The Thank You Economy
My name is Marissa Mele. Many of you probably don’t realize that you already know me. I am the person that answers your tweets on Twitter, comments on your posts on Facebook, and repins the awesome pictures you find on Pinterest. So you see in some ways we know each other. Now I have had years of experience with social media, but it wasn’t until starting my job at Go Media that I had any professional experience. So as the months passed, and I read more and more about the power of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to help grow a business, I decided it was time to read what the experts had to say on the matter. I wanted to see if my instincts were right and that I was on the right track. I spoke to Jeff and he recommended some books, one of which was Gary Vaynerchuk’s “The Thank You Economy.”
Developing & Fostering Customer Relationships
This 5 part book discusses why businesses have to be and need to be on social media platforms, how to effectively structure messages on these platforms, and how we all need to get back to our grandparents way of doing business: developing and fostering customer relationships.
According to Vanyerchuk, “There is financial gain for any size company that is willing to open the lines of communication with its customers and market to them in a personal, caring way that makes them feel valued.” Like the business owners of yesteryear, we all need to care more, and not about just our bottom line (although that should always be in our rear view), but about making meaningful connections with our customers. We can’t be afraid to expose our hearts and souls, and we have to show that we care about each and every one of our customers.
“There is financial gain for any size company that is willing to open the lines of communication with its customers and market to them in a personal, caring way that makes them feel valued.”
The Need for Businesses to Shift Back to the Good Ol’ Days
Business has shifted in the last 30 years. Many of us aren’t old enough to remember the good ol’ days, but we all can remember the stories our parents and grandparents tell us about how things used to be. Vanyerchuk reminisces about the services businesses used to offer like baggers that brought your groceries to your car or gas station attendants that filled the tank for you (well, except you, New Jersey). Wouldn’t it be nice to have those things again? Wouldn’t it be nice for a business owner to care that you had a bad experience, instead of dismissing your complaint because you aren’t important or impactful enough to affect their bottom line? I think the answer is we all want some old fashioned manners to creep back into the consciousness of business owners. Vaynerchuk tells us, “What pays off most is your willingness to show people that you care about them, about their experience with you, about their business.”
How Social Media Sites Give Consumers a Voice
We have all been subjected to bad service at one time or another. Maybe it was a rude hostess at a restaurant or a dismissive clerk at a retail store. Many of us can even recall with great detail these interactions and have no problem voicing them loudly to our friends. Before the Internet, these bad interactions were only shared with the people who were around us physically or with a person that was a phone call away, so business owners could slough off a few bad interactions as their reach was only a few people wide. Now with sites like Yelp, Urban Spoon, Trip Advisor, etc. people have a sounding board to voice their complaints and those bad interactions can now reach to the farthest stretches of the world. And those sites aren’t the only ones that house these complaints; Facebook and Twitter with its billions of users aren’t keeping quiet about their horrible reactions to your business or product.
The Power of the “Like”
Vanyerchuk tells us that “when given the choice, people will always spend their time around people they like” and that “more and more people are making business and consumer decisions based on what they see talked about on social media platforms.” Now doesn’t it seem silly that these business owners are dismissing the power of social media? As a business owner you need to be on the forefront of these complaints, putting out the fire and rectifying the situation. Sometimes that means offering your services or product for free, but more often than not, a “thank you” or a heartfelt “sorry” can fix the situation for you. However, under no circumstances is it appropriate to berate the complaining customer, that is very opposite of the “Thank You Economy.”
How to Value the Importance of Customer Feedback on Social Media Channels
There are many ways that “The Thank You Economy” direct business owners to better handle difficult business situations and how to value the importance of customer feedback on social media channels:
- “Valuing every single customer is mandatory.”
- “All businesses need to start treating their customers as though they are big spenders.”
- “[Business owner] is going to have to do their damndest to shape the word of mouth that circulates about them by treating each customer as though he or she were the most important customer in the world.”
- “Only companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old fashioned way – and do it authentically are going to have a prayer of competing.”
