Stereotypical Employee Photo
A recent WSJ article noted that 10% of Microsoft employees (about 10,000 people) use iPhones to access their email, an interesting statistic when many smart phones that run on a Microsoft platform are available.
Closer to home, after canceling Comcast cable for AT&T U-verse, Comcast sent a rep out to pick up my equipment. In conversation, he revealed that he uses Direct TV at home, instead of Comcast, because Comcast did not offer discounts to employees and DirectTV was more affordable.
Both stories got me thinking: While your employees can certainly sell your product without using it, imagine how much more effective they can be if they actually use your product as well.
What can you do to ensure your employees become advocates for your products/services?
- Make Employees Customers. Even if you have to subsidize the product, make sure your employees use your product over a competitor’s. Car dealers have “dealer” cars so their sales people can speak intimately about the products they are selling based on their own experiences.
- Educate. Let your employees know everything about your product (good and bad). Don’t let them find out about any functions or problems from a customer. When the latter occurs, it can cause unnecessary conversations among the employees about the quality of your product.
- Transparency. Communicate with your employees regularly about your services. If you are making changes, tell them why. It will help them better communicate with consumers.
- Let Them Compare. You want your employees loyal to your products, so encourage them (and even subsidize) using a competitive product/service. This will allow them to see how your product is different and will help in emphasizing your product strengths from a personal experience.
- Ask for Feedback. When your employees are using your products/services, you now have a in-house focus group to gain learnings on how to improve your offerings. Asking for their feedback, and acting on it, will foster loyalty among employees and ultimately create a better product.
No matter how good your product or service, your employees are integral to selling the product and connecting with the consumer. Give them every opportunity to get to know your products and services better, and your efforts will pay off in so many ways.
While the debate continues regarding the impact of the iPad, Apple does many things right.
Today when I was purchasing a new case for my iPhone, the sales person noticed my company name on my credit card. She asked me about the business and if I was interested in joining their business loyalty program where I could earn benefits, discounts, etc.
This simple act made me appreciate that she was focused on my needs as a customer, and not just focused on the sale.
We do this all the time in our personal lives. You may notice a tree growing too close to a neighbor’s house and offer to recommend an arborist. Your friend’s car may leak antifreeze on your driveway and so you recommend a mechanic. The benefit to you? Helping a friend. Keeping a strong relationship.
When I meet with clients, I listen to what they need and often recommend services or companies that can help, regardless of whether it benefits my bottom line. I recommend a business coach if I see organizational challenges; CFO consultants if their revenue model is flawed; or an M&A consultant if my client needs a better understanding of what their end-game needs to be.
The same thing should be done with your brand.
What are you doing to take the extra step to help your customers out? Are you a resource that your customers trust because you are looking out for them? How can you train your employees to recognize the opportunity to become that trusted resource?
When the hard drive on my Powerbook was dying, I took it to the Genius Bar at Apple for support. To my surprise, they recommended I take it to someone else who could put in a faster drive and increase my memory at a lower cost. They even gave me a card for the place.
I bet you can guess what my next computer will be.
When a company does the little things to make your interaction more enjoyable, it goes a long way.
Over the Christmas break I spent some time in Chattanooga, TN at the Doubletree Hotel.
While Doubletree is best known for its warm chocolate chip cookies, it was some of the other things they did that really made the difference:
- They called a nearby hotel with an indoor pool so my kids could go swimming.
- The clock radio had pre-set stations listed as rock, news, pop and sports, so I didn’t have to navigate unfamiliar stations.
- Even the language they used for the ever-present room signage made me appreciate the experience that much more.
Current economic trends might be preventing you from increasing your marketing spend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a positive impact on your customers by making small, positive changes in how you do business.
- I’ve seen home service companies bring the newspaper to the door or clear cobwebs from around the house.
- Publix employees still bring your groceries to your car and they are not allowed to accept tips.
- I’ve received a personal note from my Nordstrom’s sales person.
- Zappo’s typically upgrades shipping to next day air.
In this day of social media – where anyone can make their opinion known to millions – doing the little things to make a positive impact can go far. And often these little things don’t cost you anything.
As you look at 2010, share what you are doing to make a difference with your customers.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Toys R Us announced they are opening 350 temporary stores in traditional shopping malls and other locations to take advantage of the holiday season. This strategy is borne out of two market changes:
- KB Toys, traditionally a mall-only toy retailer, going out of business
- Sears expanding their toy department to help grab share from the KB Toys deficit
Holiday sales were down 3.4% last year for Toys R Us. Anticipating similar results for the 2009 holiday season, the national toy retailer realized they could not rely on the same approach to reach customers and drive sales.
Toys R Us is leveraging three key areas:
- Inexpensive rents – With retail sales down and retailers going out of business, there is excess capacity in shopping malls.
- Lower pricing – Higher rents were baked into KB Toys’ pricing (so much that they weren’t competitive). Since rents are lower, TRU can keep pricing on par with freestanding stores.
- Convenience – The convenience of a mall location should attract people who are already shopping versus having to go to another location.
Toys R Us stopped looking at their business the same way.
You should to and see where opportunities might exist to change how you do business. There has never been a better time to do it.
Last week I wrote about the importance of having your employees positively represent your brand – even if they are on break. I highlighted a negative experience I had at Starbucks with some employees on break who decided to smoke near patrons when an alternative was available.
Yesterday I had an interesting experience with another popular brand, one that provided a nice counterpoint to last week’s topic.
I was at a neighborhood CVS yesterday when I approached the check-out line at the same time as a Best Buy employee (though nowhere near a Best Buy) who immediately let me take the place at the front of the line.
When another register opened, that same person let someone else go ahead to the register.
Those small gestures made me feel good about Best Buy and has me thinking about Best Buy in a positive light.
It’s amazing what a positive experience — even an unrelated one — can have on your brand.
Remember, your employees are always representing your brand.