Archive for the ‘Resources’ category

Hotels try new ways to earn loyalty

March 12, 2010

Are you struggling to keep prices up this year? No matter what business you are in, this article by Elizabeth Olson from the New York Times illustrates how added value extras could help you create loyal customers, and avoid price wars and discounted products. Click here to view the article in its original context, or scroll down.

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When Greg McHale checks into his hotel room after a day of business travel, he expects what he calls the “wonderful and bizarre,” namely complimentary Snickers bars, Diet Pepsi and, sometimes, a compact disc of his favorite electronic dance music.

For Kimpton Hotels, it is a small price to pay for the loyalty of someone like Mr. McHale, a Web entrepreneur who spends 50 or 60 nights a year on the road. And for Mr. McHale, the personal touches — part of the hotel chain’s loyalty program — make it worth his while to seek out Kimpton’s hotels.

“The level of personal attention really blows me away,” said Mr. McHale, founder and chief executive of Good2gether, which connects nonprofit organizations with donors and volunteers. “So if there’s a Kimpton in town, that’s where I’ll stay.”

Not all hotels go to such lengths to please their guests, but this year most are stretching their creativity to attract and, perhaps more important, retain guests. Hotels have been particularly hard hit by the drop in business travel, and brand loyalty has often given way to practical cost concerns as companies have cut expenses.

Only 36 percent of business travelers said they were brand loyal this year, compared with 42 percent two years ago, according to Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst for Forrester Research. “And 2010 is likely to be more difficult for hotels because companies are telling their employees that every penny saved means fewer people laid off or fewer cuts in pay.”

Hotels are responding by offering free nights, upgrades and loyalty points. Many hotels, especially the high-end chains, are introducing twists to cultivate customers. Amenities including free breakfasts, no-fee Internet connections, late checkouts and paid parking are being bundled in business traveler packages. Marriott Hotels, for instance, calls its package “Business Boost,” while Hyatt Hotels has “Business Plan” and Sheraton Hotels “Road Warrior.”

As part of its package, Hilton’s Conrad Chicago Hotel is giving guests their choice among best-selling books, and a personal shopper is available to help select gifts for those left at home.

Beyond packages, some hotels are trying to make stays more enticing by reducing fees for the minibar, subsidizing some meals, offering free in-room spa services or free dry cleaning. The hotel industry is trying to keep room rates stable, which is not easy. The average occupancy rate in October was down 6.2 percentage points to 58.1 percent, and per-room revenue dropped 13.8 percent to $57.57 from the year before — the worst numbers in more than two decades, according to Smith Travel Research, in Hendersonville, Tenn.

To try to hold the line on rates, hotels are offering guests more for their money.

“It’s about offering added value rather than lowering rates,” said Sam Shank, chief executive of DealBase.com, an online search engine for hotels. “When travel fell after 9/11, hotels dropped their rates and it took a while for them to bring those prices up again. They don’t want to go through that again.”

Many corporations have room rate arrangements with hotel chains, but their employees typically claim the loyalty points for personal use, especially for long weekends or upgrading to concierge floors, where they can have a nicer breakfast, access to snacks and, in the evening, a glass of wine with hors d’oeuvres.

Loyalty points are a major selling feature for many travelers, said Don Berg, vice president for loyalty for Intercontinental Hotels Group, the world’s largest hotel operator whose brands include Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. The group has 47 million club members.

About 90 percent of the points are redeemed for personal use, he said. The hotel group, taking a page from the American Express and Visa rewards programs, also offers members special access to concerts and sporting events. Starwood Hotels has a similar program.

“People have guilt over being away from home and family, and this is guilt-free currency to make up for that,” Mr. Berg said. “No expiration on our loyalty points is, by far, our most popular feature.”

William R. Snider, a Houston software consultant, was able to use his loyalty points from Holiday Inns to indulge his love of baseball. He used his points to bid on, and win, World Series and All-Star game packages that provided accommodation, meals and transportation and also allowed him to mingle with players.

“I had a blast,” he said.These awards make me want to stay at Holiday Inns, if at all possible.”

Among the most inventive in catering to customers are the high-end properties. Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, for example, will store a guest’s suitcase between visits, the hotel’s general manager, Mehdi Eftekari, said. “So if you are traveling between Los Angeles and New York or London, you always come back to freshly washed and ironed clothes packed away in your suitcase.”

An array of exercise gear, including socks and shoes, is available to guests so they do not have to worry about smelly clothing, he said.

