Friday, December 30, 2022

Why Customer Touch Points Matter

When people think about brands and brand management, they usually think about one of these things: brand positioning, brand strategy, brand identity and brand marketing. But they should also think about customer touch point design and execution. This is often driven by processes, systems (human and computer), organization design, front line employees (including customer service and tech support), hiring criteria, training, metrics, reward systems and other HR, operations and IT functions.

Consider the impact of each of the following scenarios on how you might perceive the brand:

  • Someone in a branded vehicle cuts you off in traffic and gives you the middle finger.
  • You call a customer service line and are asked to punch an endless set of digits only to find that there is no option for what you are seeking.
  • You call a customer service line and are put on hold for over 20 minutes only to have the call dropped so that you have to start all over again.
  • You interact with a tech support person who knows less than you do about fixing a problem you are encountering.
  • You complain at the front desk of your hotel about a problem in your room but no one ever shows up to fix it or to compensate you for your inconvenience.
  • (This one actually happened to me this year.) You sit on a chair in the hotel. As you get up a small nail sticking out of the seat tears your brand new dress slacks and cuts your leg. You inform the hotel staff but they do nothing about it. You move the chair away so no one else encounters the same problem but they put it back again...repeatedly.
  • You find rodent hairs in your soup.
  • Your online reservation is lost when you arrive at the hotel. They tell you that there are no available rooms except for the presidential suite, which is $600 a night.
  • When you reach a customer service representative, she informs you that she does not have the proper authorization to fix your problem. 
  • You receive a defective product via FedEx or UPS. When you reach the company's customer service person, he doesn't give you a pre-paid return address label to send the defective product back. Instead, he gives you the address to which you need to ship the defective product at your expense.
  • You enter a cafe's restroom only to discover filthy toilets, sinks and floors. You are afraid to touch anything, especially the toilet seat.
  • You are served partially frozen food at a restaurant. The food was supposed to be hot. Your waitress has disappeared. You can't find a waiter or waitress to whom you can complain. 
  • Or, we are in the mist of this, Southwest Airlines has cancelled your flight and the flights of most everyone else because of a systems problem. You can't get back home. You are furious and they can't seem to solve the problem.
While brand marketers can say all they want about the brand through advertising, social media, mobile marketing, etc., this is not going to overcome poor or inconsistent quality or service, which are mostly caused by HR, operations and IT issues. The brand manager needs to work closely with these functions to ensure that the brand is consistently delivering on its promise and creating positive emotional connections with its customers. And this alignment needs to be driven and supported at the highest levels of the organization.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Hiring Marketing Professionals

I recently helped a not-for-profit organization hire a new marketing director. That position's responsibilities span many marketing sub-disciplines. The skill sets we were seeking were extensive - corporate communications, PR, crisis management, blog and newsletter content creation, graphic design, videography, marketing plan development and execution, marketing research, brand management, collateral material development, social media marketing, CRM, marketing automation, guerrilla marketing, etc. That person would become a marketing department of one person, with the ability to craft winning marketing strategies while also executing all of the supporting tactics. He or she would work with outside marketing agencies, influence other staff members, work with volunteers and insure that the sales force was following through with leads. 

A large number of people applied for the job and we interviewed a smaller number of them. As an experienced marketer I was both surprised and not surprised with our selection. There were number of candidates with MBAs. We did not hire any of them. There were candidates with bachelors degrees in marketing, communications, journalism, and graphic design. We did not hire any of them. Most people had worked with the Adobe suite of graphic design software, CRM platforms, marketing automation software, Facebook advertising, Google Analytics, SEO, etc. We also bypassed several people with the most extensive of these skills. 

Who did we hire? We hired a person with an associates degree in business administration who started out as a wine buyer and store manager. Why did we hire him? Well, he did attend Google Analytics Academy. He has used the Adobe suite of software products and created and edited very successful videos. He has conducted marketing research. And he has managed press releases and public announcements. He created a very successful viral marketing campaign. He has also developed and executed comprehensive marketing plans. But this is not why we hired him.

Here is why we hired him. He has great interpersonal skills. He is very good at building rapport fast. He has a lot of common sense. He is an out-of-the-box thinker. He isn't afraid to try something new. He has an intuitive sense of customer needs and behaviors. He is curious and a lifelong learner. He is self-taught in all the of the marketing skills he has acquired. He watches YouTube "how to" videos and listens to marketing skills development podcasts. His first inclination is to create inexpensive media attracting events and other low- or no-cost marketing tactics. He is curious and wants to continuously grow professionally. He is honest. He tells you when he doesn't know something. He has a strong work ethic. And he was very concerned about not letting his current employer down during his job transition. The bottom line? He is a natural marketer. He has a great emotional intelligence. He is humble. And he is constantly growing professionally. I am convinced that he will pick up what he needs to know as time goes on.

So, why have I written this piece? I have learned over time that it is better to hire for personality and character than for specific skill sets. We can teach skills. We can't as easily change personality, character and the capacity for thinking and continuous learning. And some people are out-of-the-box thinkers, while many are not.