Frequent travelers have many choices when choosing airlines. Some choose an airline for their frequent flier benefits, some for their convenient routes or frequent itineraries and some have airlines chosen for them by their companies. For many years, Delta Airlines has been at or near the bottom of almost every survey conducted regarding airline customer service. In fact, they were named one of the worst 15 companies (out of all companies) for customer service by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Delta finally decided it wanted to change. How could they transform their reputation from that of an airline with horrible customer service to the opposite, however? They spent a long time living up to their bad reputation. How could they possibly change that image and regain the trust of travelers?
A recent article tells the story of a Delta employee going above and beyond for a traveler. A story so out of character from their reputation that you’re forced to consider the fact that maybe… just maybe… they’re sincere.
A traveler returning to the U.S. from Paris had accidentally dropped her passport into a mail bin. As she proceeded to freak out thinking she’d be stranded in Paris, while everyone explained that she’d have to wait for the postal officials to open the box, one person listened and assisted her in her time of need. That person just happened to be a Delta employee. The Delta employee personalized the problem and not only helped her get a boarding pass, then through security and safely onto the plane; he made sure that the next day her passport was retrieved and mailed back to her. This was done while also keeping her up to date numerous times throughout the day.
We don’t know whether this is a new strategy that Delta adopted which empowers employees to go above and beyond or not. However, if it’s not, the positive attention it got them should make them take notice.
Car dealerships typically start with a bad reputation in a shopper’s mind. If the customer is unfamiliar with your dealership, statistically they just assume the dealership can’t be trusted. In fact, a Gallup survey done at the end of 2012 placed consumer trust in car salespeople right below that of Congress. In fact, car salespeople have been at the bottom of the list every year except 2011, when they tied members of Congress with a 7% honesty rating. Car salespeople’s perceived honesty has never climbed out of the single-digit range in the history of the list.
Reputation management is certainly something that’s top-of-mind for most dealerships today. Cultivating and nurturing existing relationships towards a public display of affection (positive review) is still challenging to manage but with consumers being more tech savvy all the time, it’s getting easier. Of course, the opposite is also true. Consumers will much more quickly take out their frustration online concerning a poor experience at a dealership than they used to.
So how can a business maintain customer satisfaction (if they have earned it already) or rebuild the customer’s trust (if they haven’t)?
It’s important to teach your employees that every action they take is one that is a reflection of your business and set forth expectations that you have for them as brand ambassadors. Empower your employees to make judgment calls and take action to avoid a negative customer experience and reward them when appropriate.
Car dealerships start at the bottom of the hill and must make huge efforts on a daily basis to climb towards a solid reputation. Every misstep is magnified tenfold as a customer is more inclined to believe something that reinforces the stereotype. So it’s even more important for car dealerships to go above and beyond for their customers and make every possible effort to insure a positive customer experience for every customer, every time.
Delta still has a long road ahead to transform from an airline that lives at the bottom of the customer satisfaction chart to the top. But by encouraging and allowing its employees to make decisions like this, they’re taking a step in the right direction.
What is your business doing to improve customer satisfaction and to gain trust with your customers?
How do you empower your employees? What incentives/rewards do you offer?
Today’s technology-driven plans make it very easy for dealers to customize what is offered in a PPM. Plans that provide the product (value) important to the local market will appeal more to buyers, making their presentation and sale in the F&I office or service lane more profitable and successful for the dealership.
It is these plans’ ability to retain a customer’s service business and then create upsell opportunities for additional customer-pay repair order (RO) business that make them like a money tree. These programs can triple the likelihood of the customer continually returning for service – a big growth over the 18 to 20 percent of customers who do traditionally return with a PPM’s incentive.
By converting PPM owners’ prepaid maintenance work to additional legitimate service needs, the additional retail parts and labor can produce healthy additional business. Some dealers report an additional $150 to $350 of up-sold retail customer-pay business per RO as a result.
Every plan will experience forfeiture. It results when a customer terminates the plan early or for whatever reason does not use the plan. In some PPMs, the third-party administrator holds this dealer-funded reserve. It is from this reserve that the administrator would often take up to 60 percent of the value of the cancelled services as part of its fee structure. Today’s self-managed plans enable the dealer to processes forfeiture through the general accounting ledger and add the reserve to their own bottom line.
For more information about the benefits of Pre-Paid Maintenance Programs, visit http://ow.ly/bN7Gj
Request product information about plan customizations and program features.
The Olympic Games in London are set to begin this Friday, July 27th. The official motto is “swifter, higher, stronger”. If a lot of marketers, fans and athletes have anything to say, these Games will be the first Social Media Olympics — the “Socialympics,” as some are even calling them. Even the Olympic movement, which sometimes shifts into the future with great caution, has warily accepted the idea. Here are some ideas from the NY Times about the growing relationship of the social media and the 2012 Olympics along with the controversies that surround it.
The biggest social media platforms have been around for several previous Olympics, including the Beijing Summer Games of 2008 and the Vancouver Winter Games of 2010. Facebook was founded in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006.
