCM Customers 1st event on Leading Loyalty amidst a Disruptive Business Environment, how do you get the whole company to embrace loyalty as a strategic business initiative?
It’s not easy. Even with our successes, there’s always some resistance. And one way, the way that I’ve found that most initiatives of any type get traction is to the top executive or executives in the company, believing in what you’re doing, and in this case, believing the loyalty of customers is really critical to the business success. I was fortunate and Sony was fortunate because the president and the chief operating officer of Sony Electronics saw this value and made it part of the overall strategy and action plans for their total business. And even with that, not everyone reached out and embraced it. And for those that did, the results came clear and improvement was evident to everyone. I think in what I call the new economy, the one we’re moving into, I believe in order to maintain success, you have to have the loyalty of customers, which means not just products but also content, networking and service, they all have to play together to take care of customers because they’re all an integral part of what the customer purchases. And I think NPS is a great tool, it’s a concept around loyalty as a measure but it’s also a process that you can use to look across the entire organization and focus on improving your customer loyalty, and I think that’s one of the key things on my mind in the changing business environment you have to think much more broadly than what I call silent.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Dan: Just one last thing, which I’ve talked a little bit about in this discussion, but it’s something that over my nine years and even before that, I think there’s some key tenants for success in the service business. And the first one as I’ve already articulated is make sure you have your people in your organization empowered, and feeling like they can make decisions and helping them understand what the strategy of that organization is in getting that focus together. Empowered workforce is empowered people. I think secondly is really focus on your customers. Make sure you have enough performance data and metrics and use the information to really help develop what you need to do to keep your customers loyal as far as the service goes. Operational efficiency and effectiveness. And then last one comes as part of the business but it’s also part of the process, and what I call is shareholder satisfaction or profitability. I think without those other three before them, it’s hard to make the last one successful without your people being excited and your people working closely with customers and making your operation as efficient and effective as you can. I think that’s my final comment from an overall direction from a service perspective. Probably those are tenants that would withstand the overall test of time whether it’s the overall new economy or old economy.

We’d like to thank Dan Wiersma for speaking with us today and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at

See you in November!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Marketers are Ignoring Their Customers

Jason Tarasi explains in this post in Ezine Articles that many businesses out there are still making the cardinal mistake of ignoring their customers and treating them as nothing more than a mere annoyance. He discusses how customer service can result in repeat sales, less refund requests, and more sales through referral marketing through satisfied customers. Here are some important issues he stresses companies should adhere too.

1. Get back to your customers within 24 hours because it can seem like an eternity to your customer.
2. Give your customers unexpected bonuses. This will help build loyalty and keep your business fresh.
3. Be prompt with refunds because it will only lead to potential headaches if you take too long.
4. Lastly, create quality products and services because ultimately that is what the customer is looking for.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Economic Necessity Of Customer Service

Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D., a member of the Customers 1st LinkedIn Group, recently wrote the white paper The Economic Necessity Of Customer Service. See the full white paper here.

In this economic climate, no one can afford to lose a customer. Rather than halting spending, smart customer service executives will use this economic downturn as an opportunity to regroup and reprioritize. What should they focus on? Top customer service recession-busting strategies that cut costs and generate more revenue include: proactive chat, agent-customer co-browsing, online customer communities, unified communications, and multichannel knowledge management.

Read the full white paper here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Customers 1st Keynote Speaker: Curtis Bingham

The Ultimate in Customer Centricity: Chief Customer Officers Describe How Everyone Can be a Loyalty Leader
Curtis Bingham

For more than 15 years, Curtis Bingham, the President of the Predicting Consulting Group, has helped companies dramatically increase customer acquisition, retention, and customer profitability. He's the author of the forthcoming book published by HRD Press, The Key to Customer Strategy: The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer that describes how a consistent and unified customer strategy can grow revenue, profit, and loyalty. He's uncovered millions of dollars in hidden profits for companies like Intuit, Microsoft, Standard & Poor's, Cardinal Health, and numerous smaller businesses.

A recognized authority and thought-leader on Chief Customer Officers (CCO), Curtis has published the annual Executive-Level Customer Champions report covering companies such as Cisco, HP, Sun,, and Disney that includes the roles, responsibilities, and best practices of CCOs around the world to increase customer loyalty and profitability.

