Posts Tagged service marketing

Defending Social Media in Healthcare

Mayo logoYesterday the Mayo Clinic announced it was opening a social media center to train other health care providers on the applications of social media to better connect with patients. Whether or not Mayo is the “expert” in this scenario may be debatable but I was pleased to see their attempts to move the industry forward, which frankly has been the proverbial long tail in the adoption curve.

And then I scrolled down to see comments like these…

Note that this is not about providing better patient care–it’s about selling. Chalk up one more for increased health care costs.” – langton04

Twitter? Twitter is for little girls, self-absorbed executives, and Lance Armstrong.” – teddyg

Worst. Idea. Ever.” – questioner

WHOA! What’s with all the haters? My first reaction was to reply right then and there to all the naysayers on the Minneapolis Star Tribune but I had to go through this huge rigmarole just to register with the site (which is an entirely different story), so I abandoned that effort and decided to post my response here.

I am amazed at the ignorance displayed by some of these posters.  There’s about $700 billion of wasteful spending in healthcare right now and I would argue that a good chunk of that is caused by poor, uninformed decision making. The adoption of social media in healthcare can only increase transparency in what has traditionally been a very closed model. So how does the proliferation of social media in healthcare translate to higher costs or worse care? If costs are artificially high, economic theory would tell us there’s an imperfection in the market, and part of that is transparency (or in this case, a lack thereof).

By empowering healthcare consumers to speak candidly with providers we can only improve that transparency – whether by comparing costs, assessing the need for certain procedures, or just promoting good ‘ol preventative care.

I’ll end with this: Don’t rush to judgment. If Mayo is only it for the money (per langton04), people will figure that out soon enough (though I’d argue so what if they are, so long as there is a corresponding public benefit). For now we have nothing to lose. I commend Mayo and hope others will take a queue by listening up. We just might learn something about one another.

“an extension of old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. “

Note that this is not about providing better patient care–it’s about selling. Chalk up one more for increased health care costs.

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Is doing what you promised enough?

I have been a Rhapsody music subscriber for some time. I love the idea of music on demand and never paying for individual tracks. I love downloading a new artist and then later deciding if I like them without incurring any incremental cost one way or the other.

What I don’t like is the fact that Rhapsody has not figured out an application for the Blackberry. I can either play music on my Rhapsody compatible player or on my laptop. Rhapsody has apps for both iPhone and Droid but no blackberry and while I’d love to switch to either, I’m bound to a standard corporate issued blackberry.

Before this comes off as just another rant, let me say this post was prompted by an interesting thread going on in the Rhapsody community. It’s interesting from the standpoint that there are a lot of annoyed, loyal Rhapsody subscribers out there waiting for a blackberry app. But even more interesting is some of the arguments being made both against and in defense of Rhapsody.

The argument against: This app was more or less announced last year as coming in “early” 2010. Hmmm… well clearly, they missed that one. There’s supposed to be a beta coming out but I have not heard of anyone being chosen, so I can only assume its not out yet. People are waiting, people have expressed a want / need, and Rhapsody has more or less failed to deliver on this. This in turn has prompted some customer defections.

The defense: One writer makes the point that when we signed up for Rhapsody, a blackberry app was never part of the deal (unless you signed up with the expectation that the app was coming). We willingly signed up or continue to subscribe despite alternatives out there, so really it’s not like there’s a real disservice going on.

So if you buy the latter argument, I ask this question…

Is it enough to provide exactly what customers signed up for (and nothing more)?

Is it enough to justify the disappointment being expressed across a broad community of blackberry / rhapsody users? To me, the answer is like everything in marketing, and that is “it depends.” Here’s my thoughts on when it’s enough….

1) When you’re the only game in town. That’s pretty obvious, and in this case we all know Rhapsody is not the only game in town.

2) When you…  um…. well, ok, there’s really only one reason.

I guess you could say there are ways to better communicate value, to create community, and all that jazz. But at the end of the day, when customers have expressed a need that can be met by a competitor, continuing to do just what you say you’re going to do isn’t enough.

So the only question remaining is, why am I still with Rhapsody? Like so many on the referenced thread, apathy – a powerful attribute which will keep customers around for a bit (think cable and phone) but sooner or later that goodwill will run out. The irony is that rather than spend the hour or so to switch services, I instead chose to write this blog. So obviously, I haven’t reached that tipping point yet, but I’ll let you know if we get there.

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Customer Service Rant Revisited

This is a follow up to my last post: Customer Service Rant

DEFINE IRONY: When after completely botching the customer experience, Time Warner Cable sends you a mailer asking you to come back at a 30% reduction in price. This is a perfect example of how not to treat customers. Why is it that companies come to their senses only after you’ve ceased to do business with them?

What is it that makes it ok to not value a customer relationship until its lost?

Acquiring a customer is 10 times more costly than simply retaining a customer. And as proof, it will take more than one lousy mailer to make me come back, even at the huge discount they are offering me (which by the way they should have offered in the first place – as you can read in the previous blog, I left in large part because of the gradual but significant creep in my monthly subscription fee).

Rather than make this a total rant…some advice for marketers and service providers the world over:

1) Keeping customers happy is ALWAYS easier than trying to win them back after decidedly not making them happy.

See “United Breaks Guitars” as a GREAT example. After decidely failing to reimburse a customer for damage to a beautiful Taylor guitar, country artist composes and posts song to Youtube. With over 5 million views it has cost United Airlines an estimated $180 million in market value.

2) Asking a customer to return just a month after you’ve explicitly devalued that customer relationship is insulting. I don’t think I really need to further explain this point. We all know the feeling.

3) If you’re going to woo a customer back, don’t do it with a mailer that cost you $1.

