Wednesday Sep 02, 2015

Bringing Brand Ambassadorship to the Front Lines - A Tale of Past Interactions

This is a follow up to my first post on customer success.

One of my first jobs was as a bus boy at a New York Deli Restaurant. I was 14 years old and the gentleman who hired me made it very clear that my job was to make sure that customers had a great time—more than just good food, people were buying the whole experience of eating in a deli (like the Stage or Carnegie in New York). Greeting guests, bringing them sour pickles, answering questions about what I liked to eat and offering up some free cookies towards the end of the meal didn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things but in the context of this restaurant, it drove their business with hour long wait times.

In hindsight, the general manager of this restaurant clearly understood what many businesses are still figuring out today—that people buy experiences, be it in restaurants, online, brick & mortar stores, etc. Even more so, he understood that the people on the front line needed to represent the brand and needed to be enabled to deliver on it. So even as a 14 year old (I actually looked older), I had eaten just about everything on the menu and could speak to it with confidence. Management actually encouraged me to run to the counter and grab some cookies for people to try.

Fast forward many years later and I come across blog posts such as this (Seth Godin, “Learning from the State Department”) 

We invented ambassadors because nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, particularly when messages travel sometimes quite slowly through complex organizations. Just like now.

This seems obvious, and it is, until you realize that organizations make two huge mistakes:

A. They don't hire brand ambassadors, they hire clerks and bureaucrats, and treat them and pay them accordingly.


B. They don't manage and lead brand ambassadors, don't measure and reward and create a cadre of people who can listen for the brand and speak for the brand.

Would you send the clerk on aisle 7 to speak to a head of state or vital partner on behalf of your company? Because that's what he's doing right now.

After reading this, I have adopted this phrase of ‘brand ambassador’ and judge most of my experiences in terms of whether or not businesses are enabling their staff to act as these brand ambassadors. On a regular basis I come across businesses where it appears to me that management has enabled their front line staff to be true ambassadors. In my opinion, companies like Zappos and Starbucks have really nailed it. Their staff has both the customer-centric mindset and the tools at their disposal to drive positive customer experiences. On the flip side, I have plenty of experiences online and in stores where the end result is that I either leave the store or cancel my order. Customers shouldn’t be confronted with confusing online order flows that seem particularly spammy. Simple questions about product availability and new shipments shouldn’t be answered with the shrug of the shoulders or an IDK.

Here are a few things to think about as you evaluate your own businesses in terms of bringing brand ambassadorship to the front lines, be it in call centers or physical stores. Each business is unique so there is not necessarily one prescriptive solution. If you are just getting started with a transactional online site, here are a few other good articles about storytelling through visual commerce and branded manufacturers extending their identity in the direct to consumer channel.

Brand and company philosophy: Does your staff know what your brand stands for and the company philosophy and expectations towards customer loyalty and customer service? How do managers and leadership reinforce and demonstrate these philosophies and expectations? Leading by example truly helps fuel the creation of a staff of brand advocates.

Product & Process Knowledge: Does your staff know the product line? Do they have insights into what products are coming, what is in inventory, what has been discontinued, when the sales are going to happen? What training programs have you developed to help new employees learn about the products and procedures as well as continually update all employees on a regular basis? Can your staff effectively manage the “buy online, pick up in store” process? Front line staff need to have superior knowledge to level the playing field against the highly educated customer of today.

Decision Making: Have you evaluated if your staff is enabled to make the day-to-day and on-the-fly decisions to impact both profitable sales and customer loyalty? Are the guidelines clear and are the internal channels there to educate? The inability to act efficiently and effectively in any of the channels (online chat, phone, in store) is a deal killer on so many levels.

Technology: Are you empowering your staff with the right tools and technology to drive customer loyalty and superior customer service? Do you have agent / assisted selling applications that can not only provide insights into inventory, order history, customer profiles but also transact? Much like the need for product knowledge, the right technology tools are needed to enable sales staff to be seen as a consultant and a brand ambassador, not just the order taker.

Measuring Results and Rewards:  How do you measure the success of your front line staff? Can you identify your peak sales performers? Can you measure how effective your staff is with customer service/brand advocacy? Can you measure your staff’s knowledge of products? Do you offer any incentives on an individual level for sales, successful customer interactions? Measuring results and providing rewards can be difficult to implement but this is counterbalanced by the fact that we are currently experiencing a transformational shift in expectations towards customer experience.