Curtis has worked with a variety of industries including enterprise software, telecom, semiconductor, marketing automation, publishing, corporate gift, and Internet advertising in addition to various non-profit organizations as well. He is a contributing editor for Sales & Marketing Excellence and a regular contributor to the Handbook of Business Strategy.

Holding both an MBA from Lehigh University and a Master’s in Computer Science from Brigham Young University, he has taught Demand Chain Management at Bentley College in Massachusetts, plus he is a member of the Institute of Management Consultants.

Curtis is also heavily involved with the Boy Scouts of America. Evenings and weekends are usually spent enjoying his second love (after his wife and family, of course) in the outdoors and helping develop character, citizenship, and life skills in each Scout.

Biography courtesy of Predictive Consulting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

List of Best Practices for Applying Social Media to Improve Customer Service

I came across this post from Heather Clancy on the smartplanet blog in which she lists 5 best practices for applying social media to better customer service from Forrester analyst Natalie Petouhoff. Natalie covers the space regularly and this is a summary of her main points from the report "Best Practices: Five Strategies for Customer Service Social Media Excellence." Enjoy!

1. Take ownership. Keep focused on the true mission, making the customer service, and avoid letting marketing and sales control the agenda. Understand what they need, but don’t skew what you’re doing to accommodate tactical problems. If you handle customer service properly, it will naturally help sales.
2. Figure out who you want to reach and set out specific goals. Don’t just experiment.
3. Focus on the customer experience. In particular, make sure there is support for a two-way conversation. Where possible, let the customer do the talking on your behalf by engaging and developing “super customers.”
4. Understand the role of different technologies. In all likelihood, your strategy will rely on multiple approaches. You need to figure out what’s best for your audience AND you need to keep on top of the new tools that will doubtless be at your disposal in three months.
5. Figure out the costs and build a real business case. Even if some of your perceived benefits might be intangible, you can assign them a value and weigh them against the start-up technology investment you might have to make. You need to know the risks and when to cut your losses.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Tom Nightingale

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with Tom Nightingale, the vice president, communications and chief marketing officer for Con-way Inc. He will be presenting in the Organizational & Operational Excellence track on Thursday, November 5. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.

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Hello and welcome to the NACCM: Customers 1st podcast, I’m Jenny Pereira and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Tom Nightingale. Tom Nightingale is vice president, communications and chief marketing officer for Con-way Inc. In this position, Mr. Nightingale is responsible for the oversight of the global branding of Con-way and its business units as well as enterprise sales management. He and his team are responsible for strategic marketing, public relations, advertising, digital media, communications and market research for all of Con-way's subsidiaries: Con-way Freight, Con-way Truckload, Menlo Worldwide Logistics, and Road Systems Inc.

Tom will be a speaker at this year’s NACCM: Customers 1st Conference this November 2-5 at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak in Phoenix, Arizona.

And with that said, I would like to welcome Tom.

Tell me about your role at Conway.
Tom: Sure absolutely. The role as you would expect, as CMO it’s easy to point to the branding. But I think in reality, it’s much broader and deeper than that. And at the end of the day, what my role comes down to is to ensure that we do there things as a company exceptionally well. Those three things are first, to reduce the cost to acquire and retain customers, second to attract and retain the best and brightest employees, and third to position the company for growth. In the end, a great brand is a critical enabler of those three things, but in and of itself, a great brand isn’t the goal. The goal is to do those three things and do them exceptionally well. A brand just happens to be one of the best ways we can do those things but it is just one of the big ways we can do it. Despite the fact that’s one of the areas people point to frequently in my role.

What is Conway’s main differentiator?

Tom: Well really, Jenny, what Con-Way is known for, is really two things in the industry. First is a very high service level in the proposition in the marketplace. Regardless of which part of our portfolio you look at, you or any customer would find that we provide that we provide exceptionally high service levels at each part of the business unit. And really each of the three business units big business unites as well as the manufacturing subsidiary is focused on high levels of service.