Kimpton offers specially prepared dinners for its most frequent guests, including one recently in Manhattan for top-tier female travelers. The chain has also introduced weekend trips like the one in October for its most frequent travelers and their spouses, in Oregon’s wine country. The wine-tasting getaway came with meals made by Kimpton chefs, and a balloon ride over the vineyards.

Paul Seus, a management consultant from Chicago who attended the Oregon weekend with his wife, Amy, said Kimpton’s special treatment cemented his loyalty.

“Kimpton called me and asked me if I would like to do something special,” Mr. Seus said.

“I’ve traveled my whole career, and I used to stay, well, wherever,” he said. “Now I’ll only stay somewhere else if I can’t find one of their hotels.”

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What do you think? Do you have an idea for how to implement a scheme like this in your business? Have you had a surprise experience like this in a business you’ve used recently? Share your thoughts here!

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Facebook may be encouraging customer loyalty

March 5, 2010

The Harvard Business Review has published an introduction to a new study looking at how social media might grow customer loyalty.  I think that it adds a slightly more scientific voice to the debate as to what ROI web 2.0 can offer. To read the article in its original context, click here, otherwise scroll down to find out just how Facebook might be able to encourage customer loyalty.

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Social media are all the rage in marketing, but should they be? Sure, Facebook is growing fast—it had more than 350 million accounts late last year, 50 million of which were added in the fall alone. But how much do businesses really influence consumers when they launch pages on the site to attract “fans” and to pepper them with messages and offers?

To begin to answer that question, we did the obvious: We set up one company’s Facebook page and measured the effect on customer behavior. Our partner in this experiment was Dessert Gallery (DG), a popular Houston-based bakery and café chain.

We began by e-mailing a survey to 13,270 customers from DG’s mailing list to gather store evaluations and data on shopping behavior; 689 people responded. Then, we launched the Facebook page and invited everyone on the mailing list to become a fan. DG updated its page several times a week with pictures of goodies, news about contests and promotions, links to favorable reviews, and introductions to DG employees. Three months later, we resurveyed customers, this time receiving 1,067 responses from DG’s Facebook fans, Facebook users who did not become fans, and customers not on Facebook. We analyzed the data sets separately and then compared participants in the first survey with those in the second who had become DG fans.

As it turned out, Facebook changed customer behaviour for the better. People who had replied to both surveys and had become fans ended up being DG’s best customers: Though they spent about the same amount of money per visit, they increased their store visits per month after becoming Facebook fans and generated more positive word of mouth than nonfans. They went to DG 20% more often than nonfans and gave the store the highest share of their overall dining-out dollars. They were the most likely to recommend DG to friends and had the highest average Net Promoter Score—75, compared with 53 for Facebook users who were not fans and 66 for customers not on Facebook. DG fans also reported significantly greater emotional attachment to DG—3.4 on a four-point scale, compared with 3.0 for other customers. Additionally, fans were the most likely to say they chose DG over other establishments whenever possible.

It’s important to remember that our results suggest intriguing possible correlations rather than definitive causalities. (We plan to explore in the months ahead whether they are representative and whether other forms of promotion, such as in-store events and offers, create a similar effect. Look for future findings on HBR.org.) And even this early research yields mixed news for marketers: For instance, unless the brand is iconic, chances are the company’s Facebook page will not have astronomical sign-up numbers. Only 283 (or 2.1%) of the customers on DG’s mailing list became fans within three months. This narrow appeal is not unique to DG’s customers. In an analysis of 50 Zagat-rated Houston restaurants, Facebook pages averaged just 340 fans despite the fact that most of the businesses had tens of thousands of customers.

Cautious optimism seems wise at this point. Companies should see what Facebook can do for them but use it as just one niche tool.

About the Authors:

Utpal M. Dholakia is an associate professor of marketing at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Emily Durham is the founder and president of Restaurant Connections, a Houston-based restaurant consultancy.

Does Social Media Really Sell Products?

February 18, 2010

Despite the ubiquity of Twitter, Facebook and the like, there’s still hesitation in many businesses’ minds as to whether an investment in social media really offers a worthwhile return. Brian Morissey’s article on Adweek suggests that social media can play a huge part in indirect marketing by building a firm’s reputation, instead of necessarily generating direct sales. Click here to read the article on the Adweek site, or scroll down.

