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Nutritious Customer Experiences

While driving over 18 hours down to Miami, I frequently got hungry. Trying not to gorge on terrible-for-you junk food, I often opted to stop at Burger King. Yup, you read that right, Burger King. What I came to really appreciate was that Burger King had a good salad menu and even more importantly, a quite tasty veggie burger. This shows that fast food retailers are trying to tap into a growing trend in America. More and more people are trying to eat healthier and, because of the effects of industrial farming, are opting for vegetarian options. Despite the fact that this has been an ongoing trend for a while now, its still presents an opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves in the crowded fast food market. For instance, to my knowledge, McDonald’s does not serve veggie burgers, nor does it offer much in the way of vegetarian faire. It seems that McDonald’s may be missing out on capturing this trend. Although McDonald’s sometimes lists calories on its menus, it still is a difficult place to eat for the more health conscious consumer. Some of their salads have more calories than a big mac! And according to this BrandChannel article, things have the potential to get worse. It seems that McDonald’s is working to simplify its menu, which may mean that it’ll cut out some of the healthier options. Personally, I think this is a bad move for McDonald’s, if it wants to keep up with consumer trends.

Capturing the healthy food crowd is not just for fast food chains. For instance, Kellog’s Special K brand has long been successful at capturing healthy eaters and is continuing to expand its product offerings, according to another BrandChannel article. This is evidence of the potential viability of meeting the needs of this growing consumer segment.


Bank of America and credit card points

I had to go into Bank of America today to tell them that I would be traveling for the next couple weeks and I decided to look into what I’ve dubbed a “big girl” credit card. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the information that the woman there gave me. 

First of all, just to give the BofA lady some props, she was so helpful and possible one of the most polite and accommodating bank workers I’ve ever talked with…so points for BofA there. But also she told me about some of their credit cards and the benefits/cash back/points you can get for them. She started off by telling about the cash back card, which is pretty standard. However it got interesting when she started telling me about their “travel” card. 

She started out with, “I used to really not like our credit card options…the travel card accumulated you points, but you had to go to a website and count them, then it was very complicated to redeem them.” However she said that BofA recently changed this program and got rid of the need to go online and count these points, which made the entire process very complicated and really discouraged customers from even taking advantage of the points. Now, though, the points are automatically applied to travel purchases for you, eliminating all of the complications. What was cool was that you could tell she was genuinely excited about it too.

We’ve talking about airline miles and hotel points and all of those things and how generally, using them takes so long that it become discouraging and frustrating for loyalty program members. It implies that the companies do not want customers to actually reap the benefits, they just want their “loyalty”. I think consumers are becoming less and less content with systems like these…they will either demand to get their benefits or they will switch to companies that treat them better. 

While I don’t know if BofA has the best options for credit cards for me or not, I do think this new type of program is taking a step in the right direction.


Taking Cue From Ritz-Carlton’s Customer Service

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is known for its excellent customer service. The firm retains 97.5% of its clients, which speaks loud enough that its approach to client service is working.

Customers expect excellence and don’t want to be treated like the masses. Based on this root rule, Ritz-Carlton has 3 basic approaches:

-Establish a Standard Service Process to formalize many basic client interactions and spread the work of client care around the staff.

-Focus on customers’ Personal Details, remember it and customize the following services

-Employees make emotional connections with their clients

We may have already heard of lots of principles and approaches of customer service. But most companies still have very bad customer service. In fact, we should just keep things simple: to serve customers with empathy, and build the system that can realize it. 

To learn more:



The efficient customer service at Bodos

As my last blog entry, I wanted to write about one of my favorite restaurants in Charlottesville: Bodos.  My love of bagels aside, this restaurant stands out to me because of its amazing efficiency.  A cashier quickly takes your order and hands you a receipt with a number.  Then employees prepare your order, place your bagel on either a plate or in a bag (for here or to-go), and finally, call out your number.  But this entire process is complete within five minutes.  And with incredible precision-I have always gotten exactly what I ordered.

The store layout is definitely a key reason for its good customer service.  There is a clearly designated area to wait in line, a cashier will say next once he or she is ready for the next person, and most importantly there is a long counter where employees can place bagels for customers to pick up.  Just like the layout of Apple stores, Bodos was designed strategically with plenty of space for customers and nice touches, like a bagel-shaped door handle.  I will certainly miss my favorite in and out lunch place next year.


New Path Toward Customer Value?