The most valuable customer relationship managnent lesson I’ve ever learned… The best way to overcome disappointing a customer, is to go back and ask for more. Face to face, one on one, whatever it is that makes the most economic sense.  In this case, a phone call thus making it a TWO-WAY conversation would have been better. I probably would have told TWC to you-know-what, but that would have been the first (of many) steps to rebuild a broken relationship.

I’m not going to put out a youtube video about TWC, but the very fact that I’m writing this blog is proof that in today’s digital age, a singular customer experience has the ability to dramatically impact (Positively or Negatively) an image beyond just that one touch point.

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Customer Service Rant

Several weeks ago My wife and I were at a movie theater around town (for my local friends, the Marcus Majestic). And we were sitting in their new dinner style theater, complete with individual captains chairs, tables going across each row and an attentive wait staff which could be summoned with a dimly lit light at your table. The experience is truly one of a kind and was completely worth the added premium in ticket price (about $1 more, though I’m sure the food was also more expensive).

As we sat waiting for the previews to begin, chowing on popcorn, I noticed each seat had a pamphlet on ATTs new Uverse offering. I considered at the moment what a great idea that was. You have a captive audience that clearly values the multi-media experience, and since this is a full service dining experience, chances are folks were coming in before showtime and would have time to kill (as we did).  During this time I had also become increasingly annoyed with time warner cable who over the past six months had raised our prices on three separate occasions, all due to promotions expiring. I’m ok with this when its within reason…but our cable/internet charges spiked 50%.  Talk about a bait and switch. So already inclined to say good bye to TWC, we switched to uverse that week. I’m not quite a Uverse evangelist but so far, I’ll say it as been great, especially since its completely integrated with a multitude of online accessible features (the video quality is also perceptibly better).

OK…let me now get to the purpose of this rant…Why Time Warner Cable sucks.

1) When I called into to disconnect our service, TWC informed me that they could not cancel until they physically had the cable box in their posession. OK…I can understand that to a degree.  So my wife accomodatingly drives there that day, at which point we expect a refund for any unused service, right? Wrong. 4-6 weeks.

2) 4 weeks go by…Instead of a check, we get another bill. It would seem “Mr. Kaneta, that when you returned your equipment, the store failed to issue a disconnect.” So not only did I not get a credit, I got another bill and had another month’s worth of fees charged to my credit card.

3) I call up TWC (the rep was actually very polite and helpful)…we work it out such that an agent will arrive at our house to do the disconnect in a week but I won’t be charged for anything beyond the day I returned equipment. Great…except they can’t send me my money until 4-6 weeks after disconnect. So all told I’m out 2 months of service fees that will take 10 weeks from the day I cancelled to show up in my mail box (if I’m lucky)

4) Sadly this is not the first time this has happened to me with TWC. How often does TWC fail to disconnect and charge their customers?!?!? Truly an unbelievably poor service experience… With as much as they spend on customer acquisition, you would think retention and user experience would rank among one of their priorities.

So with that being said, Time Warner now ranks among my five worst service providers on the planet. In no particular order because they all suck… 1) Time Warner Cable. 2) Sprint. 3) Stonegate Properties (my first apartment after college). 4) CARTUS Relocation Consultants. 5) The money-eating vending machine in my office.

Congrats Time Warner Cable… you’ve officially moved from mediocre to suckville.

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Your customer service sucks

According to Ben Affleck in the 90’s classic, Mallrats, “the customer is always an asshole”. I think we’d all agree this is probably not the best outlook on customers, but its funny to see how many businesses act like they believe it even though its not explicitly posted on the front door.

My wife and I recently dined at a moderately upscale Tapas restaurant. If you haven’t had tapas, the idea is that you order several smaller dishes (2 to 3 /person) so that everyone gets to try a little of everything. Since I spent several years living in Hong Kong, I equate it to Spanish Dim Sum.  I’m not a yelper or reviewer so I’ll refrain from publishing this resaturant’s name, but I will say the overall experience left a lot to be desired. I was particularly disappointed not because the service was especially slow (which it was) or that the wait staff were not personable (which they weren’t) but because they broke every other expectation I have as a diner.

1) Don’t charge for things customers are accustomed to getting for free. This restaurant took it upon themselves to charge $5 for bread with a small assortment of spreads. To make matters worse, if you wanted more bread it was $1 for another small loaf. I’m all for profit maximizing firms, but if I’m used to getting something at no charge, I probably value that item less than its actually worth.  The appropriate customer centered offering would have been complimentary bread, and $5 for the spreads. Chances are I would have paid for the spreads to get the most out of my dining experience, and it would have gotten the meal off to a much more positive start. 

2. Be the product expert. If I ask a question as basic as “which of these items would you recommend”, the appropriate response is NOT “I don’t know, I haven’t tried those”. Our server’s excuse was that the restaurant regularly updated the menu. Frequently changing/updating your product offering does not excuse a lack of product knowledge.  If you’re in a customer facing role, you are the perceived sales person, as such I expect you to be a product expert (or at least somewhat knowledgable).

3) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. A twenty minute wait can feel much longer than that, especially in a restaurant where you can see other people eat while you wait.  That said I’ll never knock a restaurant for slow service. Variation happens. What I will knock is the inaction that occurs when customers wait uninformed. A good example of handling this the right way is Tesla motors. Their $100,000 electric car has a very long waitlist. To keep customers engaged during the waiting process, Tesla has exclusive online communities for “owners” with exclusive access to videos, webisodes and other content. This creates heightened anticipation which justifies the wait. In my experience customers are generally forgiving. If I’m waiting, just recognize that I’m waiting.

…And for crying out loud, give me some complimentary bread.

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