In today’s blog post, we break from our usual format to bring you an interview with Debbie Laskey. I really enjoy reading Debbie’s blog, and I recently I was really pleased that I had the chance to catch up with her for a ‘virtual’ chat. I was keen to share the insight I gleaned.
Debbie is a thought leader in marketing, management and leadership with a career spanning a range of interesting and diverse organizations and industries ranging from Disneyland Paris in France to insurance to law and accounting to nonprofits. Currently, Debbie is the marketing director for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation, a 68-year-old nonprofit that provides services for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Los Angeles, California. Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition, and she’s also been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Branding Experts” to follow on Twitter.
Here’s a summary of our conversation:
So, Debbie, you have a reputation for innovation in all sorts of areas – but one area that I know we are both enthusiastic about is ensuring that organizations provide a great customer experience. It seems so intuitive that providing a great customer experience is a win/win, so why do you think that it is that so many organizations get it wrong?
First, Adrian, thank you very much for inviting me to your blog, it’s an honor. I always learn from your posts and appreciate the different insights from your side of the pond.
Some businesses think creating a great customer experience takes too much time for training and just isn’t worth the ROI, but every day, I become more and more aware of the importance of customer experience marketing in the B2C, B2B, and nonprofit arenas. Maybe, it stems from my experience at Disney, or maybe, it’s because I have a passion for brand marketing. But whatever the case, in today’s social era, one bad experience can lead to disaster for a business, so it’s critical for businesses to train employees on their brand promise and also – and this is just as important – empower employees with the authority to fix every negative situation, and even those situations that top leadership teams haven’t anticipated. As Annette Franz Gleneiki, a friend and one of our customer experience colleagues in Southern California, says, “Empower employees to say yes even before a customer makes a request.”
It feels to me that customers are demanding more and more. In the past, organizations could get away with giving a bad experience – but now, that just seems less and less sustainable. What’s changed?
Thanks to social media, customers are more savvy. They may not use the industry lingo of “Customer Lifetime Value,” but they know the value of a dollar (or a pound), and they know their value to a business. As a result, they have higher expectations. And these expectations revolve around a pleasant experience, whether it’s a visit to a restaurant, a clothing store, a law firm, etc. No business is immune from a customer’s expectations for a positive experience.
Does social media have a role to play in good customer service?
Absolutely. We’ve talked in the past about how easy it is to have a good or bad experience and immediately share the experience on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere in the social space. I’ve shared a number of experiences in the last few years on my blog and know others that make it a dedicated business to do so. But at the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves, what do we hope to attain by running to social media. If a great experience stands out apart from typical or routine experiences, then it makes sense to share. But, if you’re ranting in a blog post with so proposed solutions for improvement, then a blog post or comments on Facebook or Twitter don’t really achieve much. An information security expert I know always says, “If you don’t want your boss or grandmother to read something, then don’t post it.” So, in this situation, if you would not feel comfortable with the President of the company seeing your post, then don’t share your comments online. But, if you think a Google alert will alert a company President to read your comments – which might lead to improvements – then, by all means, share your comments.
I know another of your areas of expertise is marketing. What are the key trends that you see emerging in marketing?
With all the emphasis on social media, it’s important to spend the time on social ROI, or return on investment. Businesses should not simply post aimlessly on Facebook and Twitter. First and foremost, develop a social media marketing plan. Make sure that the objectives align with the overall marketing plan. Then, determine the best use of personnel’s time, and last but not least, determine which metrics you will use to measure your social media activity. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
Finally, a completely open question: What is the one piece of advice you’d give a growing company?
Understand your competitive advantage, positioning statement, brand promise – whatever you want to call it. Train all employees so that they understand and can live your brand day in and day out. If they don’t, your business will never grow past the dream stage.