Friday, February 19, 2010


In the week before Christmas I did send an inquiry to an organization. I had to send it to their info@ address as there was no other name mentioned on their website. This raises my first comment. Many people agree on the fact that what now counts in marketing is having conversations and building relationships.

So, how can I have a real conversation with Mr/Mrs Info?!
Anyway info@ reacted very quickly informing me that they will come back to me in January. Well, that is a long deadline for a relatively easy question.... these guys must be busy.
So, I waited and waited, but nothing happened in January, so I did send them a reminder in the beginning of February. They did not react at all until...... yesterday I got a call!  Yes, yes, she has been sick and busy and now she might be able to help me.
I responded that I had already escalated to their European office. They responded timely but the follow up... well is again a problem.

This simple interaction gives me a negative experience of this organization (and their brand). Apparently I am not important to them and I think that it is plainly unpolite and unprofessional to act in such away. Am I going to take a risk of doing business with them? Will they than behave differently? Or not?!
Also, we all know the impact of the first impression.

This all proves that your frontline, your customer service is crucial in establishing a relationship with prospects and customers. Your frontline is always providing my first experience of who you really are in an organization.
Wouldn’t it be wise then to implement standards, which put a high value on professional, polite and personal communications?


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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Recently I was in a meeting with a general manager and I explained what service innovation could mean to him.
When I mentioned customer service he started to talk about his experience with a software company. His angerness was back again when he told about the way he was treated by the person on the telephone. Even more people could hear him share his bad experience.

That is what happens with bad news, it travels fast and you share it with many people. That is why it is crucial to see your customer service department not just a nuissance. Your customer service people are continuously in touch with your customers and they have a huge impact on the way your service and even your brand is perceived. The use of social media even strenghtens the importance of quality communications with your customers.

Customer service has become one of the few areas in which you can truely differentiate yourself. Modern companies are therefor placing the responsibility for customer service under the CMO/Marketing.
Zappos’ number one value (as part of their culture) is “To deliver WOW through service”.

This all proves the value of of great customer service to your customers as well as your bottom line.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2010


If there is one thing that everyone agrees on than it is the fact that changes are the norm and they are becoming more and more unpredictable as well. This means that what worked in the (recent) past might not work in the future anymore. At least some of this (old) knowledge is becoming obsolete. In this situation it is key to learn fast and to act fast.

Let me give a simple example. In The Netherlands we are experiencing a much more severe winter than the last ten years. It is freezing for more than two months and for most of the time there is snow. Even if it is melting during the day, it freezes again at night, so the roads become very slippery. This puts a heavy workload on the people who grit the icy roads. But what happened? The stock of salt is finished, nowhere you can buy salt anymore. Apparently the stock was based on old knowledge, which is no longer valid. So they had to order huge quantities of salt from Egypt and as this was sent by boat, we hope that there will be no snow in the mean time.

So, to rely on knowledge only is not the right way to go. You have to learn fast and act fast. Those are much more important skills in these challenging times.

It is crucial to continuously follow this loop:

  1. Act
  2. Result
  3. Evaluate
  4. Learn
  5. Adjust
And then act again.

This means that learning is becoming more important than knowing. Are you stimulating your people to learn individually and collectively? Or are you still hanging on to old knowledge?


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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Recently I did ask a customer what he viewed as his competition. Because he was working in the IT market, he mentioned other IT companies. This is a very risky perspective though.

Well your new competitors might come from totally different markets. And you also miss opportunities to learn from other markets.
This IT company who sells hardware and related services, called themselves a 'fulfillment company'. All the more reason to look outside of your current market.

For example: Zappos might also be called a fulfillment company, which started with selling shoes, moved into clothing and is now part of Amazon, which also sells IT gear and IT services. So, before you know it they are your new competitor. But you can also learn from them as well, as their culture of customer service is an example which can be applied in many markets.
Another example is Georgia State which significantly changed their customer service activities. They also had a serious look at improving the steps in their fulfillment process. 
You can learn from them, but you also have to stay alert as they might take over your position as an IT Reseller.

So, market savviness means to open up the blinkers and look also at other markets! What is your new perspective?


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