Elizabeth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

Who’s Behind the Curtain??

Have you ever gotten excited by a technological advance on a website where you are trying to do business, only to have your hopes dashed by the fact that it is fake?? You nearly had to peel me off the ceiling this morning when I was paying a credit card bill online. I was irritated by the fact that they were charging me a $10 fee to make a same day payment, whereas two days later it was free. I fully understand that the credit card companies need ways to monetize their products, but irritating nonetheless.

They almost redeemed themselves when they had a live chat window to confirm the amount of your same day payment–here was my chance to complain about the fees to a customer service rep! The minute I strayed from the “script” they expected from me,  I got the “please call this number and we will answer your questions.” Aaaah! There was NO real live person behind this chat! They even made up names, because I got a different name the second time I went through it! I would far rather they just don’t give the appearance of a live chat option than to bait and switch me! A lower tech site would have impressed me more, because they would not promise me anything they could not deliver.

So what does this mean for a business and marketing? A lot! Bottom line- don’t pretend you are something you are not, and don’t promise things that you cannot deliver!

Getting back to Marketing 101- hopefully you have defined a brand promise and value proposition for your customers. But can you deliver on that promise? The fastest way to destroy your brand is to have your customers lose faith in you. Shall we talk about Toyota? BP?

Your brand platform/promise is not only driving your external marketing, but it also serves as an internal compass driving the operations of your organization. If your employees do not understand your brand promise, how can they possibly be delivering on your promise to your customers? Thoughts?

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July 21, 2010 Posted by | connecting, engaging, marketing, relationships | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Importance of Doing the Right Thing

I know, it sounds like a lesson you learned in kindergarten. Unfortunately, many companies still don’t understand it though.

I’ve had several conversations lately about the PR implications of negative actions taken or substantial errors made by companies or employees. And inevitably, there is always a suggestion that we figure out how to “cover this up”. I shake my head, and my response is typically the same: has anyone thought about perhaps admitting an error, issuing a heartfelt apology, and outlining the steps you are taking to fix the problem and safeguard against repeating history?

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Wouldn’t you find it easier to forgive a company for a wrongdoing if they apologized and fixed it, versus tried to cover it up? How about Toyota’s recent mechanical problems–they were slow to speak in the public and apologize, but once they did, it focused the conversation away from trying to catch them to talking about how the problem is going to be fixed.

Yes, there will be a time when their brand will suffer. However, they have worked very hard in the past to build relationships with their customers, to the tune of significant brand loyalty. It will take some time, but it will be easier for them to rebuild trust than if they had not built that relationship foundation.

Sorry for the brand loyalty digression, but the message is the same. If you do the right thing to fulfill your mission and satisfy your customers, handling times of crisis becomes so much easier. So when we ask ourselves what we are going to do about a particular situation, the answer to me is easy: what is the right thing to do for our employees, our customers, and our other publics?

June 12, 2010 Posted by | leadership, public relations, relationships, reputation management | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Jury is Still Out on Twitter

I have seen some successful customer service interactions on Twitter and experienced not some not-so-great customer service interactions on Twitter, specifically involving Dell. I am still not exactly certain how Twitter can be successful from the individual user, or customer, perspective. If you are a corporation looking to get involved in Twitter from the perspective of generating original content, how can you generate content that people actually want to read? Obviously, most people don’t really care about the mundane things, such as me sending a tweet saying that I am driving to work this morning. The people who are preaching about Twitter as an opportunity for your business to get engaged with social media seem, to me, to be more interested in increasing their number of followers or the number of tweets they send versus really trying to engage with the audience. I question, do you actually [have a signal with] your customer or you are just generating a bunch of noise? If you have 100,000 followers, I challenge you to show me that you actually can have an interactive relationship with all 100,000 people. So if you are just generating and broadcasting content for the sake of hearing yourself talk, and that’s your objective, maybe Twitter is for you. If you are actually using it to try to connect with people, I still have yet to see how that is actually a viable option.

