Posts Tagged ‘customer service’



January 21, 2019

THIS WEEK – Took a break from blogging to re-design and launch a new 2019 blog format. Welcome to PowerShift Marketing Notes – This Week.

PowerShift Marketing is the name of my marketing book and workshops I conducted for small businesses.  I thought it was a good name for my weekly blog update. My blog will still focus on marketing trends and research. It won’t necessarily come out every Monday, but it will appear weekly, starting this week.

Thought I would start off with some 2019 predictions.

BUSINESSES WILL TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING – In December 2018 a Hilton Hotel (Doubletree in Portland) made headlines by kicking out a black guest because he was loitering in the lobby while calling his mom. Most customer service training programs are decades behind in understanding the challenge of today’s diverse customer bases. This is even more true in Oregon where rural communities do not have the diversity you find in urban areas. Today’s customers – Hispanics, Blacks, old and young, Muslims, women – they all must be treated with similar respect. That’s why we have added a dynamic new “They Don’t Look Like Us” segment to our 2019 customer service training. Here’s a link to all our current programs. Email me if you are interested in doing some training prior to the start of your season (

BUSINESSES WILL RETHINK FACEBOOK MARKETING – We still believe that Facebook, if used correctly, is a solid marketing tool. But Facebook has been sailing through troubled waters and a growing number of consumers are not pleased with their use of personal data and how it is uses it to categorizes them. So, Facebook growth is slowing and there is a growing backlash to it. That’s why you need to redefine your Facebook strategy. Our research shows that not all social media generates traffic to websites. Contact us if you want to learn more about changes in social media for 2019 and our ability to help you.

MARKET RESEARCH WILL BE MORE CRITICAL FOR SMALL BUSINESSES – Sure the big guys have always believed in research. But many small businesses think even a modest investment is unaffordable. This will change. Today’s consumer holds all the power. They have already researched your business online before deciding to buy (or visit) what you have. So, you need to know them better than ever. Consider these recent statistics reported by (their newsletter is excellent):

• 80% of Instagram users currently follow a business account, according to 2017 data from Instagram.

• 75% of smartphone owners turn to a search engine first to address immediate needs, according to 2018 data from Google.

• Emails that don’t display clearly or correctly on mobile devices may be deleted within 3 seconds, according to 2018 data reported by HubSpot.

What can you do to make sure your customers find you early and often? You must understand where your customer is doing their research and what is influencing their decisions. Researching your product/service, target audience, and how you fare in your industry, is not a luxury. It is essential. Our new 2019 research guide outlines the easy and affordable steps you can take to make research a part of your future. Email me for a copy.

BUSINESSES NEED TO GET READY FOR GENERATION Z – Just when you thought you might be getting a handle on marketing to Millennials (now the largest market in America), here comes Generation Z – those ages 13 to 21. To keep the Millennial generation analytically meaningful, and to begin looking at what might be unique about the next group, Pew Research Center (PEW) decided last year to use 1996 as the last birth year for Millennials. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial. Anyone born from 1997 onward is now part of a new generation. PEW hesitated to give this new generation a name and looked at a variety of names: Generation Z, the iGeneration and Homelanders. But now Gen Z has taken hold in popular culture and journalism. Sources ranging from Merriam-Webster and Oxford to the Urban Dictionary now include this name for the generation that follows Millennials. This year we will be exploring how this generation will make Baby Boomers and Seniors even more uncomfortable with their view of the world.

NEW SERVICE – Just finished proofing and editing a major new website for a highly successful website designer. We have been doing proofing and copy editing for others too. That’s why we decided to officially launch a new service for 2019. Check it out here.

Until next week, thanks for reading. We started this blog three years ago. Since then, more than 10,000 people have read our blog. Thank you. I appreciate it. Always enjoy hearing comments or suggestions for topics.



July 30, 2018

Monday Morning Quarterback Marketing Digest. Here are some marketing and research thoughts for this week. Email me ( if you need more info on any subject.

NEW RESEARCH AND FALL COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS – Just a final reminder that we are now recruiting for our Fall cooperative marketing programs. If you are interested in saving up to 90% on your media expense, contact me. We will also launch our next 6th annual Destination Marketing Organization research study in October.