- “Social media allows us to get fresh, visceral, real-time feedback, not stale focus-group opinions.”
Now let’s break this list down.
Valuing Every Single Customer Is Mandatory
Numbers 1 & 2 go hand in hand. Every business owner must treat each interaction as if they were their highest paying customer. And you know what, they might be. What if a company like Adobe pissed off the AIGA? Would AIGA recommend their products? Not likely. If you don’t treat each person with respect and feel genuine concern for their complaints, chances are you might lose their business. And what if that business is 10% of your revenue or 50%? Could you afford to lose that business now? Chances are “no” you can’t afford to lose that kind of $$$. The only smart answer then is to treat each customer like they are your highest spending customers. Treat them like kings/queens, lay out the red carpet, and speak to them like they matter. If you do this, you are guaranteed to not lose major income because of bad customer service and interactions.
Shaping the Word of Mouth
Number 3 demonstrates how you can have control over what is being said about your business by following numbers 1 & 2. If you follow the first 2 items on the list, then people are going to trust you more, care about you more, and tell their friends/family about you more. Hasn’t there ever been a time in your life, when you were given incredible customer service? I think most of us are primed and ready for someone to be rude to us. We’ve all called a customer service number after running into an issue or problem, and we probably had to spend a good 20 minutes scouring the site for a number to call, knowing an email complaint is going to take too long to hear a response. After we find the number, we have to sit through a series of prompts, pressing button after button, until finally, if we are lucky, we get to talk to an actual person. By that time, we are frustrated and are greeted with a canned “hello, my name is _____, how can I assist you.” We try to describe our issue and are usually told we are contacting the wrong department and have to be transferred. Of course, the transfer fails and you are left hearing this noise, and have to hang up and start all over again.
Customer Service Comes In Many Shapes & Sizes
Now on the flip side, excellent customer service comes in many shapes and sizes. Maybe you were offered a free “something”, maybe they gave you a priority membership, or maybe all they did was sincerely care about your issues and talked to you kindly and not like you were bothering them. Nothing is worse than calling a customer service number and the person who is on the other line acts like you are interrupting them. Customer Service professionals might seem like they are a dime a dozen, and maybe they are, but not all are created equal. Over the course of my time here at Go Media, there have been a few instances where customers needed support. Go Media lady, Kim Finley to the rescue! She is a rockstar when it comes to dealing with customer support issues (well, and really anything she has her hands in). She never raises her voice, she never loses her cool, and she never ever treats the person on the line like they are “less than” or disrespects them in any way. Kim knows how the “Thank You Economy” works and ensures that any issue, however minor, will get her full attention and she will do everything in her power to resolve the problem.
Old Fashioned Manners
Number 4 reminds us to mind our manners. Please, thank you, you’re welcome, how can I help you, sir, and ma’am: these are the words and phrases to tattoo on your brain when you are dealing with customers. Pretend it’s the 1950s, address each customer by their name, offer your condolences when they are frustrated with a concern, and express that you are happy to hear from them and that you are there to help. I am a southern girl. My mom is a southern woman. If you are from the south, you know the importance of having good manners. You’ll get run out of town if you don’t remember your manners words. I think many people have forgotten how to do little things like say please and thank you. How many times have you gone out of your way to do something nice for a stranger and they can’t even muster the words “thank you?” It’s annoying, it pisses you off. The lack of manners is ruining relationships not only with strangers but with customers. Why would you shop at a store where you are treated like crap? No one wants to spend their hard-earned money in businesses that don’t value their customers. I know I won’t. If you treat me like you are too good to be nice to me or that I am not the right kind of customer for your establishment, well, then I am too good to hand you my money.
