I want to describe two very different customer service experiences–one good and one bad–that I had at New York & Company. For those of you who do not know, New York & Company is a moderately-priced women’s apparel store, specializing in business casual clothing. The store targets women slightly older than we are, but I decided to shop there because my sister gave me gift card, or so I thought.
Over Spring Break, I went to a New York & Company in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I spent about 40 minutes shopping there, and finally picked out a dress that I wanted to buy. I presented my New York & Company card to the cashier. She asked me for my ID, which I presented to her. Then she promptly asked whether the New York & Company card was my mother’s. I explained to her that it was actually my twin sister’s. She said that she could not take it because the name on the Merchandise Credit card (my sister had returned an item purchased online to a brick and mortar store) did not match the name on my ID (even though our names are only two letters different). Clearly someone in my family was a customer. I just said “Seriously?” and she said “yes.” I could not believe how ridiculous she was being. So I just left angrily without another word, and without buying the dress. I was frustrated that I had spent almost an hour searching for and finding something I liked but could not buy, without a reasonable explanation as to why. I vowed to never shop at New York & Company again, or let my sister repeat purchase.
Against my better judgment, I visited the New York & Company in Charlottesville this weekend. I found the same dress I liked under a 50% off sign. I went to the cashier and presented the Merchandise Credit. She just asked for my phone number, which I gave her. I knew it was linked to my name, not my sister’s, since I had given this information to the cashier in Myrtle. But the Charlottesville cashier did not ask for ID, and simply rang up the dress. She just told me to be careful with my sister’s Merchandise Card, since not everyone will take it. I just laughed and thanked her graciously. I was happy I was finally able to purchase the dress I liked. I am willing to shop at the New York & Company in Charlottesville again, but it will be hard to forget my first, negative experience with the brand.
Yesterday, I coincidentally came across a news article that talked about how Bank of America might finally be considered “the worst company” in the U.S. by the Consumerist, a blog published by a consumer advocacy organization.
The article really made me reflect back on previous lectures regarding customer satisfaction. In class, we discussed briefly about using metrics, such as those given by the ASCI, to evaluate customer satisfaction. This article showed how the numerous complaints (20,512 since 12/11) to CFPB highlight Bank of America’s unsatisfactory services. Their major problem is claimed to be with their service of mortgages. The startling fact is that the bank actually comprises roughly ¼ of all complaints to CFPB. This means that Bank of America really needs to step up and fix their problems before it starts affecting their brand equity.
Early last year, I remember Bank of America tried to implement monthly fees for the use of debit cards. Unfortunately, the bank was unsuccessful in their plans due to the outburst of customer complaints. I also think that these types of incidents have contributed to the negative image of Bank of America. One previous post in this blog was about the Top 9 retailers with the worst customer satisfaction. Surprisingly, Netflix was in that list and the article stated how the company’s recent attempt to change pricing resulted in a negative perception of the company. The two cases, Bank of America and Netflix, re-emphasize how change can be detrimental and how it is really important to understand and see the business from the customer’s perspective before implementing anything big.
In class and our whitepapers, we have extensively discussed the attempts of brick and mortar retailers to remain relevant in the modern marketplace. Consumers can shop from the convenience of their couch and easily locate the lowest prices available which are often significantly below those at in store counterparts. Nevertheless, when carried out properly, the experience of locating and purchasing a desired item in store can add customer value in a uniquely tangible way. For all the convenience online shopping affords, it can be more enjoyable, and, in some cases, more efficient, to experience an item firsthand and make the right choice the first time to avoid expensive and time consuming shipping hassles.
To this end, recent experience while searching for a camera and software in a big box electronics retailer left me pleasantly surprised. A friend had told me that the same chain had been willing to price match both electronics hardware and software in the past. In my case, staff did not question my request to price match an item almost 25% below the shelf price and the transaction was quickly completed.
This visit left me pleased since it did not necessitate traveling out of the way and netted a low, online price without the extra costs, delays, and uncertainties of shipping. Nevertheless, while easy price matching enhances customer value, it remains to be seen if physical stores can sustain their infrastructure when selling at online prices even if they are able to attract more traffic through such policies. It would be interesting to investigate the proportions of retail buyers who accept the shelf price, request a match, or simply “showroom” with their smartphones and then purchase online. If the margins on items sold at shelf price markup are crucial to sustaining brick and mortar operations, the long term utility of price matching and potential innovations such as real-time market price parity labeling appear questionable from a retail standpoint.
I thought that this article from Adweek was interesting, especially for those of us who are studying companies like Gilt that are trying to gauge the relevance of their interactions with customers. Experian Marketing Services released a report analyzing emails received in Q4 of 2012. I’ve included a link to the article below, but to give a quick summary: most customers open and respond to emails on the weekends (volume of email is also lower on the weekends); customers are more likely to respond to emails at night or earlier in the morning; and customers are responding and clicking through emails faster than ever, probably because of the increased adoption of smart-phones.
Here is the link to the article:
So, when I signed up for cable earlier in the year, Comcast was running a promotion for 6 months of free Showtime. This seemed like a no-brainer but after 6 months I came to realize that I never really watched Showtime and so, now that they’ve started charging me for it, I wanted to cancel it. Given the recent amount of work we’ve had and the dread of dealing with cable company customer service, I put off calling Comcast for a week or two, but finally did it today. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting them to try to negotiate with me about reasons why I shouldn’t get rid of Showtime or try to sell me some other addition to the service that I don’t need. However, when I told the woman on the other end of the phone that I wanted to remove Comcast from my subscription, she did it within a matter of seconds, asked me if there was anything else she could help me with and told me to have a nice day. It seems silly that I should be pleasantly surprised about how easy this process was, but I had very low expectations going into the phone call.
