Posts tagged “loyalty”

The most important meal of the day

Culture eating strategy for breakfast at a recent custom car show…

Every company wants consumer loyalty, but not every organization knows what to do with it. The kind of fandom that expresses itself as a brand militia, while a tremendous asset, is not a force easily controlled from the top.

In a New York Times article on Chevrolet’s recent attempt to wrangle their identity back from the people by mandating GM staff to say “Chevrolet” rather than “Chevy,” Corvette racer Dick Guldstrand explains:

Once it became an American icon, America took it away from G.M. They made it a Chevy. You’re doing a disservice to all the people by telling them not to call it a Chevy.

Whether you’re talking about consumers or the members of an organization itself, a strategy based on top-down control leaves little room for passionate engagement. Cisco CEO John Chambers is remaking that organization’s entire structure around the perspective that

Leadership is not really about delegating tasks and monitoring results; it is about imbuing the entire workforce with a sense of responsibility for the business.

Ongoing engagement – through shared responsibility and shared identity – builds loyalty. And this process can only happen if an organization or brand leaves room for people’s agency, so they can create a sense of ownership and meaning for themselves.

Loyalty Cuts Both Ways

In a full-page ad in today’s SF Chronicle jobs section, Columbus Foods asks for help in hiring their employees who have lost their jobs after a recent fire. It’s a pretty dramatic and heartfelt demonstration of an employer’s loyalty to its employees, a vector of loyalty we don’t consider as often as its inverse.

We Need A Hand After The Disaster

On Thursday, July 23, 2009, a significant fire hit Columbus' Cabot Packaging and Slicing facility in South San Francisco. The building was completely destroyed.

Being in business for over 90 years, we have faced many challenges, but it is our employees'strength, dedication and resilience that has brought us our continued success. At Columbus, we have always had pride in the quality of our people.

We are still in business and, long-term, fully expect to come out stronger from this challenge. We have been able to relocate about 40% of the work force of this facility to our other locations and to associated companies. However, because of the fire, the remainder of the workers from the affected facility will be displaced. While we have provided generous severances, we want to do more to help these employees find new jobs.

So we are reaching out to the greater business community for help placing these skilled and loyal employees. It is important to us that we do everything we can to help them, as without them we would have never gotten to the place we are today. If you have any openings, please send correspondence to helpcabot@Columco.com. We will work with you and the employees affected by this disaster to ensure minimal disruption to their lives. And thank you in advance for lending any support.

cabot

Cookie Monsters

nocookie.jpg
I was taken aback when reading this NYT piece on Starbucks loyalty card

Jeffrey D. Lipp, president and chief executive of Chockstone. His company helps customers, including some Starbucks competitors, build and run their own loyalty programs.

What he has found is that it doesn’t take a lot to get diners, for example, to do what restaurants want. One Chockstone gambit involves using the customer’s receipt to make an offer. Return within 10 days, perhaps, and you can get a free dessert, the slip says.

“It’s amazing this stuff works so well,” Mr. Lipp said. “What we’ve found is that people can be bought for a cookie.”

Pardon? You’re an expert in loyalty, but you refer to people being bought? It’s such a Winston Smith moment when the word loyalty – in the context of companies inducing you to return – has no connection with the actual meaning of the word “A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection.” I guess brand and loyalty are completely divorced in the modern corporation.

Note: the picture above comes from our local Safeway store where I have developed an almost Pavlovian association with their free cookie box, which has sat behind the bakery counter to be reached into by slightly sneaky customers. Avoiding sweets most of the time has really pumped up the anticipation I feel when I head to Safeway to pick up groceries or visit the ATM.

So I was stunned to see the sign and realize the free ride was over. If they’ve got me making such a powerful emotional/gustatory association with visiting their store, isn’t that worth a few boxes of cookies per day?

And so, am I being bought for a cookie? I don’t know, really. But the timing of the outrageous quote in the article and the outrageous sign at Safeway suggest some dystopian cookie Happening may be upon us. I’ll keep you all posted.

Show Busy-ness

The critics seem to have grasped the limited resource of attention that is impacting (and yet driving) the exploding volume of media we are faced with.

From two different reviews of The Nine

The SF Chronicle

What the TV industry has wrought this year, making us choose among “Brothers & Sisters,” “Men in Trees,” “Six Degrees,” “Ugly Betty,” etc. — puts a burden on viewers to make a bevy of decisions quickly.