Real-Time Feedback, Not Stale Focus-Group Opinions
Finally, number 5; this item shows us that any feedback we receive on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. is FREE. And if it’s free, it’s me. As it should be for all of you. Why spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on focus groups? That takes a ton of money, energy, and manpower. When all you have to do is pay attention to what is being said in the social media sphere. What if Suzie from Salt Lake City, UT said, “Ugh, the hostess at [fill in the name of your restaurant here] was so rude to me. I’m never going back there again.” When you saw that hostess again, would you look at her the same way? Would you possibly watch how they interact with customers? Now the hostess might have had an off night, but it could also be that the hostess isn’t the right person to be at the forefront of your business, greeting clients and such. It might be time to let the hostess go or reassign them to a position they are better suited for.
On the other hand, what if Jack from Madison, WI says, “I love the product you offer, but when I am using it I run into these problems…” You didn’t have to hold a focus group and spend months of time preparing to survey your customers. They are right there, offering their opinions for free. All you have to do is open your ears, your eyes, and your minds, and the only way to do that is to jump in head-first to the social media waters. The water may be cold at times, but nothing can be gained from non-participation.
“There are only 2 things that will convince consumers to pay more for something when they could pay less. One is convenience, and the other is an outstanding customer experience.”
One of the tenets of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book that really stuck out for me was, “There are only 2 things that will convince consumers to pay more for something when they could pay less. One is convenience, and the other is an outstanding customer experience.” I have been thinking a great deal about this concept and realize that in my own consumer behavior I often will pay more for a better experience. Recently I was at the Steelyard in Cleveland, OH. The Steelyard is a shopping center with many of the box stores and they have both a Target and a Walmart. Below is a breakdown of some of the basic differences between these 2 stores.
Target vs. Walmart
- Bright and vibrant
- Their employees are friendly and helpful
- Creative advertising
- Dark and dingy
- Their employees aren’t usually helpful or accommodating
- Bland advertising
Convenience & Customer Experience
Now both of these stores are in the same shopping center so the convenience factor is the same. Therefore the mitigating factor is the customer experience. So how come, I (and I am sure many of you) would prefer to shop at Target? The answer is because Target offers a better customer experience.
The customer experience isn’t just for brick-and-mortar stores; it also applies to ecommerce stores as well. Shopping online is convenient as all heck, but we all know that there are ecommerce stores that do not provide a good customer experience. When sites aren’t easy to navigate, when there are system failures, and when customer service numbers are impossible to find on the site or when you do find them that the person on the other line isn’t a “real” person or if they are a flesh-and-blood human that they treat you like dirt. These are all ways in which the customer experience with online shopping can affect customer behavior.
Go Media’s Ecommerce Store – The Arsenal
Here at Go Media, we have an ecommerce store called the Arsenal. The Arsenal sells design products and tools to design students and professionals alike. There have been many iterations of the site and we are currently working on a complete redesign. The process is ongoing and what contributes to that is our customer feedback. We are committed to providing an excellent customer experience so when someone calls saying that they are a customer in Singapore and the download link isn’t loading, we look at the issues they might be having and realize we need to host our files on a different cloud server so that people in foreign countries can easily download our products. Or when we receive customer feedback and they say that they would like to buy one of our products but aren’t sure how it could be of use to them, we create a video tutorial on how to use the product. So you see we are constantly and consistently improving the process and experience so that after people make purchases at our site, they are satisfied and would want to shop with us again.
Stop Finding Excuses Not to Change
People always find excuses for not changing. Staying stagnant can cause you to be the last person in the race. When businesses refuse to adopt new marketing and sales techniques they can be left in the dust by companies that are willing to innovate and improve their processes. So if you are a business owner who doesn’t believe in the power of social media to drive sales and increase your brand power, take a look at the data and graphs throughout this post; I am positive you will be convinced once you see the numbers.
Now This Is Where You Come In
I would be remiss if I didn’t reach out to all of you to ask how we can make your customer experience better. What sort of products would you like to see more of on the Go Media Arsenal? What makes for a great customer experience in your opinion? What sort of great experiences have you had in the past when working with design companies? Tell me about them, I would LOVE to hear from you so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (216)939-0000 ext 337.
- 2010 Customer Impact Report (data for graphs)
- 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report (data for graphs)
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- “The Thank You Economy”