A BAD (AND GOOD) CUSTOMER TALE – I recently left my laptop charger/power cord at a client’s location (a four and half hour roundtrip away). My first thought was to order one from Amazon, which I did, but it wasn’t going to arrive for two days. I panicked (that is my wife’s view). I frantically tried to locate one that I could pick up the same day. I contacted a variety of local stores. Most had horrendous automated phone systems. After a very long time on the phone with Best Buy, I fought my way through their automated national inventory system – couldn’t talk to someone in the local store – to discover that my local store had a replacement. I rushed off. When I got to the store I was SHOCKED. In-store customer service was great. Plenty of people to help (surprised) and knowledgeable too. I was out in 10 minutes – back in business. What can you learn from this experience?

You Must Make it Easier for People to Call You! Are businesses so afraid of online giants (like Amazon) they are spending too much money on online access and forgetting that many people just want to call and talk to someone? How do you know? Let us conduct a customer service audit for you – we also offer Mystery Shopper programs.

MARKETING 101 – THIS DOG WON’T HUNT – I noticed that MoviePass (you pay $10 a month to see all the movies you want) got an emergency loan to stay in business. An independent study showed that they need to charge $99 per month to break even. They believe their current two million subscribers can be five million by yearend. Are you kidding me? Reminds me of a meeting I attended when I was in the airline industry. A top marketing executive recommended that we lower fares. When I pointed out that the proposed fares would be below breakeven, he added “oh, we will make it up in volume.” Fortunately, someone ended the discussion with “This dog won’t hunt.” Marketing 101: Selling more of a product you lose money on doesn’t work. Why is common sense missing from so many marketing decisions? Is it because you are too close to the marketing process? An outside opinion from a marketing coach (like us) can save time and money in developing winning marketing strategies.

MOST HOMEOWNERS ARE STILL HURTING FROM HOUSING COLLAPSE – Generation Xers (people born between 1965 and 1980) were hit the hardest in the housing collapse of 2008. But a new Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data finds that Gen Xers are the only generation to recover the wealth they lost during this collapse. The rest of us are still waiting. Are Gen Xers a good target for your marketing? Could be.

Until next week, enjoy summer (stay out of the smoke if you are in Oregon) and have a great day.



May 14, 2018

Monday Morning Quarterback Marketing Digest. Here are some marketing and research thoughts that could help you this week.

DEADLINE NOW: COOPERATIVE MARKETING STILL SAVES MONEY – I strongly believe in co-ops as a cost-saving marketing tool: i.e. the idea that a group of companies share the cost of marketing to increase their exposure (bigger ads, more impressions, greater reach) for a fraction of the cost of running their own ads. I am closing three digital co-ops this week: An online video campaign focusing on Oregon’s Willamette Valley and two native ad campaigns focusing on Oregon and California (you pick the markets in each one that best meets your needs). Campaigns will launch this month. Call or email me today for details and pricing (541-488-4925 or

ARE YOU READY FOR DEMAND PRICING? – Demand-based pricing, also known as customer-based pricing, is a technology-based pricing system in which prices are altered for different customers, depending upon demand and their willingness to pay. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival shifted to a demand pricing model a few years ago (i.e. tickets are more expensive for popular shows on the days where there is most demand, but cheaper for other shows and days). Airlines and lodging have used this model for decades. Is there any limit to demand pricing? Perhaps not. Spirit, one of the worst “bare fare” airlines in America, is installing wi-fi in its fleet by summer 2019. The cost will be around $6.50 per passenger with the exact price rising or falling depending on the popularity of the route.

Is it time for you to look at demand pricing? Might be a good discussion for this week. We can help you explore with research to see how willing your customer base is to accept demand pricing.

DO YOU NEED A CUSTOMER SERVICE TUNE UP? – I just finished updating my popular customer service workshop. If your team needs a re-fresher, cost is as low as $20 per person. Let me know. Here’s a link to more information on my current talks.

IS SEARS DYING BECAUSE SOMEONE COPIED THEIR APPROACH? I found this story on the rise and fall of Sears interesting because it shows that somethings haven’t changed much. In the mid-1880s, Richard Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck, both in their twenties, decided to compete with brick and mortar businesses by creating a mail-order catalog. Sure, they added retail locations over the next 100 years, but their brilliance was making it super easy for anyone, anywhere, to shop. There really isn’t any difference between mail-order and online as a business model: both made shopping for anything easier no matter where you live. So, why is Sears failing? This story shares the reasons if you are interested.