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For all the excitement about social media, there’s a specter hanging over its use by companies. Is all this tweeting, blogging and Facebooking paying off? For some proponents, the question is irrelevant. They agree with the view encapsulated in the social media bible The Cluetrain Manifesto — markets are conversations. Companies have to participate in the conversations where they’re happening, ROI be damned. Their dismissal of metrics is summed up in an oft-repeated question, “What’s the ROI of putting on your pants on in the morning?”

Those kind of pithy ripostes are music to the ears of the social-media faithful at conferences and on blogs, but they’re unlikely to impress budget-strapped CMOs who, while eager to find new ways to reach consumers, are under more pressure to prove their efforts are pushing the business forward. Measurement remains the single greatest challenge to social-media adoption by companies.

While digital channels and online interactions offer a plethora of data points, they don’t come with a set playbook for assigning value. Marketers have grown comfortable with formulas like gross ratings points and frequency, time-tested formulas for building brands in traditional media. Yet with social media, what’s a Facebook friend worth?

“The value of social media is it’s the richest data set that’s ever existed,” says Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, a Wisconsin-based analytics company that uses social media to help clients make marketing decisions. “You can use this data for many things.”

The two sides of the social-media measurement debate are at the forefront as many marketers plan to ramp up their social-media budgets in 2010. According to an ExactTarget survey of 1,000 marketers, 70 percent said they plan to increase spending in social media, but less than 20 percent said they could effectively measure ROI. The seeming schizophrenia is because marketers using social media tend to blend “art and science” in their measurements, according to Morgan Stewart, ExactTarget’s director of strategy and research.

“ROI isn’t the thing that’s pushing people to social media,” says Stewart. “Companies using reputation as a measure of success are more likely to be shifting budget there. That tells you something about the mind-set.”

Here’s what three marketers well versed in social media are doing to measure their participation and justify new investments.

Pepsi: The Speed of Digital Culture

At a time when many brands are stuck in experimentation mode in social media, Pepsi is placing a staggeringly large bet on it. Pepsi was absent from the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years, redirecting money to an ambitious social marketing-centered program called Refresh Everything that will direct $20 million to charities. According to Pepsi execs, the program is appealing because it rested on four big trends: crowdsourcing, doing good, sharing and transparency.

Refresh Everything is the culmination of years of social-media work done by Pepsi, the perpetual No. 2 behind Coca-Cola in the soft drink market. Pepsi’s still a big spender in traditional media — it spent $89 million in U.S. advertising on the brand in 2009 — but Coke outguns it by a 33 percent margin. Social media, offering a more level playing field, is where Pepsi is making its stand with one of the largest commitments to the space yet seen.

Yet Pepsi execs are at pains to point out that Refresh Everything is not a social-media campaign per se. Rather, it uses social media as glue to hold together a wider push that includes traditional elements like TV spots, says Bonin Bough, PepsiCo’s director of social media. It even includes a dash of Pepsi’s usual celebrity tie-ins with the inclusion of Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon, and New Orleans Saints quarterback and Super Bowl hero Drew Brees.

When it comes to measurement, Bough’s team has developed a scorecard with different elements that tie back to brand health and relevance. It will gauge, via standard research methods, whether people’s perception of Pepsi changed.

Pepsi is using social monitoring tools to track share of voice and mentions in social media and traditional media, as well as harder engagement metrics like visits to the Refresh site, time spent, submissions and votes. It will try to gauge whether the program makes an impact in communities. The overall aim is to follow in the footsteps of decades of Pepsi marketing. “Our goal is to skate to the center of culture,” says Bough. “Right now, digital is culture.”

Pepsi has the advantage of experience to draw upon. It has launched several social-focused efforts for brands. Tropicana created the Trop50 community site with Blogher last year to reach women bloggers. Mountain Dew launched Dewmocracy, which designated to consumers its marketing plans. “We’ve already gone through the experimental phase,” notes Bough.

While Refresh Everything is a risk, Pepsi has drawn the notice of Coke. Soon after Pepsi announced Refresh Everything, Coke began a Facebook campaign and now donates $1 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for each visitor and every time a virtual gift is sent.

Dell: From Silent to IdeaStorm

In five years, Dell went from being the poster boy of ignoring the emerging social Web to becoming a model for how to orient a company around social media. Its journey began in 2005, when Facebook was barely beyond a dorm room project. Problems with Dell customer service percolated on blogs under the moniker “Dell Hell.” The company, founded by Michael Dell with a focus on customers, reoriented itself to be more responsive.