And the second thing, and it’s really directly related to the first item, is the fact that our people and our value system we have in place, supports that enterprise commercial value proposition. So really, our people live out or values everyday and those are the enablers to help them delivery that high service value. For example, our core values integrality, commitment, and excellence really come out in every single action that our people take. And as a high service business, really a service business in general, that allows us to deliver on the brand promise of high service set of return,

Tell us about your “living the brand” environment.
Tom: Absolutely. As I mention before as a service company, we don’t make iPods. I wish we did, but we don’t. It’s critical for us that each of our employees manifests and lives out our brand in the marketplace every day. They are our brand. At almost 28,000 employees, we touch lots and lots of customers every day whether it’s a direct extension of our brand or as an extension of our customer’s brand. If we want that brand to be real, it starts and stops at our values. Our employees are drawn to our values and those values become one of the critical pillars for making us the destination employer in our industry. Those who don’t align with our values probably don’t stick around with us for too long. We were fortunate a few years ago, we made a significant acquisition and we acquired a really phenomenal brand line, in the process of the acquisition. So in going through the due diligence process of that acquisition, it became one of the things that I really was salivating over, and because it really helped tie together our employer brand as well as our customer value proposition in the market place and that brand line which we’ve adopted corporately is “Never settle for less.” We felt that “Never settle for less” unified the concept of high service to our customers and our very clear and unambiguous value system that our employees live the value every day. It really helps them underpin how they live the brand out in the marketplace.

How do you keep your people motivated to live to brand every day?
Tom: It comes down to two big things: communication and consistent reinforcement. I think there are a lot of companies that do a great job of creating initial communication when they roll out their values. But then they let it fall off pretty quickly. Kind of flavor of the day, it’s interesting, you hang the posters up, the CEO gets into it, and then you move on. At Conway, we have a legacy. And that legacy existed long before I ever got to the company. I’m a fortunate CMO to have inherited that. We’ve consistently communicated and reinforced those values. We recommit to them annually by signing a constitution. Which is kind of a fun exercise, we have a specific week each year, everyone within each of the business units and operating locations puts their John Hancock on something we call the Constitution. And that constitution underscores our values, we weave them consistently into our executive communications. We publish a book every couple of years with stories about our employees living out those values (of) living out our brand in the marketplace. And lastly, what we’ve done, and I can’t claim responsibility for it, the recipient of it, we’ve created a peer to peer recognition system that enables our employees to recognize each others action as we live out that brand everyday in the marketplace. It’s really catching people doing things right. We do that and we give them the tools to recognize if things are going right. It’s really done a phenomenal job of reinforcing our values and intern getting our employees motivated to live out the brand every single day.

To end on a positive note. While the recession has brought on much negativity, there’s a lot of new ideas and lessons with how businesses operate and communicate with their customers. What do you think will be some of the best positives changes that will come from this recent downturn?
Tom: It’s interesting; I think some of the best positive changes to come out of this is going back to basics. You know in our industry, branding starts with employment branding. That’s why my team is responsible for recruitment marketing. We want people to be attracted to our employment value proposition, who will intern live it out. And we continue that theme because my team is also responsible for the internal communication within the company. That reinforce in providing consistent messages to employees after they’ve been hired. Our entire branch system is wrapped in from cradle to grave, right on through retirement communications, as well, throughout my organization. And that becomes the bedrock, the foundation of what we do. And then from there, we obviously do commercial marketing. That’s what most people think of when they think of marketing. But in our business, because it is in the service industry, and very high service business, that commercial marketing presence is always underpinned by this employee marketing, and how we brand ourselves to our employees, and in turn how our employees extend that brand into the marketplace. And we again try to enable that through good solid professional consistent communication from pre-employment to postemployment right on through retirement. It’s worked out very nicely for us, it’s what we’ve become known for in the industry is that the service level and the commitment that our employees show every single day in the marketplace.

We’d like to thank Tom Nightingale for speaking with us and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at

See you in November!

Steps to saving the angry customer

In the New York Times, Jay Goltz recently looked at ways to S.A.V.E. your angry customers. The key to providing customer service is to give your customer service representatives and make sure that they've to got the right personality to provide quality service to the customers. But how to do you reach out and save those angry customers you've got on the phone? Goltz has a system to S.A.V.E. your angry customers:

Eat something.

