Web 2.0 Expo NY: Customer Service is the new marketing

18 09 2008

I’m late with my not-so-live blogging directly from the Web 2.0 Expo NY. Scarcity of power sources, poor MacBook Pro battery life, real world socializing and a desperate need for some sleep were all to blame.

The first session I attended yesterday was Lane Becker’s Customer Service Is The New Marketing. He jokingly promised upfront to deliver the best session of the Expo, and he managed to do pretty much that, or close. Here’s my disorganized notes I took during his talk – usual disclaimer applies (not what the presenter said, but what I think he said):

  • Zappos.com is the first online shopping company to give Amazon a run for their money. One of the differentiators was the free returns: you have 365 days to return products, so one can buy 3 pairs, check which one is the right size and return the others. Lane told a story about a blogger who had a very good experience with them, after having a problem returning shoes due to a death in the family situation. She even got flowers sent to her, what must be a first by an online retailer.
  • Zappos is “A customer service company that happens to sell shoes”.
  • Their CEO twittered once that he was “unshowered”.

Then he showed Maslow’s hierarchy of Customer Service based on Chip Conley’s work:

  • Top: Meets unrecognized needs (Transformation) -> creates evangelism
  • Middle: Meets desires (Success) -> creates commitment
  • Bottom: Meets Expectations (Survival) -> creates satisfaction

Loyalty = Profits

Most companies cannot afford what Zappos does.Every person in the organization you work in the call center. The higher you are in the hierarchy, the more often you have to go back to the call center.

What kind of company are you?

1. Customer focused: 4 Seasons, Zappos

2. Product focused: Google, Apple, most web startups

3. Infrastructure-focused: Telcos, Cable, Utilities

What is the path for the rest of us?

Start acting like a hotel concierge (The Surprising Solution)

Step 1 . Conversation at the center of the business

  • “Markets are conversations” (the cluetrain manifesto)
  • Some companies kill conversations: FAQs, outsourced call centers, trouble ticket systems
  • Wrong metric, common mistake: focusing on time-per-call
  • We’ve all been there, being mad with customer service
  • Friction-free communication is the new norm
  • Timbuk2 discovers people talking
  • Community source marketing
  • They have a person responsible for the concierge role: they talk to customers
  • Patricia ?: found that in Flickr people post pictures of “What’s in your bag”?
  • Timbuk2 does not use professional photos any more, just Flickr.
  • In their site, somebody asked “do you guys make a diaper bag?”
  • “no, but I happen to be pregnant and would love to have one”
  • Instead of responding via email, they had a long discussion online
  • They eventually developed a diaper bag
  • Focus Group 2.0
  • Pot-ay-toh / Pot-ah-toh: Your customers don’t call your stuff with the same language you use. Having conversations help you to keep track of that.

Step 2. Reduce your sphere of control

  • Comcast: many in the audience hate it.
  • They are all about managing you, it’s all about control.
  • Guy with sign: ComcastSucks.org
  • Then Comcast started changing: Comcastcares twitter
  • They have concierge people to talk to people who blog, twitter or comment in forums about them
  • The best way to talk to Comcast now is to twitter about it
  • You probably need to have clearance from legal
  • Dell, Chrysler started doing this.
  • TechCrunch, BusinessWeek, Time all speaking about Comcastcares
  • Easy to do: it just takes a Google Alert for “Comcast sucks”

Step 3. Smash the silos (think like the network)

  • The “it’s not our problem” problem
  • Nokia phone, running on AT&T and browsing Google Maps
  • You have a problem with browsing: whose fault is that?
  • A customer-centric view makes you think that you can leverage the network
  • The Twitter-TMobile meltdown
  • Sending SMS to twitter is down???
  • TMobile stopped sending SMS to Twitter.
  • Nobody knew if it was TMobile fault. Twitter is down often, so everybody thought initially that it was Twitter’s fault
  • Twitter didn’t figure it out, but users did.
  • T-Mobile shuts down Twitter service for good.
  • Customers flooded TMobile’s call centre about this, and they were forced to work with Twitter to solve this.
  • Several tools at your disposal: Twitter Fan Wiki, Tweet Scan, Twitterverse, Twhirl
  • Advantages: a) Early warning from related apps, b) Networked support across ecosystem, c) Consumers don’t need to know which company to call!

Had to leave the session at this point to prep for my own session. Darn!

Update: Lane Becker kindly uploaded his presentation to SlideShare:

http://www.slideshare.net/Thor/customer-service-is-the-new-marketing-web2expo

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