WHAT DIVIDES AMERICA? – Tomorrow is election day in Oregon, so, I thought this story from USA TODAY would be of interest. If you want to meddle in an election via social media, what is America’s rawest political division?

USA TODAY reporters reviewed each of the 3,517 ads that were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency designed to impact the 2016 Presidential election. While ads focused on many topics, most were designed to inflame race-related tensions. A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher who published some of the first scientific analysis of social media influence on campaigns said the Russians were attempting to destabilize Western Democracy by targeting extreme identity groups. If you are a political junkie, you can read more here.

That is all for this week. Let me know if there are any specific research or marketing questions you are thinking about that I can cover in my weekly update.



January 29, 2014

If you live in Southern Oregon, you know that Medford teachers are planning to strike next week if they can’t come to an agreement with the Medford School Board. As with most labor fights, there is a lot of finger-pointing and heads being buried in the sand on both sides. So, why do I think this disagreement might have some marketing lessons?

First, it shows what happens if you forget why you are in business, which is to serve the needs of your customers, in this case students and their parents. How does closing down the business serve their customers? Their actions also reflect the unwillingness, on both sides, to embrace change. I’m not taking about accepting change. I’m talking about getting ahead of change, to explore ways to be pro-active in searching for innovative ways to positively change the world of local education.

Focus on your customer and embrace change. If you have read my blog, attended my workshops or read my book, you know these are core beliefs in my powershift marketing philosophy.  I wish everyone involved in this unfortunately situation could let these beliefs guide them in the final days of mediation.




July 18, 2013

Following my last post, here’s more bad news for customers. Most businesses are not customer-focused. A survey of global marketing and non-marketing executives (SAS/Economist Intelligence Unit, June 2013) reveals that only six in ten senior executives see their companies as customer-centric, and only 56% of senior executives have a clear understanding of customers’ tastes and needs. The report also highlights a real disconnect among business leaders on who should be the leader in creating a customer-focused culture. In most cases, it falls to the head of marketing (the Chief Marketing Officer).

But today’s head of marketing has a full plate. They are busy with advertising, brand marketing, product marketing, and all forms of communications. They are also expected to increase revenue by adding new customers. So how much time can they spend focusing on the customer? Not much and that’s a big problem.

In the study, when asked what marketing investments would be most important for improving business in the next three years, respondents listed customer analytics as the most important, followed by customer relationship management, and social media.

So, are these your top priorities? What research are you doing to understand your customer? How are you managing the customer experience? How are you creating value rich content for social media channels?

Most importantly, if you are head of marketing, are you translating and sharing customer insights with everyone in your business, so you have a company of customer advocates? I don’t see this happening. That is one reason why my customer service workshops are popular.



June 7, 2013

One of the services my company offers is customer service training. A major theme of my workshops is that people don’t want good service, they want a memorable experience. A recent study from Synqera supports this approach. Their study revealed that two-thirds of Americans prefer to shop in traditional stores, rather than online, if the store offers a customized shopping experience.

Synqera, which sells a kiosk that prints in-store deals, has a vested interest in the research, so their study doesn’t meet my firm’s (DCG Research) standard for independent research. But their survey still shares insights that you may find valuable if you are in retail. Some key stats:

  •  76% would find the checkout process more enjoyable if they received personalized coupons at checkout.
  •  73% find waiting in the checkout line their least favorite aspect of in-store shopping.
  •  80% are more likely to shop in a store that provides an overall customized shopping experience.
  •  86% are more likely to shop in-store rather than online if there are in-store-only sale prices.
  •  75% make more purchases if they are in a good mood while shopping.

What are you doing to make sure people are in a good mood while shopping, have short checkout lines, in-store deals, and feel like they are getting a customized shopping experience? Good questions for next week’s staff meeting.



May 16, 2013

What store do people refer to as, “that blue and gold store where the salesperson usually can’t help you”? It’s Best Buy according to Colin McGranahan, retail analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. Roughly 20% of all consumer electronics are now bought online according to Best Buy. But many shoppers will always want a brick and mortar spot to try out products and have someone help them. The challenge is to make sure that a customer really feels like they are being helped!  For retailers not just to be “showrooms,” people need to love the store’s personal service so much, they buy.