I would love to hear about your experiences in creating brand ambassadors within your organizations. What is and isn’t working, obstacles you have had to overcome, tools and technologies that are helping you?

Thursday Sep 26, 2013

Connecting Your Social Media Efforts Across Marketing and Customer Service

One of the biggest challenges with being a socially aware enterprise is managing ownership of social data and responses. Social media impacts many parts of the customer lifecycle and, as a result, it also impacts many departments within the enterprise, including marketing, customer service, product and strategy teams. These internal teams will need to collaborate, share trends data and define who will handle different types of social communications.

[Read More]

Tuesday Nov 13, 2012

Create a Loyalty Program That Sticks - Thursday 30 Minute Webcast

Loyalty programs don't necessarily translate into loyal or profitable customers. What are market leaders doing to retain customers?

Webcast Alert: Live complimentary webcast, Creating a Holistic Loyalty Program That Sticks, on Thursday, 11/15 at 1:00-1:30 pm EST.

Southwest Airlines joins 1to1 Media to share insights on developing loyalty programs that are focused on customer needs and preferences. Hope to see you there! 

Wednesday Nov 07, 2012

Integrating Social, Marketing, and Loyalty to Deliver Great Customer Experiences

Eighty nine percent of consumers quit a brand after one bad experience. With the high cost of acquiring new customers, what can brand leaders do? At the Loyalty World Conference this week in London, global business leaders such as the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s shared the latest in how to retain customers and boost advocacy.

Melissa Boxer and Sundar Swaminathan of Oracle shared that by taking an outside-in approach, you can deliver a differentiated, loyalty-building experience throughout the customer lifecycle, from researching and selecting through to using and recommending. To transform customer experiences, you need to integrate your brand’s social, marketing, and loyalty functions from the commonplace silos. Three key strategies:

  • Know more and understand, unifying and capturing insights across touch points to better understand who to serve, how to serve, and when to serve. 
  • Connect and engage across social and traditional channels, empowering a relationship ecosystem between social communities, customers, and employees.
  • Make the personalized experience easy and rewarding.

Visit us on to learn more useful highlights from the #lwconf conference.

Thursday Nov 01, 2012

Europe's Largest Customer Engagement Conference

What have Ben & Jerry's, HSBC, Innocent, LoveFilm, Oracle, Orange, Virgin, and other leaders learned about innovating to build customer loyalty? Loyalty World will help you better understand, engage and retain your customers. For example, Oracle's Melissa Boxer will deliver a Keynote on "Integrating Social, Marketing, and Loyalty to Deliver Great Customer Experiences." Sundar Swaminathan will speak on "Powering Rich Cross-Channel Customer Experiences with Next-Gen Loyalty Programs." You'll learn best practices from global thought leaders who are producing real results. Learn more about the Conference.

Thursday Sep 27, 2012

What You Can Learn from the NFL Referee Lockout

American football is a lot like religion. The fans are devoted followers that take brand loyalty to a whole new level. These fans that worship their teams each week showed that they are powerful customers whose voice has an impact. Yesterday, these fans proved that their opinion could force the hand of a large and powerful institution.

With a three-month NFL referee lockout that seemed like it was nowhere close to resolution, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks competed last Monday night. For those of you that might have been out of the news cycle the past few days, Green Bay lost the game due to a controversial call that many experts and analysts agree should have resulted in Green Bay winning the game. Outrage ensued.

The NFL had pulled replacement referees from the high school ranks, and these replacements did not have the knowledge and experience to handle high intensity NFL games. Fans protested about their customer experience. Their anger-filled rants were heard in social media, in the headlines of newspapers, on radio, and on national TV. Suddenly, the NFL was moved to reach an agreement with the referees. That agreement was reached late in the night on Wednesday with many believing that the referees had the upper hand forcing the owners into submission. Some might argue that the referees benefited, not the fans. Since the fans wanted qualified and competent referees, I would say the fans did benefit. The referees are scheduled to return to the field this Sunday, so the fans got what they wanted.

What can you learn from this negative customer experience?

