Interesting perspective, as a woman working in a dealership in the UK I do not recognise all of the experiences that the blogger had but she clearly met some very backward thinking individuals and some of the comments made to here are just unacceptable in this day and age. If I heard any of my sales team (we do have women as well as men) speaking to a customer in this way I would be furious. The blogger too the right approach……. if you go in prepared with the facts and do a bit of research yourself then you can always stand your ground.
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This is starting to become one of my major gripes! I know a blog should not be about letting off steam but I am sure I am not the only marketer working in a SME that has the same frustration. This feeling has led me to ask the question again, what is more important…making sure that your customer has a genuinely good experience or ticking a box to say that you have followed a process deemed to be “best practice” in offering good customer service?
I think we all know the answer in theory but in practice it is harder to get that point across to your team and suppliers.
In the dealership world we navigate the intricacies of working with car manufacturers whose marketeers, working in far flung locations, come up with up with grand schemes to improve sales and customer service. Now I am sure that there are some very bright and enthusiastic people working in these offices, but how much do they understand the day to day customer interaction in dealerships ? In my experience not much.
The latest obsession is what they call their “CSI programs” I can not remember what the “I” stands for but it is something to do with customer satisfaction and boy do they know how to make it complicated. Dealers are set targets to achieve and as usual there is a, not insignificant, financial incentive to wet the appetites of Dealer Principals. But in reality they also require a great deal of resource and, as one of our Managers commented last week, the financial incentives available may just about cover the cost of employing someone to satisfy the requirements of the CSI programme.
It is not that I have a problem with asking customers if they had a good experience, far from it. We all know how important it is to check that they are happy with the service they got and whether they thought it was good value for money. Any business worth its salt will already be doing that by developing ongoing relationships with customers through open dialogue and transparency. Is it really better to send them an email with a bunch of questions that they have already been primed to answer in a certain way by a Customer Adviser, just to meet the Manufacturers targets?
I think we have to accept that asking customers continually for their feedback might not in itself be conducive to a great customer experience. As consumers we are asked every 10 seconds for our feedback on this and that…buy a car……..”tell me about your experience”, buy a tin of beans….. “how did it make you feel?” Order a product online ……get a 10 page questionnaire on your lifestyle and what you like to do at weekend.
So when I get a letter that starts with:
“Customers tell us that the follow-up call received after they have visited your service department, is the icing on the cake.”
I really want to just groan and lock myself in a darkened room for the rest of the year!
Often when I speak with people about my work I get the impression still that there is a lot of mystery around marketing and how it works. The perception can often be that marketing is the magic wand that solves a companies problems and that no one is really sure what works and what doesn’t and that marketers have all the answers.
I suspect, like many other professions, marketeers have been happy to let this misconception prevail. We all like to think we know something that someone else doesn’t. I recently spoke to a businessman who had built a successful and profitable business over 30 years he said to me, “I don’t understand this marketing stuff”. My answer to him was that he had been doing it for over 30 years and just had not labelled it as such. It is simple really, understand your product or service and the benefits it brings, match this to customer need and tell them about it. This might sound a little trite but I genuinely believe that marketing is about pairing common sense with business acumen.
When I am talking to businesses I find that the owners, managers and staff know what the business needs, where it is doing well, what it needs to improve. They often have the ideas about how to market their business and what needs to be done. Where they can fail is having the structure to plan and the resources to deliver. This can be the same in small organisations with no dedicated marketing resource and in larger firms who have invested in marketing teams.
That is why I have tried to simplify how I approach giving marketing advice or support. My 3 key tips for making marketing work are:
1. Understand the business. It may sound obvious but you would be surprised how many marketers do not. Unless you know what the business does and is trying to achieve, what its products and services are, how they are delivered, who the customers are and what they want, you will never be able to market it successfully. Do you know what products are selling well, what the profitability is, how they contribute to the overall picture of the business? Do you understand the sector, what the trends are, what your competitors are doing? How much money is wasted on marketing activity that brings little or no results? Often this stems from not understanding what the business really needs. The board, directors and or management are more likely to respect your opinions and ideas if they come from a basis of sound knowledge of their business.
2. Take time to plan. This can be difficult particularly if you are under pressure to be seen to be doing something, lots of business owners are entrepreneurial and don’t like to “waste” time planning. I have lost count of the times I have heard “just get on with it”, but without planning you can often get bogged down in the minutiae of an activity without seeing the overall picture. If you don’t plan and set objectives, how can you be sure at the end of the activity that it has been a success. Planning also means that you can schedule activity over time, you can link relevant activities together, forward plan for important events, forecast budgets and have a consistent approach.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can not stress enough how important this is. This is what I do. Before: communicate what you are going to do, why you are going to do it, what outcomes you expect. During: communicate what you are doing, how it is going, what issues you are having, how you are addressing them. After: communicate what you have done, what you have achieved, what you have learnt and what you are going to do next. I have two reasons for this approach 1. It demonstrates to your boss, client and/or colleagues that you have ideas, are doing something and are providing value. I have seen people doing great work but not telling anyone what they are doing, why they are doing it or what they have achieved. The belief can often develop that you are not doing anything. 2. It allows your boss, client and/or colleagues to contribute, give feedback and guide you if you’re on the wrong track. This collaborative way of working always yields better results and people buy into what you are trying to achieve if they have had some stake in it.
If you think you or your business could benefit from some straightforward marketing advice then please call me on 07827393181 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in the office after New Year and all I have in my head is plan plan plan. I have started on a different tack this year and decided spend some time thinking about what I would really like to achieve this year and setting some goals for 2012. In an effort to be more organised and actually focus on goals rather than tasks I have thought out what the next step to achieving each goal is and when I need to do that by. My thinking is then I wont be put off by the scale of some of the goals if I list all of the tasks involved at once and by having the bigger picture in mind all the time I wont get bogged down in the detail. Let’s see how it works.
Happy New Year everyone, I for one am looking forward to a successful and Happy 2012.
This is the first blog post from Jane Richardson. I am a professional marketer with over 10 years experience in legal marketing. In 2011 I decided to make the break and join my family business, Jos Richardson and Son Ltd.
Our family business is 120 years old next year and has been a huge part of my life. My father is the Managing Director and currently the business operates car dealerships and fuel filling stations. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and family businesses ranging from our own business in motor retail to farming and edible oils exporters, I always knew that running my own business was something I wanted to do so when my father suggested that I consider helping the family business with their marketing and HR I jumped at the chance.
This blog is about the joys and challenges of working for a family business. I hope you enjoy!