Look more in-depth into his customer-saving philosophy here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Verizon, T-Mobile lead in wireless customer service; AT&T, Sprint below average

ZDnet reports that Verizon and T-Mobile have lead the U.S. wireless carriers in overall customer service. The report said that wireless customer service has improved overall as hold times and problem resolution has improved from six months ago.

Overall, customer care performance has improved to 735 on a 1,000 point scale. That’s up 12 points from February. Seventy-six percent of calls to customer service were resolved on first contact, up from 66 percent in February. Hold times also average 5.55 minutes, down from 6.58 minutes in February, according to J.D. Power.

Very interesting news for iPhone and Palm Pre users.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Verizon and T-Mobile Stay Ahead in Wireless Customer Service

This post on ZDNet shares that according to JD Power and Associates wireless customer service has improved overall since 6 months ago. The wireless companies that led the rankings in customer service were Verizon, T-Mobile, and Alltel.

Some significant number changes include average wait times changing from 6.58 minutes to 5.5 minutes and the percent of calls that were resolved on first contact changing from 66% to 76%. Here are other trends identified by JD Power on the ZDNet post:
  • A third of contacts are about the cost of service.
  • Among customers that contact their carrier two to three times to fix an issue, 17 percent are likely to switch carriers. If a problem is solved in one contact, 10 percent are likely to switch.
  • Fifteen percent of contacts are due to calls or text messages from carriers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Online Customer Service is Just as Important

According to this post on Econsultancy there should be a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of customers online. The results of a survey conducted by nGeneraCIM show that 91% of UK web users mentioned that customer service is crucial when purchasing online.

If customers needed help when searching through the site, 36% preferred email as a contact means, 26% said they would visit the FAQ section, and only 19% said they would call a customer service number. Many UK websites still haven't provided adequate means of contacting customer service through the internet. They will have to do a better job, as well as utilize live chat to have an effective online customer service strategy in the future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Becky Carroll

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with chair Becky Carroll, last year's NACCM: Customers 1st Live Blogger and blogger at Customers Rock!. She will be presenting during the Aligning Social Media with Customer Strategy Summit on Tuesday, November 3. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.

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Hello and welcome to the NACCM: Customers 1st podcast, today I have the pleasure of speaking with Becky Carroll. Becky Carroll is the founder of Petra Consulting Group and blogger at the Customers Rock!. She is a long-time customer advocate and someone who is passionate about social media, marketing, and the customer experience. In 2005, Becky founded Petra Consulting Group, a strategic consulting agency helping companies grow through customer conversation leading to stronger customer relationships. She was also the live blogger at last year’s NACCM Customers 1st Conference.

And with that said, I would like to welcome Becky.

Tell us a little bit about your self and your passion points.

Well you’ve covered a lot already! But, so, like you said I am the founder of Petra Consulting Group. And I founded that to build on my passion points, which are the customers. For a long time I have been focused on customer not just consumers, but from a B2B perspective as well. And how businesses can really grow customer conversations that will intern grow customer relationships. So from that, I started my blog Customers Rock to talk about great customer experience. A positive blog, it’s not one of those ranting blogs that you see a lot of, but positive. And to share with companies others that are doing it really well. So that we have some great examples to build from as we build our businesses. And then the other thing that is one of my passions is helping people. A little over a year ago, I started teaching a class at UC San Diego on how to market with social media for business. That’s been a lot of fun to work with students from around the work who are taking the class. Work with local business in San Diego, and work with them to figure out how to use new media to help them improve their business and grow. I think that covers your question.

Thank you for serving as our first official blogger at NACCM Customers 1st last year. What did you get out of the conference last year? What made it different?