  • Customers are in control. NFL owners thought they were controlling this situation with the upper hand over referees. The owners figured out they weren’t in control when their fans reacted negatively. Customers can make or break you more now than ever before, which is why it is more important to connect with them, engage them in a personal manner, and create rewarding relationships.
  • Protect your brand. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, the NFL put their brand and each team’s brand at risk with replacement referees. Think about each business decision you make, and how it may impact your brand at different points in time. A decision that results in a gain today could result in a larger loss down the road.
  • Customer experience matters. The NFL likely foresaw declining revenues in ticket sales, merchandising, advertising, and other areas if the lockout continued. While fans primarily spoke with their minds in the days following the Green Bay debacle, their wallets would be the next things to speak. Customer experience directly affects your success and is one of the few areas where you can differentiate your business.

What would you do if your brand got such negative attention? Would you be prepared to navigate such stormy waters? Would you be able to prevent such a fiasco? If you don’t have a good answer to these questions, consider joining us October 3-5, 2012 at the Oracle Customer Experience Summit in San Francisco.

You’ll have the opportunity to learn even more about customer experience from industry experts such as best-selling author Seth Godin, Paul Hagen and Kerry Bodine from Forrester Research, Inc., George Kembel from the Stanford d.School, Bruce Temkin of The Temkin Group, and Gene Alvarez from Gartner Inc.. There will also be plenty of your peers and customer experience experts available for networking and discussions.

Wednesday Dec 21, 2011

Mobile Couponing Is Only One Part Of A Continual Customer Dialogue

So I was reading an article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal titled “Procter & Gamble Cuts Mobile Coupon Deal” and it got me thinking that presenting a coupon on a smartphone is neither the beginning nor the end of the customers’ journey with a brand.  Engagement begins with strong insights of your customer, either implicit or explicit, by collecting and holding customer data across all systems and customer touchpoints into one central location.  And relying on that centralized data across all interactions with customers.

The next step is to provide a consistency customer journey, whether they begin researching a product on your website, have a conversation with a call center agent, go into your store or field office, or engage with you via a smartphone or tablet device.  Once the customer places the order, it follows that the order and fulfillment should be visible to the customer as well as any of employees.  And finally, couponing, like in the Procter & Gamble example, is only one piece of customer loyalty as it’s broader than that in order to maintain a continual, ongoing relationship with them.  You can read more about Oracle’s vision around Complete Commerce by reading this white paper titled “Deliver a Superior Cross-Channel Commerce Experience”.

Wednesday Oct 05, 2011

5 Keys to Building a Successful CRM Strategy

OOW logoSix megatrends that are disrupting business as usual are customer-driven and cross-channel interactions, cloud computing, pervasive mobility, real-time decisions, and social media.

As Kirk Mosher shared in the OpenWorld CRM session on "Building a Successful CRM Strategy," five keys to CRM success are in the areas of industry, insight, innovation, integration, and infrastructure.

Learn more about this and other sessions by browsing our full content catalog. Registration is still open for the final sessions of Oracle OpenWorld 2011, San Francisco, October 2-6. We look forward to seeing you at OpenWorld!

Saturday Oct 01, 2011

What to See at OpenWorld for CRM and eCommerce

OOW logoYou can browse the OpenWorld content catalog via our mobile app or by visiting

Better yet, view our full "Focus On" program guides for CRM and eCommerce, where we have aggregated key information on all of these great sessions and demos into  convenient reference guides

Learn more and register now for Oracle OpenWorld 2011, San Francisco, October 2-6. View CRM Conference activities, browse our Focus On CRM program guides and full content catalog, and build your online / mobile schedule. We look forward to seeing you at OpenWorld!

Capitalize on Technology Disruptions

OOW logo

Don't miss this thought-provoking CRM General Session: How Technology Disruptions Catalyze Customer Relationships!

Led by CRM thought leader and Oracle senior vice president of CRM, Anthony Lye, this session will discuss ways that you can catalyze customer relationships to take your business to the next level.

Furthermore, this OpenWorld General Session will include demos of current and next-generation Oracle CRM technology that can help turn 'disruptions' into competitive advantages. When? Monday, October 3, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Where? Moscone West Conference Center, Room 2002. What? Session ID 18024 -- How Technology Disruptions Catalyze Customer Relationships.

Learn more and register now for Oracle OpenWorld 2011, San Francisco, October 2-6. View CRM Conference activities, browse our Focus On CRM program guides and full content catalog, and build your online / mobile schedule. We look forward to seeing you at OpenWorld!


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