It’s gone on to become a social media star, ranked by Vitrue as one of the 10 social-media brands of 2009. It has built a strong social-media team that focuses on entwining those technologies within all aspects of its business, from customer service to marketing to research. Its activities include racking up $6.5 million in sales through Twitter, connecting with 3.5 million consumers on social sites and its own, and soliciting consumer input through sites like Dell IdeaStorm and Dell Tech Center.

“When we first jumped headfirst into this, we started with engaging and listening to consumers,” says Manish Mehta, vp of social media and community at Dell. “Hopefully that moved the needle. The business will at some point question how this is helping the P&L. That’s why taking a step back and finding the value drivers is so important.”

The company’s push into social channels left it with a conundrum: How could it evaluate efforts that were taking place all over the company to see if they were worth the investment? This fall, Dell’s social-media team mapped out a defined framework to guide those decisions. It identified a set of value drivers for the customer and for the business, looking for programs that overlapped the two sets. For consumers, Dell identified drivers like connections, recognition and advice. For its business, its drivers are things such as revenue, brand health, share of voice and customer sentiment.

“They are light years beyond what others are doing,” says Aaron Strout, CMO at social-media firm Powered in Austin, Texas. “They spend a lot of time thinking through how to translate that into real dollars. Quite frankly a lot of companies haven’t done a good job at that.”

Take the Dell Tech Center, one of the company’s less sexy social initiatives. The Tech Center is an online community for IT managers to go and connect directly with Dell engineers. Dell tracks it success based on fundamental metrics, like members, questions posed and answered, and traffic to the site. It also charts how many large-enterprise customers have interacted with the site through a post-purchase survey. Yet one of the key metrics is harder to define: evidence that it’s helping deals close quicker and stripping out costs.

“We’ve found our salespeople are referring prospects in there,” says Richard Binhammer, a senior manager on Dell’s social-media team. “It’s shortening the sales cycles.”

Binhammer and Mehta agree the key to pushing forward with social media at the company is a commitment at senior levels. As a tech company that sells most of its products online, this is easier at Dell, although there’s still work to do, Mehta admits.

“We want to make this be completely embedded into the fabric of the company,” he says.

H&R Block: Taxing Problems

When H&R Block launched an ambitious social-media outreach campaign in 2008, it followed some textbook advice: fish where the fish are. So it went on Twitter looking for frustrated taxpayers, offering them help. Instead, the company found reticence among potential customers who didn’t want to air their problems on Twitter.

This year, H&R Block changed course, abandoning one-on-one Twitter contact in favor of building a Q&A community site, Get It Right, which replaced a more standard blog the company did last year. The Get It Right site required H&R Block’s social-media team to recruit and train 1,000 tax pros to answer questions. It looked to local managers to nominate tax preparers to participate. Early results are promising: Get It Right has signed up 65,000 members and answered 50,000 questions, with the big tax push still to come.

“We’re outpacing where we thought we’d be,” says Zena Weist, director of social media at the company.

The challenge will be tracking these queries back to sales. H&R Block, after all, makes most of its money by getting people into its offices. Weist only recently joined the company. With few internal resources, the company has needed to pare back its social programs, emphasizing Twitter and Facebook less, for instance. The decision was hard but necessary, Weist says, since H&R Block can’t promise to answer tax questions posed on Facebook. Instead, it is using Twitter and Facebook mostly as broadcast vehicles, hoping customers who have come to Get It Right then tell their networks they were helped.

H&R Block is trying to steal a march on competitor TurboTax, from Intuit, which has a team of experts dubbed Team TurboTax answering questions on Twitter. “A community wants a one-to-one relationship where they can continue to come back,” Weist says. “That’s not what Twitter is. You don’t have continuous dialogue.”

To figure out if the strategy’s working, Weist is tracking visits, time spent, registrations and questions asked. The company will conduct Dynamic Logic surveys to gauge brand favorability changes in visitors. It’s also trolling social sites for the number of brand conversations in social media and their sentiment. There’s also value in knowing many of the people contacting the company online wouldn’t call in, thereby saving H&R Block money. The metrics can, at times, be “squishy,” Weist says, but the opportunity in social is worth the tradeoff.

“If your word of mouth isn’t positive, forget about brand awareness and consideration,” she says. “If word of mouth is bad, there is no consideration.”

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What do you think? Is building this sort of reputation worth the effort? Will it pay out in the long-run or are internet users just enjoying more and more freebies? Talk to us here!