“Just as every new election is now called a social media election, every Olympics is now a social media Olympics,” stated Stanislas Magniant, a social media expert at MSLGroup, a public relations agency, in Paris. “But this is going to be vastly bigger in scale and magnitude.”
There are several reasons for this. First, summer Olympics are much more widely followed than their winter counterparts, so the Vancouver Games did not register in the same way in the social media stakes. Also, uncertainty about Chinese censorship of the Internet probably restrained social media activity before and during the Beijing Games in 2008.
Since the Beijing Games, social media platforms have taken off. Facebook has gone from about 100 million active users to about 900 million, Twitter from six million to about 150 million. Many more people now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics.
All of this has created opportunities for the Olympic organizers, sponsors, participants and spectators. At the Beijing Games, the Olympics organizers did not even have a coordinated social media presence. At the London Games, there will be an “Olympic Athletes’ Hub,” to help fans follow competitors’ Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. The International Olympic Committee now has its own Twitter account and Facebook page, as well as separate areas for the public and the news media.
“We are at a dawn of a new age of sharing and connecting, and London 2012 will ignite the first conversational Olympic Games, thanks to social media platforms and technology,” Alex Huot, the I.O.C.’s head of social media, said via e-mail.
Athletes have taken to Twitter and Facebook with considerable enthusiasm. Rare is the Olympic competitor who does not have a Twitter account, monitored and updated 24 hours a day, either in person or via an agent. Olympic sponsors are perhaps even more active. Procter & Gamble has released a far-ranging social media initiative, as part of their marketing campaign called “Thank You, Mom,” which highlights the behind-the-scenes roles that mothers play in the lives of Olympic athletes. While the campaign began with a television advertisement, it quickly developed into a social media phenomenon. The video of the ad has been watched 25 million times on YouTube and other online video sites.
All this sharing and connecting has also created some new headaches. There is grumbling, for instance, about the restrictions that the organizers of the Games have imposed on this most freewheeling of media formats.
Local Olympic organizing committees always go to great lengths to protect sponsors, who sometimes shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to associate their brands with the Games, from so-called ambush marketing by companies that try to get free rides. Sometimes, as in the case of the London Games, special legislation is enacted. During the 2012 Olympics, the guidelines include provisions for social media, detailing what marketers can and cannot do. Among the banned actions are the use of certain word combinations in social media content: Nonsponsors have been warned not to try writing, “twenty-twelve” and “gold” in the same tweet.
Athletes and spectators face restrictions, too. Neither will be permitted to post video footage of sporting events to online forums. Participants are allowed to post on blogs or Twitter, but the postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” the guidelines state. “They must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization,” the rules say.
Two Australian swimmers, Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk, have already gotten in trouble. They were disciplined by their country’s swimming team after they posted a picture on Facebook showing them with weapons during a visit to a gun shop in the United States. The two are now prohibited from using social media during the Olympics and will be sent home immediately after their events.
Mr. Magniant thinks that organizers would probably have to focus on the most blatant violations, like user-generated videos showing substantial portions of an event, thereby undermining official television coverage. They might have to turn a blind eye to minor misbehaviors — because they want to encourage fans to get involved.
“It’s a difficult line to walk,” he said. “It’s an all-out social media effort, but it’s a very controlled effort.”
Do you think that organizers will be able to enforce the guidelines once the Games get under way with millions of Facebook postings, Twitter messages and other social media activities taking place in real time on a global scale?
How do you feel about the restrictions that the athletes and spectators of the 2012 Summer Games face?
What do you think the social media will be like during the 2016 Summer Olympics?
Last month General Motors announced a new compensation structure based on customer retention. The pay plan affects 29,000 salaried employees in the U.S., who will be paid bonuses based on how well they promote customer loyalty through return purchases and services. Third-party sales data and internal numbers will determine if a dealership hits its loyalty target.
It’s nice to know that the major manufacturers are realizing the importance of customer loyalty. For General Motors—and other—dealerships who are ramping up their customer loyalty programs, here is a very short primer on how to set up a successful program:
1) Strategy: Offer multiple membership levels, including a free “starter” base level offer, ascending to an advocate level for the best customers who frequently buy and refer friends. The goal is to create customers who talk positively about their experience and refer family and friends.
2) Process: Identify dealership market segments; design appropriate promotions and communications; establish a schedule for customer communications; design the rewards redemption process and program results measurement tools; train employees to properly promote & explain the program.
3) Management: Establish best practices and determine how much of your program you want to automate. Assign management duties for each part of the program.
4) Reporting & Measuring: Determine which metrics should be used to provide an accurate analysis of how the program is benefiting the dealership. Examples include increasing customer retention rates, decreasing service acquisition costs, selling more maintenance, i.e. increasing RO hours and revenue.
Excerpted from MediaTrac’s white paper: “The Auto Retailer’s Ultimate ‘How-to’ Guide to Customer Loyalty & Retention Program Set Up, Management & Measurement.”