The other thing that I have noticed is that many of those who are preaching about twitter or generating the most content or the most followers also happen to be male. Now, this may sound exceptionally reverse-chauvinist or reverse-sexist, but I wonder if what is at play here is that women in their 30’s and 40’s have kids and careers and families and are trying to balance them all. The things that get cut from your time are those things that don’t have the biggest bang for their buck.  I am wondering if Twitter is one of those that has yet to show a big bang for the buck and is, therefore, being dropped from the radar of some individual women. Now again, I don’t have any substantial proof to make these statements but it is just a feeling I have, especially when I am talk to several women also in the field of marketing and advertising that feel the same way about how can you incorporate Twitter as an effective communication strategy.

In the subsequent post, I will talk a little bit about the rich customer service opportunities that abound, monitoring the conversation about your brand using Twitter, and finding ways to have conversations with individuals that I have seen to be successful. But –just Tweeting for the sake of hearing yourself talk is not an effective communication strategy unless your whole goal is simply to make yourself look good and make noise.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | connecting, marketing, relationships, social media | , , , | 2 Comments

Convincing the Curmudgeon

What happens when someone in your organization, particularly someone who has decision making authority or budget control, is not convinced that the rules of marketing and public relations indeed have changed, especially with the advent of the internet and social media tools available to you?  What do you do, especially when they adamantly argue that if the process isn’t broken, why would you fix it?  How could you convince that type of curmudgeon to start employing some of the new techniques that will allow you to reach a greater audience, in a more authentic fashion, resulting in a greater return on your investments?

It is indeed a challenge and one that I recommend you tackle by starting with small victories and small samples of success.  For example, if your organization has never attempted to deploy a Google AdWords campaign or other search engine marketing strategies, perhaps you’d start with one small product or program, build that case and work then to show that there is value and a return on investment with a Google AdWords strategy. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing everything else that they’ve always been doing to promote that particular product or program, but you do this in conjunction with it so that you can compare the results of both strategies.

Interestingly though, if you’re embarking on a new strategy like Google AdWords, you’re often going to find that there are some other key pieces of your communications program that are not up to snuff in this case.  For example, when you’re starting a Google AdWords strategy or an SEO campaign, your website has to be written such that humans actually want to read it, but also contain the key phrases that are relevant to your particular search strategy. You’re going to have to start creating several variations of landing pages to test effectiveness of copy, call to action, and other parts of the sales process.

Almost equally important is whether your website or that particular micro-site or section of your website is doing a good job of moving people through the sales process. Traditionally, especially in higher education, people have been resistant to consider the recruitment and enrollment process as a sales cycle.

The reason it is important for everyone to understand that your website is a part of the sales conversation is that if you’re suddenly driving all of this great traffic to your website – potential customers, potential students, whoever it might be – but your website does not do a good job of converting them into true leads for your business or, ultimately, purchasers of your product or service, then you might as well burn a pile of dollar bills . If, when they get to your website, they are not converting, it’s like opening the doors to your business and allowing a bunch of people to come in the door but then telling them that we don’t want you to buy anything.

So, you really need to pay full attention to your web content before you embark on the search engine marketing strategy or search engine optimization strategy. Not only are there practical implications of your Google AdWords quality score getting slapped if the key phase is not on the page, etc., but also now that you have the great inquiry coming to your site, potential customers want to make sure that you’re converting them and leading them into, ultimately, sales – however you might define that.

It is mission critical to be sure and convince that program or service area of your website that it needs to a well oiled sales conversation machine and moving people though that great content. In a later blog post I will discuss how to develop the best content to move people through that great sales conversation.

In the meantime, be sure to create a few small victory opportunities to convince the curmudgeons in your company!

