Customer Manufacturing Update )
Creating Competitive Advantage Through Marketing/Sales Process Improvement

September 2007
in this issue
  • What's Really in the Way of Great Customer Service?
  • First Mover Advantage
  • Lean Marketing Workshops
  • Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Dear Mitchell,

    Here is your September Customer Manufacturing Update. This month we're looking at customer service from a different angle.

    If you have friends or colleagues who would appreciate receiving this e-zine, feel free to forward a copy to them using the "Forward e-mail" link at the bottom of the e-zine.

    What's Really in the Way of Great Customer Service?

    Numerous published studies in recent years have cited a direct and powerful correlation between how a company's employees perceive they are treated by the company and how those employees treat the company's customers.

    Given this demonstrated linkage, forward-thinking companies are taking action to understand and improve their employee's perception of their treatment. This month's white paper discusses the economic value of this decision and some techniques for improving employee perception.

    First Mover Advantage

    Charles W. Lindberg died a few weeks ago at the age of 86. Since he is not the Charles Lindbergh who was credited with being the first person to fly successfully across the Atlantic Ocean, you have probably never heard of him, and there-in lies the lesson.

    Many marketers believe that being first to market is important (maybe even critical) to success. During the dot-com boom of the 1990s, that was the mantra by which hundreds of millions of dollars were raised. Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, cite their Rule #1, "It is better to be first than it is to be better." The book cites several top-of-mind examples of #1 versus #2 (Charles Lindbergh being one of those examples, with their question, "Do you know who #2 was?" as the proof that being first is more important than being right.)

    While we have always felt these two gentlemen (ok, we don't actually know them so they may not be gentlemen, but we have no reason to believe they are not) are very smart folks, we have had a problem with their Rule #1 since we first read it in 1994. Remembering that "Pioneers end up face down in the mud with arrows in their back," we have always been concerned about the risk of trying to be first. Not that this risk is unwarranted, just that it is not a fool-proof method for market leadership. Look at Tivo, Betamax, Osborne Computer, Altair, Univac, and others. We have said for years that while Lindbergh may have been first to land safely on the other side of the Atlantic, we doubt he was the first to try

    Anyway, what does all this have to do with Charles W. Lindberg? Mr. Lindberg raised the first U.S. flag on Iwo Jima (now renamed Iwo To). Why have you never heard of him? Because the famous photograph of the U.S. flag raising on Iwo Jima, taken by Joe Rosenthal and memorialized as the U.S. Marine Corps memorial in Washington, DC is a picture of the 2nd U.S. flag raising on Iwo Jima. How did that happen? Hard to say for sure. The second flag raising picture was a much more dramatic picture than the one taken by Sgt. Lou Lowery of the first flag raising. Maybe that's what caused AP to use that second picture

    What's the lesson? Being first is not sufficient. You have to be first ... and people have to know about it. You have to be able to make some noise even if you are, as Jimmy Buffet says, Quietly Making Noise. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to see it or hear it, no one will know about it. If you are going to be first, make sure you get known, too

    Lean Marketing Workshops

    If you're ready to move beyond gut feel and guess work to drive your marketing/sales management, this one-day workshop is for you. Discover how to increase sales and lower your marketing and sales costs by applying proven process management principles to marketing/sales.

    Competitive advantage comes from being better than the competition where it matters. Too many companies still spend on marketing and sales rather than invest in marketing and sales. Why? Because what to invest in is driven by gut feel or guess work. The hoped-for investment too often becomes just another expense.

    In this breakthrough workshop, we will show you proven methods to move from spending to investing in marketing/sales. We will teach you how to get started using proven process management principles to make better decisions in marketing and sales.

    You will leave this workshop with real actions you can go take the next day to get better results.

    These hands-on workshops are being scheduled around the U.S., the UK and Canada.

    Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions

    Ken Blanchard made that statement many years ago in his best seller, The One Minute Manager. It continues to be true.

    We are strong believers in empowering front line people to take charge of your customers and their needs. We are also in favor of being efficient in how you deal with your customers. However, if you eliminate feedback you may be in danger of creating highly efficient systems and policies that are not helpful to you ... or worse.

    Two recent examples we have run across include LG Electronics (the South Korean electronics giant formerly known as Lucky Goldstar) and American Airlines.

    LG Electronics is to be commended for empowering their customer service staff in the U.S. to have complete decision-making authority. They claim to have no supervisors or superiors to whom you can appeal their decision and their website offers only those people for you to contact. The problem with this arrangement is that when they follow policy (becoming bureaucrats who can say no, but not yes) you have no ability to ask for another opinion. And, no way for management to get feedback unless they monitor the web for complaining customers who post for the masses. And that still does not cover those people who simply bad-mouth LG to whomever will listen (what JD Powers has come to call Assassins).

    And what about American Airlines? They have decided that all complaints/comments/questions that are not flight specific must be in writing (email or snail mail). There is no way to call them. They promise to respond promptly to email requests, but that appears to mean several weeks.

    Here again, no feedback mechanism to management to determine if the system is working. And if they are measuring complaints as a metric, those may be going down. After all if you make it hard to complain and nothing happens, most people will stop complaining to you ... just about you.

    Bottom line, make sure you have easy to monitor and collect feedback systems in place for your customer-facing processes to make sure they are producing the results you want.

    Closing Thoughts

    We appreciate any feedback you can provide to help us make sure these Updates give you value each month. Feel free to respond to this e-mail with any comments or suggestions for future topics or ways we can make these Customer Manufacturing Updates more valuable to you.

    Thank you for your interest, and if we can provide any additional assistance in sales, marketing, strategy, or innovation to help you increase your sales, let us know.

    Our mission is to help you improve the performance of your System to Manufacture Customers.

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