What do you think about General Motor’s plan to create greater customer loyalty? How do you think employees will react to the new pay plan?
Do you have any other tips that create a successful loyalty program?
Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) revealed their secrets for driving customer retention to Small Business Trends. These sharp, Generation Y entrepreneurs came up with twelve tips that are sure to help businesses increase customer loyalty.
Lead generation is one of the most important components of any company’s marketing plan. Conducting research to find more customers and target new audiences not only keeps the business afloat, but can also push it to new heights — when done properly, of course.
But every time you convert a new client, the fresh customer-company relationship shouldn’t be one with a time limit; it shouldn’t end once the deal is done. An equally important component of any marketing plan is customer retention and turning a one-time purchaser into a repeat customer. With the right approach, the people who were once skeptical to try your product can become your biggest brand ambassadors and bring in endless referral traffic.
Here is what some of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs answered to the following question to find out how they retain their clients:
“What’s your best tip for increasing customer loyalty?”
1. Always Over Deliver
“First and foremost, meet the needs of the customer, then take it up a notch and over deliver. Whether you provide deliverables ahead of schedule, throw in bonuses or surprise and delight with cool new features, continue to give more.” ~ Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems
2. Ridiculously Good Customer Service
“To quote a recent customer email, “I really appreciate your thoughtful and professional response. I don’t get that a lot from customer service. Usually, it’s scripted nonsense that makes it seem like I’ve done something wrong. You’ve single-handedly improved my perception tenfold. Someone there ought to give you a pay raise.” ~ Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs
3. Treat ‘Em As You Would Want to Be
“Empower your employees to help customers the way they would want to be helped. Ditch scripts and “company policy” in favor of dialogue and intuitive problem solving. Customers want to be treated like human beings, not sales figures.” ~ Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia
4. Try Genuine Transparency
“If you screw up, be willing to openly acknowledge it and take responsibility for it. Always be real with people, and cut out the “robot act.” Show a genuine desire to improve, even if you’re already doing a good or great job in servicing them. Customers really appreciate that sort of interaction, especially when you show you understand them and actually give a darn.” ~ Matthew Ackerson, PetoVera
5. Love Them and Thank Them
“As Gary Vaynerchuk says in his book, The Thank You Economy, you need to “shock and awe” your best customers. This means actually giving a crap and rewarding them for no particular reason with thoughtful gifts. I agree 100 percent. Are you telling me the best you can do is an automated Happy Birthday email?” ~ Patrick Curtis, WallStreetOasis.com
6. Customer Loyalty Works Both Ways
“If you want customers to be loyal to you, don’t forget to be loyal to them. Focus on your core, die-hard clients. The fringe customers will come and go, but your core will stick with you through the good times and bad. Keep those customers happy at all cost. Customers reward loyalty with loyalty.” ~ Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk
7. Build a Broader Relationship With Clients
“If the only times you talk to a customer is when you’re getting paid or providing support, you won’t exactly be their favorite person. Creating a broader connection makes you someone that they’ll want to seek out. Something small, like forwarding a relevant article, can be enough to create a positive association, but keep your eyes out for bigger opportunities.” ~ Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
8. Sincerity, Seriously
“Customer loyalty is, in my opinion, built and substantiated with honesty. But more than honesty, it’s really about sincerity. Clients or customers want to look into your eyes and know that you don’t just mean what you say, but you are what you say. They know that everything you do and say is a part of who you are. Because of that, they know they can trust you, and that keeps them loyal.” ~ Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr
9. Send the Message Clearly
“How much would it mean to you if the founder or president of one of your vendors called you up on the phone to ask you how your business was doing, and if there was any more that they could provide for you? Don’t say you care, show you do. Pick up the phone and make it personal.” ~ Benjamin Leis, Sweat EquiTees
10. Reward the Remaining Ones
“Make your customers feel special by rewarding them for their loyalty. A thank-you gift, access to an exclusive event, a special offer, they all go a long way. And now, there are many services that can help without requiring a major capital investment. For instance, at Merchex, we’re working with dozens of luxury merchants to identify their best customers and effortlessly reward them.” ~ Michael Tolkin, Merchant Exchange
11. Keep Their Best Interest in Mind
“I believe the best way to increase loyalty is to only offer people what they truly want and need. If someone isn’t the right fit for my company or they no longer need the services, I tell them. Coming from a place of total authenticity not only turns clients into raving fans, but also wins the hearts of people who are amazed you didn’t try to pressure them into a sale.” ~ Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®
12. Educate Your Customers
“You can provide great value and consequently develop stronger loyalty with your customers by taking the time to educate them about what they need. Determine what you want to communicate and then establish a timetable for regular interactions to cover issues that should be important to them.” ~ John Berkowitz, Yodle
Which of these 12 tips do you feel is most important? Why?
What is the best way to educate your customers about your products or services?
How can you train your employees to provide ridiculously good customer service?
Do you have any examples of how a customer service experience has exceeded your expectations?