CANCELLED: Food Tourism Workshop – Traditional Scottish Dishes with a Modern Twist

January 26, 2010

Sadly due to lack of interest the Food Tourism Workshop scheduled for March 16th has now been cancelled. If you have any questions regarding this please contact Sheena Kitchin of Food Tourism Scotland. Apologies for any inconvenience or disappointment caused.

Three best ways to use social media

January 25, 2010

What were your business resolutions for 2010? If they didn’t include something to do with social media, you may well be missing out on a lot of great opportunities, as even more of the population are joining the conversation. If you’re still not sure how to start, here’s a great, simple article to get you going. It’s by Willa Plank, writing for the Wall Street Journal. Check it out in context here, or read on!

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How else can we say it: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as tools to promote your services and products online. According to a recent survey of 148 private companies by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, 43% say social media is “very important” to their business and marketing strategy, 52% are tweeting and 45% are blogging.

But don’t feel pressured to jump in quickly and create a profile on every site. First, decide if it’s right for your company. “Are you a social organization?” says Simon Salt, CEO of integrated marketing communications agency IncSlingers. “Everyone seems to know to have a Facebook page or a Twitter [account]. Is that what your business is about?”

For instance, a Facebook fan page probably doesn’t make sense for a business-to-business outfit, says Neal Schaffer, author of “Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn.” And companies that target older or retired customers might benefit more from direct-mail campaigns, or even knocks on doors. “Don’t believe the hype,” Schaffer says. “Understand what fits your business.”

If you’ve decided to incorporate social media, remember that YouTube videos, blog posts and status updates are just a part of your entire marketing arsenal. Here are three best ways to use social media.

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1.Stand out by trying less-crowded or up-and-coming social-media sites. Everyone knows about Facebook fan pages. But if you’re a neighborhood business that relies on local clientele, you might want to consider Foursquare or Gowalla, which combine elements of other social-networking sites (Twitter, Facebook or Yelp) to help spread word of establishments and provide rewards to encourage customer loyalty. John Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing,” suggests trying underutilized networks that cater to business owners, such as Biznik and BizSugar. If you’re strapped for time, at least maintain a blog that provides good content and answers consumer questions, he says. Or create quick, educational YouTube videos that – along with a blog – are more likely to come up higher in keyword searches. Samir Balwani, contributor to social-media news blog Mashable, suggests creating your own social network at Elgg.org.

2.Don’t expect instant sales, but make sure to get actual results. Social media is more about brand outreach. Make sure you have a reasonable goal and a well-thought out strategy to achieve that end. First, listen to what is being said about your business and competitors on Google alerts, RSS queries, Twitter, Yelp and BackType. Make sure you have your profile account names on all print communications you distribute, such as flyers and menus. Identify your biggest fans, and figure out how to organize them or point them out in some way. For example: On Twitter, if you know a person is a loyal customer, mention them in a post or announce a free service or product they’ve won for loyalty. Or reach out to other bloggers in your industry. Sarah Endline, founder of dark chocolate treat maker Sweetriot in New York, said she connected with blog site Hungry Girl and that lead to getting her company’s name out and sales.

3. Don’t forget social media is a tool to strengthen offline relationships. Many small businesses already have personal ties to customers in their communities, and these tools are designed to enhance those relationships, not replace them. For instance, you can use social-media tools such as YouTube to give customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your company, or display more of your personality than you can through an ad. “It also allows you to show your culture,” Endline says. “They’re not just there to [see] a static promotion from you. They want value.” And remember, a social network is “really a big room of people,” author Schaffer says. Use it to “meet” potential clients or business partners, but make sure you follow up with an in-person meeting or phone conversation.

Write to Willa Plank at willa.plank@dowjones.com

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Where are you with social media? What sorts of articles would be most useful this year? Leave your comments here and we’ll try our best to get your questions answered.

Participation bonus available for fully funded Hospitality Supervision Modern Apprenticeships!

January 18, 2010

Success Training Scotland are making available a large financial incentive to tourism employers who enrol candidates on a fully funded Hospitality Supervision Modern Apprenticeship with them before mid-March. To find out more about this unmissable opportunity, please contact Anneliese on 0845 1300074

Ten customer service trends for 2010

January 14, 2010

With the launch of our new customer service initiative the St Andrews Standard, we thought it was apt to start the new year’s posts with an article about the customer service trends you’re likely to notice as 2010 continues. This piece, found on Small Business Trends and written by Barry Moltz, can also be read in its original form here.