April 8, 2010 Posted by | higher education, leadership, marketing, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

A pro female athlete provided me business wisdom through a sports lens

I had the pleasure of attending the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball championship match last Sunday at the St. Charles Family Arena. Before the game, we were invited to a luncheon and where Kristin Folkl-Kaburakis was the key note speaker and the group was a reunion for the NCAA Beyond the Baseline event. Last year, we worked with middle school girls through the NCAA Beyond the Baseline program by providing mentoring and leadership development for inner city middle school girls. It was great to see so many of the girls at this reunion and reminisce about the event.

The Court of LifeKristin, a former WNBA star (read more in the St. Louis Woman Magazine article) focused on how as an athlete, the time you spend on the court is really only a small percentage of the overall experience. She challenged us to ask ourselves what we are doing to make sure that we are participating in each and every aspect and part of that process and the full experience beyond on what is just happening on the court during an actual athletic event. I think this is a great analogy not only for use as these girls are growing up and participating in a variety of things, trying to decide on what they are most interested in, but also for us in the business of marketing and building relationships and creating connections.

Though what each of us defines as a “sale” may vary, but that “sale” is such a small percentage of the full experience for a customer. What are doing to nurture and cultivate and participate in every single step of that process not just the actual “sale” or “signing on the dotted-line.” How are you not exclusively focusing on that tiny little percentage—though granted that could be a substantial amount of money in some instances? The most important element of customer service and satisfaction is the relationship–how are you cultivating that relationship with your customer?

So thank you, Kristin, for providing such words of wisdom. Though in a completely different context, it is something that really has made me think about more than just sporting events or life experiences, rather how this has practical application to business.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | connecting, marketing, relationships, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

The power of service with a smile

Luck o' the IrishThis morning my husband and I wanted to join in the “luck o’ the Irish” and have a pre-St. Pat’s Day parade traditional Irish breakfast at a local Irish pub. We have patronized this establishment in the past, and believe in supporting local businesses. Our experience prior to this particular morning has always been fine. Never extraordinary, but fine nonetheless.

Not so this morning. We read in the local paper that they were serving breakfast this Irish morning (note: they are not typically open for breakfast). What we did not notice until we arrived and saw the sign on the door was that reservations were required. Noting that there was NO ONE yet in the restaurant (and they were indeed open), we decided to go in and explain that we did not have reservations and see if they could still accommodate us. The bouncer at the door (yes, even at breakfast they were anticipating that the St. Patrick’s day partying and drinking would begin at the start of the day) and the first server we came across were very friendly and happily said they would go find out.

After standing there for what felt like 20 minutes (but was really like 5), noticing that food was ready to be served, that NO ONE was in there eating breakfast yet and remembering that the bouncer told us no one had made reservations before 8am (it was 7:15), we told him not to worry about it that we would just leave. Right at that point the server came back and told us we could eat. This was also after being able to watch her ask presumably the owner whether he would allow us to stay and eat, and then watching him sigh, look at us and say okay.

Then we were sat at the family-style long table by ourselves, served our coffee and shown the buffet area (which was already completely stocked with food). Our server visited us a total of three times—for us to order coffee, receive coffee and asked if we needed a refill. We spent 20 minutes in silence by ourselves eating breakfast with no one else arriving for their reservation. Thankfully we had enough cash and exact change to cover the bill and tip, because we left largely unnoticed. The only saving grace was the bouncer thanked us for our business and told us to have a nice day.

If you are in the restaurant business, you are clearly in the customer service business. If your customers are not having a great experience, they are not going to build a relationship with you and continue to patronize you. However strongly I feel about patronizing local businesses, experiences like this make me want to rethink the strategy. My recommendation to them is to assign the bouncer a new role: Chief of Customer Experience. He was the only one who made us feel welcome.

Is your customer experience warm and welcoming? Do you make your customers feel like an interruption to your day or a vital component of your success? Whether you are in the restaurant business, retail sales or higher education—your audience is passing judgment on your business based on their experience and telling other people about it. Make sure they are talking about what a wonderful experience they had with you.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | marketing, relationships, reputation management, sales | , , | Leave a comment