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December 21, 2007

Sprint Debacle: Round 2

Posted by Shawn Stewart | Filed under: Experience

OK, so I wrote a quick entry a few weeks ago about my experience at a Sprint store. Someone commented that they saw a very similar thing happen at an AT&T store. That got me thinking about why things like this happen to businesses in the first place. There are of course lots of potential reasons, but I think there are two primary ones and they have to do with human behavior:

1) It's always hard to manage people especially when you're as big as Sprint or AT&T. It can be done, but it takes an internal culture that understands itself and doesn’t seek to create robots, but fans. For a great perspective on this check out Alex Frankel’s article about frontline employees from November’s Fast Company.

2) We as people are quick to cover our own backside (if you know what I mean). The problem is when an employee "passes the buck" by suggesting the company's policies have tied their hands or that it was someone else’s fault--it's always a direct reflection on the company. If you’re in a Sprint store talking to a Sprint employee and they say that another Sprint employee shouldn’t have told you that, it doesn’t matter to you. Sprint told you, not Jimmy the rogue employee.

Consumers don't distinguish from the individual representing the organization and the organization itself. Remember, organizations are like people, they have a personality. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s a split personality.

But it doesn’t have to be.

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December 12, 2007

Put the Person in Personality

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Experience

We're always saying that every organization has a personality. Unfortunately some have the personality of a robot, and that's not a very good way to do business.

A while back I gave up on stamps and the U.S. postal service for paying my bills. I started paying them online through my bank. It works great and I save (what do stamps cost nowadays?) 43 cents for every bill I pay online.

Except my mortgage company has the personality of a robot. And apparently the internal systems of a robot. Every time I pay my mortgage online I get a letter in the mail from my mortgage company explaining that my payment came by overnight express and I could save money by signing up for their auto-pay system (for only $11 per month!). Apparently my bank is making the payment to my mortgage company by overnight express. But I could care less. It doesn't cost me anything. Yet my mortgage company insists on offering a "better" solution. Even better, I get the same letter every month, going on six months now.

Continue reading "Put the Person in Personality"

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November 26, 2007

Sprint PCS: Confusing and Dysfunctional

Posted by Shawn Stewart | Filed under: Experience

I was in the Sprint store over the weekend to upgrade to a new phone. Mine was long overdue for retirement.

While I was finishing my purchase, I overheard another conversation between an associate and a young woman. She wanted to return a phone she had recently purchased and was really unhappy with. She had called ahead of time to speak with a Sprint customer service rep and they told her she could send it in or bring it to a local store. I stood there watching the frustration well up in this poor woman's face. She explained the scenario to the associate and got a response that basically amounted to this: "The customer service department is a completely different department and has nothing to do with the retail stores." He then proceeded to give her what seemed like a never ending list of things she would have to do in order to return her phone--contradicting what she was previously told through Sprint's customer service.

I guess Sprint is asking its customers to care about its organizational structure, politics and department silos. The problem with that is no one cares! Whether it's customer service or it's a retail store, they are both Sprint. No wonder Sprint sits atop the MSN Customer Service Hall of Shame.

Small business owners everywhere, you can learn a lot from Sprint's mistake. Don't treat different departments of your business as completely autonomous. If you do, you may end up with efficient departments but be perceived by your customers as dysfunctional. If you can't communicate and work well with each other, how can you expect to communicate and work well with your customers?

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November 19, 2007

The Scent of Personality

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Experience

Smells Like PersonalityMy wife and I walked to Starbucks yesterday for an early morning decaf drip and a copy of the LA Times. Shortly after we entered we started smelling something that didn't resemble coffee. My first thought was that we were in a heavily concentrated area of homeless people, so perhaps we were smelling the lack of available public restrooms in the area--or abundance of them--depending on what you call a bathroom.

It didn't take long to realize we were smelling salty breakfast sandwiches being warmed in the Starbucks oven. Gross. The odor was nasty, and it took away from the whole coffee house smell that Starbucks is known for.

Smell is pretty powerful. It's got to be the most undervalued of the five senses in marketing. The Scent Marketing Institute thinks so. James Vlahos wrote a great piece for the New York Times this past September called Scent and Sensibility.

What does your personality smell like?

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November 5, 2007

You're Always Telling a Story

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Experience

Everything your organization does is marketing:

And the list goes on. Each one contributes to the story of your organization. And as Seth Godin says, "Even when you don't try, you're telling a story."

That story is just as much marketing as your postcards, billboards or web ads. So you better make sure you're telling a compelling and consistent story that matches your organization's DNA, whether it's through traditional marketing venues or everyday things that aren't in the marketing budget--but communicate just as much about your company.

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October 31, 2007

Free Burritos at Chipotle

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Experience

If you walked into a Chipotle restaurant today you probably saw dozens of people wearing aluminum foil. Why? As is their annual custom, Chipotle offers free burritos to anyone who comes in dressed as a burrito, and Chipotle's signature burrito comes wrapped in foil (though at my location it was only from 5-10 p.m.--sadly, I had to pay for my 4:15 p.m. burrito supper). They call it Boo-rito and it fits in with other free burrito promotions they've done, including a fake "BurritoEZ" tax form that served as a 'buy one, get one free' coupon.

So why do they give away free burritos? It creates tremendous buzz. Many locations have lines out the door. And it fits their personality. Chipotle is quirky and edgy--asking their customers to dress up is exactly the kind of thing they would do. And you know their personality is connecting with their audience when that same quirky and edgy audience shows up wrapped in aluminum foil and hungry for a giant burrito.

Chipotle succeeds by creating an experience around a burrito. Making that kind of connection is worth a few free burritos.

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October 9, 2007

Flight Attendant With Personality

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Experience

I hopped a late-night flight from Atlanta to Roanoke, Va. last night. The 60-minute flight was a small puddle jumper jet with one flight attendant. After typical delays, I arrived early this morning a couple hours later than I should have.

The pain and drain of travel were dulled a bit last night by a flight attendant with spunk. Angela weaved her own personality into the obligatory flight-speak. She made us laugh. People clapped when she was done. Angela ended the flight by informing us that anyone who had complaints about the flight experience could write those on a one hundred dollar bill and leave them with her as we de-boarded the plane.

I've said it before, the personality of your people represent the personality of your business.

What is yours saying?

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August 6, 2007

Observation + Assumption = Implications

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Experience

A group of female Israeli soldiers all wearing sandals with their green uniform.
A Turkish policeman laughing and chatting on his cell phone while on duty.
A black veil over the faces of several women in the customs line at the Istanbul airport.
The smell of body odor protruding from way too many men in the hot Middle Eastern sun.

With each new observation I find myself making assumptions about entire groups of people. Therefore:

All female Israeli soldiers must wear sandals with their green uniform.
Turkish policemen must not be trained to avoid using cell phones while on duty.
Women who wear black veils are creepy and must worship some strange god.
Middle Eastern men don't believe in deodorant.

I do know that I'm naive and incorrect for thinking this way, but it happened and still happens nonetheless. And I believe this same observation+assumption pattern is having huge implications for organizations around the world, including yours.

Continue reading "Observation + Assumption = Implications"

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March 14, 2007

Chief Experience Officer

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Experience

Colleen DeCourcy is the former chief creative officer at Organic and entered the big league agency world last July when she joined the ranks at the oldest ad agency in the country, JWT, New York. So what's the big whoop?

DeCourcy was hired on to JWT as the "chief experience officer."

In an Adweek interview, Colleen said her job was described to her as "an [executive creative director] role, working with the other [executive creative directors] to help them tell better brand stories across less-expected channels."

We've said it before: experience is a context for engaging the next generation.

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