The New York Times

Not many people have time and energy to commit themselves to yet another series that requires weekly loyalty and close attention.

There’s obviously some problems with the models here; as everything gets more narrowcast, we can’t – and aren’t expected to – consume it all, indeed we’ll need to just ignore most of it. So why are there more products that demand even greater loyalty? Dick Wolf, in an extensive New York Times Magazine profile a year or so ago, pointed out some of the elements designed into Law and Order that made them re-watchable and timeless, making for huge wins in syndication. These other shows – cliffhanging serials – may or may not do as well in syndication, but I imagine they’ll do better on DVD. The barrier to entry is high, the barrier to late entry is impossibly high. This can breed high loyalty, doubtless, for those that do join the exclusive viewer club, but the critics are right to question the wisdom of Lost-followers trying to repeat that trick.

Spin story

I bitched about Spin magazine and questioned the notion of relaunch vs. loyalty vs. targeting in a previous post, only to read in Wired (in a piece by Chris Anderson excerpted from the just-released The Long Tail”) that “money-losing Spin magazine was just, well, spun off for a fire-sale sum.” Wikipedia sez

[Under the direction of new editor-in-chief Andy Pemberton] The [May 2006] issue’s format took a dramatic turn to many readers’ disgust. The new style has been compared to celebrity gossip magazines such as Us Weekly, even going as far as to have a cover story and picture on Kevin Federline. Prior to the issue’s release, much of the staff quit or were fired.

and

As of June 26, 2006, Andy Pemberton resigned from Spin as editor-in-chief amid much criticism of his handling of the magazine.

and

Vibe’s recent sale of the magazine for only $5 million, given the fact that VIBE paid over $45 million for the publication in 1997.

I left my last issue at the post office, didn’t even take it home to flip through. I didn’t even open the magazine before discarding it. Sad, really.

Meanwhile, Chuck Klosterman has created a big stir in the blogosphere with his Esquire article about the lack of criticism in the gaming scene.

Steve Portigal, we have a special gift in store for you.

I received a Verizon promotion recently, the text on a white box over pale gray stripes on the background of the card (think of a linen suit that Gatsby might have worn). Flip it open and it reads

Come into your local
Verizone Wireless Communications Store
and leave with a Loyalty Credit.

New 2-year agreement required

This cracked us up around here; it reads like a typographic version of the ad speak so beautifully parodied by SNL and the Simpsons, where a smarmy announcer trumpets a ridiculous claim and a fast-talking serious voice denies that claim immediately: Blammo will Save Your Life!saving-of-life-not-guaranteed.

I’ll get a Loyalty Credit (? turns out that means $30) if I sign up for two more years? Nice to be offered the chance to demonstrate my loyalty in order to get some reward. The presentation suggests I am being rewarded for actual loyalty, something that has already happened, but in fact, they are rewarding for future loyalty, because that’s what a company actually cares about! What have you done for me lately!

Telling customers buh-bye!

A follow-up to a previous entry (in which Half.com planned to remove my inventory from their system if I didn’t make a purchase, etc.), now Hilton is going to drop me from their loyalty program if I don’t stay there soon

As a member of Hilton HHonors, you are very important to us. That’s why we want to give you an opportunity to reactivate your HHonors account before it is closed and the HHonors points you’ve already earned are forfeited.

[pitch to sell me a credit card]

You may also keep your HHonors account open beyond September 01, 2006, by taking advantage of one of the following options:

[stay with them, buy something etc.]

If you do not take one of the actions above by September 01, 2006, your HHonors account will be closed and all accumulated points will be forfeited. Prior to your account closing, you may redeem your HHonors points for any eligible reward. After the points are redeemed, your account will be closed by the date above and all remaining points will be forfeited.

Forfeited? I think I stayed at a Hilton in December, and previously in October (I could be wrong, frankly I don’t differentiate between hotel brands too clearly, there’s other things to take up space in my brain), but now I’m to be forfeited? I wonder what trend in loyalty (as a business construct) is leading to this shedding of non-profitable customers, or even this threatening-with-expulsion mentality. I’m not sure what I’m costing Hilton. If I’m not an active customer, don’t target any promotions to me. But why dump me? Or, why threaten to dump me as a way to motivate me to become a better customer? There’s no carrot, only a stick.

At least, as I wrote in the previous entry, they are warning me. Starwood just dumped me without notice and caused all sorts of usability hassles when I tried to make a reservation using what I thought was an active membership number.