Becky: Well last year was the first year I’d been to the NACCM: Customers 1st Conference. I loved it, it was a great conference and a lot of fun to be your first official blogger so thanks for that. One of the things I really enjoyed about the conference, and what made it different from other conferences I’ve been to, is it had a lot of different chances to get your hands dirty. It was held in Anaheim at the Disneyland Resort. And so we had the opportunity to go out with someone from the Disney Institute and understand what was going on with customer service. Understand how Disney is so good at taking care of their customers who they call their guests. So that was a fabulous opportunity, and I’m a huge Disney fan, so for me, I thought that that was really the best. But I think the other thing that was great about last year’s conference was that there was a wonderful opportunity to meet with the speakers. They were very accessible. There were opportunities to sign up and have one on one time with them. Met them at lunches and dinners and I thought it was just a very open environment, sharing conference, and I loved that we were there with other people who were liked minded and very customer centric and understand how important customers are to business success.

This year you strategically partnered with us to develop the agenda for the Aligning Social Media with Customer Strategy - Give us a preview of what to expect from this summit and why it's so crucial that professionals attend this summit, what makes it so unique?

Becky: Thanks. I did have the opportunity to work with your conference team to help put this special day focused on social media together. One of the reasons I did it was because I’m always getting questions from people in my class or others who call me or on my blog saying, “Hey Becky, my boss saw an article on Twitter in the Wall Street Journal and he’s telling me to go do it but I don’t know anything about it and I’m not sure it makes sense for my business.” So I think it’s important that businesses especially those who want to get closer to their customers think through whether or not they really need social media. Is this just hype or something we need to take seriously. And if it is something we need to take seriously, how do you go about doing that and which tools do we need to start using? So this summit is a great day for them, it’s the beginning of the Customers 1st Conference, to start thinking about how to make this a strategic not an emotional decision. And hear from people who are really leaders in social media who are doing it and doing it from a customer relationship building perspective rather than just a PR perspective, which is what many people are doing it from. So I would encourage anyone to come to the summit day on aligning social media to really find out how to know the best way to use social media to build customer relationships.

If you could give companies that are looking into social media efforts one piece of advice, what would it be?’

Becky: That’s easy, it’s listen. I think too many companies are jumping into social media without stopping first to hear what customer are saying. I look at social media as a party, where you go into the room and there are lots of people who are having lost of different conversations on lots of different topics. And you would never walk up to just on group and say, “Hey my name is Becky and I want to tell you all about my business and what I do. And hey, would you like to get on my mailing list?” People would kind of look at you and go, “Ew, no thanks,” and walk away. If we first listen and find out what that conversation is about and learn a little more about those who are in the conversation, then maybe we can come in a little bit softer and a participate instead of just shouting at people. So I always encourage the one thing, if nothing else is done in social media, there are some tools out there that are free, and listen to your customers, listen to the conversation, listen to see what they have to say about you, your brand, your competitors and your industry. Use this to supplement to the rest of how you’re listening to the voice of the customer to really learn how to build relationships.

Any else you'd like to share?

Becky:I would like to leave people with the thought that customer focus is so much more important right now than it ever has been. The relationships that are built and fortified now I think are going to be able to withstand this economic storm. I think that companies that really focus on getting to know their customers needs, preferences and desires are going to be well positioned and ahead of the game when we come out on the other side.

We’d like to thank Becky Carroll for speaking with us and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at

See you in November!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Deadly Customer Service Mistakes

I came across this list of customer service mistakes from SEO Hosting that many companies are still committing to this day. Take a look at them, is your company guilty of any of these mistakes? We're interested in any other mistakes that aren't on this list as well. Enjoy!
  1. Ignoring your customer after the sale
  2. Not living up to your promises
  3. Not truly listening to your customer
  4. Treating customer complaints as a nuisance rather than an opportunity
  5. Being difficult to reach
  6. Not taking responsibility

Read the full post here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The ROI Of Online Customer Service Communities

Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D., a member of the Customers 1st LinkedIn Group, recently wrote the white paper The ROI Of Online Customer Service Communities: A Total Economic Impact™ Analysis Uncovers Big Benefits From Social Technologies. See the full white paper here.

Consumers are rapidly adopting social media communication technologies and behaviors. Customer service professionals are beginning to look at incorporating these collaborative tools to deliver better customer experiences at a lower cost. This approach seems to have great promise; however, there is little documentation at present on the cost-effectiveness of incorporating social strategies and technologies for businesses. Forrester talked with early-adopter companies and reviewed the solutions from leading vendors to understand the variables to consider for determining the business value of online communities for customer service and support. The early evidence indicates that social technologies are a sound choice because they provide an attractive ROI in a short period of time while delivering better customer experiences.