Amazon, known as the #1 online retailer in the world, claims to be earth’s most customer-centric company. I attended Amazon’s Information Session at Newcomb Hall yesterday and I learned about Amazon’s “secret growth circle”.
As showed in the picture above, Amazon aims to provide superior customer experience to its users through broader and more professional selection than other retailers. And the satisfied customer experience will create more traffic volume, which will bring in more sellers, and further build up its ability of selection, completing a positive circulation. Additionally, strong growth will result in lower cost structure, which allows Amazon’s lower prices than competitors, thus adds more positive inputs to the customer experience.
There is a serious of numbers, according to Amazon’s annual report, to back up its strong growth last year: net sales were $61.09 billion, a 27.1% increase from $48.08 billion last year; North American net sales totaled $34.81 billion, up 30.4% from $26.70 billion in 2011; North America accounted for 57% of sales in 2012; International net sales totaled $26.28 billion, up 23% from $21.37 billion in 2011; International accounted for 43% of sales in 2012.
And this afternoon I also met with a Darden’s MBA alum who will work with Amazon this August. He emphasized that, on the list of the leadership principles that every Amazonian is guided by, the first one is Customer Obsession. “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
He interned with Amazon last summer at Seattle headquarter, conducting market research on Amazon’s new textbook rental business launched last August. I told him that last semester we had a McIntire alum gave a presentation on his failure experience of establishing a firm doing textbook rental business. He admitted that this is a challenge business for small firms given their limited resources. But Amazon has strong ability to tackle with this challenge and the two leading companies in this area already signed up to cooperation with Amazon.
Actually Amazon announced today that it has acquired bibliophilic social platform Goodreads, where users can document what they’ve read, are reading and want to read and share those lists with others. Obviously, Amazon intends to utilize Goodreads to improve Amazon customers’ and especially Kindle owners’ ability to share that type of information and Amazon’s ability to use that information in recommending new books for people to purchase, so that to further improve customer experience in the “secret growth circle”.
A recent article by the Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/if-its-green-it-must-be-healthy/274131/) explores the findings of a Cornell study on the effects of packaging color on perceptions of healthiness. Participants were asked to envision purchasing a candy bar and then shown either a package with either green or red background for nutrition data. Those participants shown the green backgrounds rated the candy bars as seeming significantly healthier than those with other color backgrounds, despite both sets of packaging displaying identical nutrition information.
Findings like this reinforce the notion that even subtle changes to packaging can have real impact on product perception, and ultimately consumer purchasing behavior. Usage of the color green could also be impacting consumers’ perceptions in other ways, since the color has become synonymous with environmental conscientiousness. The combination of these two insights can be particularly important for the food industry and its packaging as employing the color green can combine both influences on customer perception of both brand ethos and product healthiness.
Adopting a green-heavy packaging strategy should be considered carefully. While placement of the color in key locations like nutritional information boxes can affect customer perceptions, over-usage of the color can appear to be an attempt at insincere representation, especially for foods widely acknowledged to be unhealthy. Green coloring should also not clash with other colors that may be more salient for a particular product. For instance, potato chip packages should use green minimally, if at all, because reds or yellows are more important for conveying messages about product taste and the food is universally viewed as unhealthy.
AdWeek featured an article yesterday called “Three Brands That Used Data to Transform Their Media Strategies” that reflected many of the themes we have been learning about. In examining case studies of Proximity London, McCormick, UPS and Sprint, the article emphasizes 1) the overwhelming availability of data produced today and 2) how analyzing such data effectively is becoming a key means of realizing efficiencies and gaining a competitive edge. These four case studies reiterate the a key point of Precision Marketing, that “data a fundamentally important because data drive insight, insight drives relevance, and relevance drives customer loyalty” (85).
As a side note, this article also demonstrates the value of the analytics education we’re receiving this year in Marketing and Customer Value. Though SPSS can be overwhelming, it looks like ANOVA and chi-squared cross tabs really are the future of market research.
In my last post, I had discussed how Apple might be entering into the smart watch industry in the coming year. While other companies have begun to accept orders for their version of iPhone-compatible smart watches, Apple certainly has both the infrastructure and capital to launch this initiative and profit significantly. According to an article on CNN.com, LG is now rumored to join the smart watch revolution as well. While there is little known about the potential product and its specifications, what is important to note from this article is that tech firms must keep up with new trends in the industry if they are to remain competitive. Smart watches are inevitably beginning to emerge as a new product category within the tech space and so it will be interesting to see how LG responds to its competitors and their versions of the smart watch in the coming months.
2013 has been an exciting year so far. I have been to several industry events like the SAPinsider conference and industry specific innovation forums presenting and discussing the future of supply chain. At the same time analytics, in-memory computing, big data, mobility and social media have been hot topics as the application and results of these technologies in business are tremendous.
This year seems like the part of big-bang theory where our digital universe is converging with a hyper-connected network of 15+ billion mobile devices and internetofthings, and social media is stringing them together. Companies and consumers have started to understand the value of these new technologies in customer facing activities like marketing and product development. Social media platforms like facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+ etc. have massive information about consumer preferences and emerging trends, and the CMO office has started harnessing that data already. Agreed that only a few companies…
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