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In 2010, customer service makes a big comeback. It becomes the new marketing. Forget about paying lip service to offering “great customer service”. Let go all of those “the customer is always right” myths. It’s time to offer outstanding customer service only because it makes economic sense for your small business. It is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage.

Customer service feedback

What to watch in 2010:

  1. We Try Harder: With the economy still struggling to recover and unemployment at record highs, all “customer facing employees” actually will try harder this year to attract, satisfy and keep their customers.  Job prospects remain slim in 2010 and every employee wants to keep any job they have. This year, effort from everyone will be in plain site.
  2. It’s Not Your Product: Zappos’ tag line is “Powered by Customer Service”. With the company being sold to Amazon for almost a billion dollars, there is no denying that customer service can build companies. Zappos proved that it can make money selling shoes over the internet by offering free shipping both ways. Amazon and Zappos are companies that really just don’t sell products, but a customer service channel to sell any product. All things being equal, I buy from Zappos and Amazon because I know I can count on them. This is the year that all companies will see service as the only way to keep customers buying from them.
  3. It’s All About You. Technology has allowed companies to personalize my visit when I go to buy from their web site. When I visit Amazon’s site, they welcome me back by name and suggest things I might want to buy based on what I bought in the past. This is the type of personalization I come to expect when I go to any face to face retail establishment. When I check into a hotel, I want them to greet me by name if I have been there before or I am a member of their frequent buyer program. This always happens when I visit the Portland Paramount but at The Nines hotel in the same city, they never remember who I am.  With the immediacy and personalization of this fast paced internet world, great customer service is only what the customer says it is at a particular point in time. The difficulty is raised because this standard varies from person to person. This year, more companies will customize your shopping or service experience either online or in person because that is what you want.
  4. Tell the World. Tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allow me to tell not seven people but 10,000 my pleasure or dissatisfaction with a company immediately after I interact with them. No more secrets here! Every satisfied customer is now a booster for your company and every dissatisfied customer potentially can hurt your business. Now, there is more of an incentive for every company to get it right for their customer. This year, no bad deed will go unpublished by a dissatisfied customer.
  5. The Brands are Listening. You as the customer are talking on Facebook and Twitter, but companies are also beginning to listen. Chances are that if you post a complaint using one of these tools, the company will respond directly to you. I have had this happen with Sears and Lands End. This year, all the major companies will not let any negative comment go by without responding to your concern.
  6. Online Service Gets a Face Lift. Forget the lag time of email or waiting for a call back. This year, more and more web sites will allow you to chat directly to customer service people either through chat or video. Want to chat from your phone directly to the company? No problem. Skype them? No problem.  Scott Jordan at Scottevest, allows the customer to watch what is going on in his company live on the web every day!
  7. Insourcing is In. More and more American companies who outsourced their customer service will bring that function back home either by hiring a domestic company or bringing it in house. The “we can outsource this customer service thing” has hurt companies like Dell and Capital One. This year, look for more of the technology assisted customer service jobs to be transferred back to the US. Companies realize how important it is to their business. Just ask any car dealer the profitability of new car sales to their car maintenance business.
  8. That’s Tight. Companies you do business with will want to know everything about you. Tighter relationship with customers will continue as economy remains poor. Companies can’t afford to lose profitable current customers. This goes way beyond frequent flyer programs. Accenture working with Proctor and Gamble has a new technology that tries to predict consumer preferences using optimization engines. This year, companies will continue to track everything about you to make that your relationship as personal as it gets.
  9. Fire Them. In 2007, Sprint famously fired 1,000 customers that were clogging up their customer service lines and costing the company loads of money. Not every customer you have is profitable. Look for more companies this year to fire you if you cost them money and recommend you take your business elsewhere.
  10. Get Small. All startups used to want to appear big. We bought typewriters and later computers and web sites to make ourselves look the part. Now, everyone company, as Chris Brogan says, wants to be human. I call it getting small. Every company wants to seem like the corner store, but have the global pricing power and distribution of Walmart. Furthermore, big business is now consistently targeting your small business since it is the a sector of the economy that is growing. President Obama will continue to emphasis that small business is the core of American business. You have arrived!

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What do you see as the trends in customer service for 2010?

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About the Author: Barry Moltz has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 15 years. He is the author of three small business books, the latest is “BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World.” Barry is a nationally recognized expert on entrepreneurship who has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging from 20 to 20,000.