Read the full white paper:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We invite you to join us at Customers 1st!

Register for Customers 1st by THIS Friday, August 7th & Save $300! Find out more about the conference:

Is Twitter Part of Your Customer Service & Support Strategy?

Despite outages, Twitter can be a useful tool within the support strategy of your customer service department. highlights a recent article Mashable writing, problem resolution - it’s the main goal of customer service and Twitter provides a platform for a fast, easy response possibly in a single tweet; positive brand image - when someone receives service they like, they talk about it and Twitter provides a viral platform to spread the word which can lead to more sales and more attention; staff involvement - Twitter provides a more interesting platform for support representatives to serve the customer and provides immediate visibility into the impact they make; cost reduction - what every support organization wants and with Twitter it’s necessary to be short and to the point reducing the time required to solve each problem.

If you're using Twitter, how can you take it a step further for a better integration between service and customer? We'd like to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Join us in Phoenix this November for NACCM Customers 1st

The 2009 NACCM Customers 1st Conference will arm you with the tools and techniques you need to become the initiator at your organization and the skills you need to succeed with all of your customer initiatives. Our world-class speaking faculty is filled with industry-leading initiator's who are ready to share their secrets to success.

Register by THIS Friday, August 7th & Save $300!

Find out more about the conference and register here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reasons for poor customer service

Jay Goltz recently wrote a piece at the New York Times looking at three main reasons why customer service sometimes fails in today's business world.

1) Health Insurance Costs -- The cost to insure full time workers is expensive, so many stores have part time staffs which leads to not enough training and high turnover.
2) Pricing changes -- The massive sales that occur every other week create a situation where large staffs are needed, yet when stores are not having these sales, much of the staff is sitting around with a lack of things to do.
3) No more merchants -- The children of the merchants have gone on to receive educations and haven't returned to the family businesses. There is also an occurrence of overeducated decision makers who may be looking at things other than customer service when they are pulling numbers together.

Read the full article here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Kathleen Peterson: Part 5

I think it’s really important that we help the attendees understand that this conference covers so many areas that contributes to the human factors side, to the operations side, to the quality side, organizational side, there’s a huge opportunity for people to walk away with not only actions that they can take but also with new networking relationships that they can maintain.

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with chair Kathleen Peterson to talk about the event, both today and what has changed since she first chaired it back in 2003. This podcast is the final recording in the podcast, so check back next week to hear from another speaker from the Customers 1st Conference!

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What are some of the core messages you hope you can instill in attendees as the chair?

Kathleen Peterson: I think the core message of the conference, and as a chair, that’s my roll, is really to inspire. I hate to seem an evangelist about this. I really believe that if the attendee arrives at a conference such as this and is clear about their issues and what they care to learn about then they can design their own experience through the curriculum and through the networking opportunities to walk away with a specific set of action items that they can implement upon return. I think it’s really important that we help the attendees understand that this conference covers so many areas that contributes to the human factors side, to the operations side, to the quality side, organizational side, there’s a huge opportunity for people to walk away with not only actions that they can take but also with new networking relationships that they can maintain. I think a lot of folks that attend this conference are in senior positions and they can crate their own mini networks to challenge and brainstorm with one other. I think the message here is that you have to really understand what the potential for takeaways are. Think in terms of action, learn, participate and connect.

In addition to chairing the event, you’re presenting during a breakout session. What will that be about?

Kathleen Peterson: I am presenting with my colleague Deb Justice on the appropriate development of training curriculum. So not simply, I think the old approach as been “Ok, put your login ID in” people take systems and service and transactions separately within a training development. We are going to be talking about performance based learning. Performance based learning says that teaching needs to reflect the experience a learner is going to have on the job. We’re going to talk about the approach that one takes to that building a model for module development. A look at how to organize content, and then delivery channels around the content. What this does is create a formula, if you will, not only for developing new hire training, but developing ongoing training for the learning population within and enterprise. We’re very excited about it.

We’d like to thank Kathleen Peterson for speaking with us and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at

See you in November!