Turning online customers that browser local stores into local buyers must be the training focus with your sales team. But it is not just about a sales closure rate, it really is about customer satisfaction. If you don’t improve that, start looking for a new business that doesn’t rely on customers (you won’t find one!). Unfortunately, many small businesses discover their real customer satisfaction score only when most of their customers have left.



February 22, 2013

The big national airlines (called legacy airlines) were world leaders in innovation and service for decades. When Congress deregulated the industry in 1978, most airline leaders simply didn’t have any experience in running a deregulated business in a highly competitive world. As I pointed out in my book, it was a great time for a young marketing executive at Western Airlines because management was so hungry for new ideas, they would try almost anything. I can’t think of another time when an idea like a frequent flyer program (1980) would have been approved.

Since I left the industry when Western merged with Delta, the business language defining the legendary names in the airline world have been bankruptcies, mergers, and failures. Now, the finally one, American, is merging with US Airways. The American-US Airways combination should result in a healthy airlines. But the legacy of quality customer service, employees enjoying their jobs and wanting to do their best, and airlines dedicated to caring for their customers has gone forever. I for one will miss this world. I guess I’ll just have to watch “Catch Me If You Can” another time.



August 2, 2012

I read with personal interest Microsoft’s decision to change the name of their email service from Hotmail to Outlook. In 2005 I was hired by Microsoft to do customer service training for the software designers responsible for Hotmail, one of the first free web-based email services (1996). The head of Hotmail was concerned that his team of young 30-year-old designers didn’t understand that by creating the programs that people use to sign up and use Hotmail, they are shaping Hotmail’s customer service experience. My basic pitch, which is in my book, was that the key to building a customer focused culture is to know your customer’s expectations and exceed them, all the time.

Well, those hotshot designers didn’t want to listen to this old-fashioned advice. Throughout the training I was surprised with the arrogance they showed for Hotmail customers. When I reflected on statistics (Microsoft tracked everything) that showed that the vast majority of people coming to their site left without signing up, they simply shrugged and told me that I just didn’t understand the business. “We can’t handle the volume of people that want Hotmail now, so why should we care about people leaving the site without signing up?” When I pointed out that the majority of Hotmail users found the look of their site complicated and not very user-friendly, programmers told me, “These people are just dumb; they just need to learn our system. It works for us.” I tried to point out that people that don’t like a service, don’t just disappear. They create a market for competing services.  My audience wasn’t listening.

Now, six years later, with Google’s Gmail and email services from Apple and Yahoo controlling the marketplace, I guess they are listening. The new Outlook gives one easy connection to email, Facebook, Twitter, and non-Microsoft services. The new is a simpler design than Hotmail and lets users automatically isolate junk email that falls between urgent mail and spam.  These are things their customers wanted in 2005 and Microsoft knew it!

The marketing lesson here? How responsive are you to your customer’s wants and needs? I hope it doesn’t take you six years to embrace a customer focused culture and attitude.



July 23, 2012

A core philosophy of my POWERSHIFT MARKETING approach is focusing on your customer.  A new book, “The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge” (Harvard Business Review Press) by Doc Searls with Wall Street Journal’s Gary Rosen, introduces a fascinating concept called VRM, Vendor Relationship Management. Searls runs ProjectVRM at Harvard University. If you want to see the future of customer marketing in the age of the internet, his book should be required reading.

Briefly, as outlined in a recent WSJ story (The Customer as God), Searls believes that companies have historically focused on “Treating customers as large populations rather than as individuals.” That’s why businesses focus on collecting data “By placing tracking files in people’s browsers and smartphone apps without their knowledge – so they can be stalked wherever they go.”

But the Internet has now given individuals this same power. Instead of chasing and herding customers, businesses will soon need to deal with customers that are in charge. They will decide when and how you can reach them. Searls points out what is already happening with one VRM tool: browser add-ons that block ads and tracking. Usage of these is on the rise. In May, Microsoft announced that the “Do Not Track” (DNT) feature will be turned on by default in the new Internet Explorer.

Searls believes that this revolution in personal empowerment won’t be complete until we are free to use our computing and networking powers with any device we like, outside the exclusive confines of providers. Of course, there is big money behind the belief that a business can know you better than you know yourself. But like Searls, as I highlight throughout my book, this is rapidly changing.