Lately, much has been said of the trend toward new prepaid cellphone plans proffered by established players in the wireless industry.  T-Mobile has recently altered its business model to offer solely prepaid service while Verzion and AT&T have reassessed their position in the no-contract area.  AT&T’s new, contract-free Aio service seeks to offer a hassle free experience and may thus lend a friendlier face to the mobile phone plan landscape that many find characterized by complexity and confusion.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to examine the long term effects of the push toward prepaid plans.  While ostensibly offering the customer greater flexibility and ease of use, companies may find that these same customers are harder to keep given a reduced level of inertia to overcome if they desire to switch carriers and are not bound by a contract.  As a result, consumers may apply greater scrutiny to carrier performance as well as the economics of the prepaid plans to determine if they are really better off in all respects without a contract.  If they find that value for their dollar regarding functional attributes of their experience is lacking, they may be even more likely to switch services, thus upping the ante for all carriers in the quest to deliver customer value.

Following the link below leads to a Brandchannel article about the introduction of the Aio service.


Nestle is Creating Shared Value

We watched a video in class that talked about what Nestle is doing to help various ingredient producers in rural areas to grow their businesses and to get the most output from their lands. Nestle is really taking this sort of aid to a different level, though. What Nestle is doing is focusing on three areas: Rural development, water, and nutrition and they are trying to create “shared value” in these areas. This means that they are committing to improve or help in these areas, while also creating value for themselves and their customers. For example, in term of nutrition, they are improving the ingredients in their existing products to meet health and nutrition standards. Not only does this help the consumer just in terms of better food, but it also increases their sales and benefits Nestle themselves. 

This idea of creating shared value has really gained traction recently. Before, I think many people believed it to be impossible to truly benefit all sides (the business, the community, and the consumer…someone always had to lose, right?) but we see that it is possible to do all of these things. Hopefully more companies, especially large ones with operations in many countries and lots of resources, will follow Nestle’s example and start to think of ways to create shared value instead of only value for themselves. The link to the full article is below:


Tim Cook’s Apologize to Apple Customers in China

We talked a lot about customer service in class. One key take away is that customer complaints can be recovered by good customer service. And the good recovery could lead to higher favorability than before the complaint happens. But if complaints are not replied in a desirable way, customer favorability towards this brand will decrease further significantly.

Apple recently was recently criticized of its after-sales service in China. After more than two weeks of criticism, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook apologized on the official website to Chinese consumers on April 1 and altered iPhone warranty policies. 

China Central Television (CCTV) criticized Apple’s after-sale services of iPhone in China because it gave only a one-year warranty, while in China relevant law regulates it should be two years. It also said that phone owners had to pay about $90 to replace a faulty back cover.

Before the official apology, there had been waves of criticism regarding the company’s unfair customer service in China, either on television channels, portal websites, or social media like Weibo. 

Apple did not reply actively at first and was criticized with lack of sincerity, which made even more customers angry. It resulted in quarter profit loss, which forces Apple to apologize and make a recovery.

Hope this story can give us an idea of how important to manage customers’ complaints.

The link to the apology letter to customers in China:


Crucial Consumer Trends for 2013

This is an interesting article that discusses some of the most crucial consumer trends of 2013.  Understanding these trends will allow companies to set a trajectory that will lead to increased customer value.   Some of these are novel while others are more obvious.   Follow the links under each trend to learn more and discover examples of how these each can be applied for  increased value. 

 Pay special attention to the “emerging” trend.  This relates customer value to some of the major global trends we discussed in Professor Maillet’s class.  It’s important to note how global corporations are going to have to change their strategy in order to provide value for emerging market consumers. 


McD’s and Wendy’s battle for price sensitive customers

This is an interesting article regarding how McDonald’s and Wendy’s have both been vying for value-centric customers, particularly as Wendy’s has increased its value menu advertising.  This is also interesting given all of the SPSS work we’ve done with Netemeyer regarding McD’s, Wendy’s and Burger King so it is rather cool to see that something we were doing in class is being discussed in the WSJ on a larger level.


Hotel Loyalty

This article is really interesting. It talks about the new type of loyalty programs that higher end hotels are starting to use. Instead of the traditional point system that focuses on discounts and free extra nights (which probably don’t appeal to the super wealthy anyways), they are focusing on giving members exclusive and unique experiences. In doing this, they can create a special relationship with their customers and drive them to stay at their hotels because that’s where they will get the best experience and thus the best value.


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Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things--Theodore Levitt