Your Inventory Will Soon Expire

We are sending you this email to confirm that you currently have inventory listed on Half.com. Our records show you have not been to the Half.com site for approximately 75 days
In order to ensure your continued success as a seller, we encourage you to make sure your prices, conditions, and descriptions are up to date and correct. We have found that sellers who re-price and refresh their inventory on a regular basis experience higher sales volumes than those who do not. Additionally, it is important for us at Half.com to ensure that our buyers are purchasing from active and attentive sellers.
If you do not visit your Half.com account by 04-16-2006, your inventory will be suspended. Please take some time to review the items you have for sale and make any modifications you think might be necessary

This is funny timing; I was “interviewing myself” during a recent dog walk (like showering and falling asleep, good times for an interior monologue) about why I had been loyal to Half.com for so long and now almost exclusively buy and sell on Amazon. At one point I was given a number of Amazon gift certificates as thanks for some speaking I had done, so I was regularly going back to Amazon to spend them. I also found Half didn’t have the inventory compared to Amazon. Half.com also went through a protracted integration with eBay and put us (as sellers) through all sorts of various bullshit, with warnings of changes coming, planning to do away with the service entirely, then changing their minds. It didn’t seem stable, it didn’t seem comfortable. There was at least one more point at which they were eliminating some categories and sent me a notice that some of my inventory would not longer be offered (if I recall, they had initially let you create your own categories for things that they didn’t have ISBN or part numbers etc. for, but did away with that during some revision of their system) past a certain date.

In other words, they were not easy to do business with.

As a customer of Amazon, I’ve had no shortage of hassles with them, but as a seller, it’s been pretty darn painless. I don’t move a lot of stuff, I just have thrown some old books up there and sometimes one of them will sell. Rarely. I guess they make me renew all my listings every sixty days, but that’s a bunch of clicking and not a lot of thinking. Half has always hassled me, and I’ve slowly abandoned them.

But this takes the cake. As I’ve written here before I don’t feel great about being threatened with removal (at least Half is warning me, unlike Starwood in the previous link). Not to mention that their email is incredibly inept since 4/16 was nearly 2 months ago.

Half doesn’t want me? I don’t need them. A customer has been lost.

Poor interoperability is a major challenge to good user experience design.

This type of thing seems disturbingly common nowadays: I am preparing to book a hotel for an upcoming conference. The hotel is part of a chain I’ve never stayed at before, so I decide to see if they’ve got some sort of affiliate program or bonus/loyalty/mileage thing, before I book.

I sign up for the program and get my number about 12 hours later. I tried to book online but because I was looking for a conference rate (without a code) I gave up and ended up calling.

And they don’t show my loyalty number.

I’m looking at the auto-generated email, with the number in bold text. And we try several times. They try my name, everything. And give up. Even though I have the “receipt” on hand. No dice.

So the convenience factor – not having to read out every single piece of contact info I’ve already entered, not having to specify room preferences that I’ve already entered, all gone.

They pointed me to the service number for the loyalty program, and the person I speak with explains it may take 7 to 10 days for a newly issued number to be available to the rest of the hotel systems (such as reservations). He was able to quickly put the number into my reservation for credit, and both people I spoke to were incredibly helpful and genuine (besides being forced to read some clunky scripts), so this isn’t really a complaint about bad service, but really an eyebrow-raised in amazement over bad design.

Shouldn’t a requirement of the system they design to create and issue the loyalty numbers be rapid integration with the reservation system? Isn’t a likely use scenario going to be booking of a reservation very quickly after creating a new account? IT systems in silos is scary for what it prevents.

I guess the band-aid would have been to explain this limitation in their “welcome” email but that might have been too big a peek behind the curtain. They did inform me it would take 48 hours to issue the new account at the beginning of all this (although that also seems silly, what are they doing, checking my references?)…

In general, poor interoperability is a major challenge to creating a good user experience. And this example seems highly typical.

Recently nytimes.com rolled out an integration of their home delivery accounts and web-content accounts (I think to help sell their premium access service), but they did it in a terribly clumsy and confusing way, leading to service calls to agents who had no information (I was told, after a lot of vague language like “when you go out of the system you have to come back and and when it asks for your account you enter your number” to wait 24 hours and try again) and no interest in helping (“this is all the information we have. We can only read this out to you; that’s all we can do.”)…a disaster, as far as I am concerned. Maybe it’ll be better now, but the NYT hurt their brand pretty badly, at least in my case.

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