Posts Tagged ‘user experience’

Consistent rewards programs pay off in consistent customer loyalty.

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I’ve previously commented that FourSquare hasn’t managed to become enough of a player in the rewards programs of major chains, leaving the ground-breaking application a little on the flat side of a robust loyalty-program enhancement. Well, finally, a major consumer-frequented chain has instituted something substantial in the way of FourSquare promotions…. Starbucks reportedly is now officially turning their FourSquare loyalty program into a bonafied, dividend-paying rewards system (albeit on “trial” basis) to provide actual guaranteed loyalty program rewards to those who frequent the coffee-house chain frequently enough to become “Mayor”.

While the program expuires on June 21st, both FourSquare and Starbucks reportedly think it could easily be extended thereafter. Is this the future of FourSquare? I think that this is the kind of use FourSquare needs to institute (read quickly institute) on it’s own to become a salable offering, or an IPO able to generate substantial sales of shares in the near future. Certainly it’s a step in the right direction for all involved, including the customers of Starbucks and the users of FourSquare. Kudos to Starbucks for taking the lead here. (Hint to FourSquare: shouldn’t you really have created a universal and fully customizable retailer loyalty program by now that retailers could opt into? And isn’t that a regrettable missed opportunity for FourSquare?).


I recently ordered something pretty important to me. It was an eBay purchase, a painting to be precise. The post office left a notice on the 16th because apparently I was out when they delivered. What’s more, aside from the fact that if I’m going to pick the package up at the post office, I’ll need to make a 2-hour trip out of it, as my post office is an approximately 45 minutes drive (one guy I talked to there last year on the phone said it’s only 30 minutes with all the slow speed limits and stops, but they’ve never made the drive, which is always over 40 minutes–one way–for me every time).

In times past, under similar circumstances, I’d had artwork shipped from Japan. AT that time, they told me they held such items for 2 weeks. So I’m thinking, “I still have plenty of time.” Keep this in mind…

Fine, so I’ll just call them to re-deliver, right? Wrong. I can’t, because the phone number on the form…isn’t the right number. Either that or no one answers. eventually, after an entire week of the phone ringing every day I call them, I realize that they’re not answering the freaking phone, ever. I check the number on Google maps. Nope, it’s correct. I call the post office 1-800 number today, amidst the 1,000 things I need to get done today before 5pm, and guess what? The rep kindly tells me that my $100 package has been returned to the shipper…in China!

Great, so now I’m on the phone with the rep at the 1-800 number and she not only isn’t listening to what I say, but she has to read a scripted reply to each of my responses that is quite frankly the most annoying thing I’ve ever been asked to listen to, not to mention that it is like saying “okay, just hold your horses while I frame each of my responses in about 1,000 syllables”. I try not to vent at her for being the person answering the phone. But I just about can’t help it, after all, it’s USPS, their employee and their script, not to mention their foul-up to begin with. Still…I keep it cool as possible.

Eventually….and I mean eventually…she gives me the NEW (aha!) phone number to my post office, you know, the one that is over 45 minutes away (we’re not even counting the drive back or the 1-hr waiting line, are we? nah…). And she’s still apparently talking to me, reading a scripted, framed lead-up to asking me something apparently crucial, just as press the hang up button out of broiling impatience at this point…

I call the new number. Only this number doesn’t ring incessantly without anyone picking it up, it simply gives a 24-7 busy signal. Change? Yes. The right kind of change? No.

So now I can’t even vent about my problem to a USPS rep, let alone get my $100 shipment back. Crestfallen, disheveled, angry, bitter, I turn to you and shake my tiny fists toward heaven.


JUST as I was about to publish this bad boy, the new number for my post office actually answers the phone. And now guess what? They STILL HAVE MY PACKAGE! A few time in my life I’ve felt both exhausted, elated, and somehow bitterly confused…and this is one of those times. And if I had assumed, based on my lengthy disappointing attempts to connect with the last phone number, and the several failed attempts already experienced today to reach them via the new phone number, that my package had indeed been returned to China? Let me tell you something. I’d have been one unhappy camper (with a blog about marketing and all things branding and customers service)!

So in the end, my package didn’t go back to China. That’s a win. The hot line did give me the correct number. I guess you can call that a win for USPS. The fact that my post office is leaving notices for Richmond, TX addresses with an expired phone number (that there is no effective way to discover, due to the wrong info online, as well)? Well, that part is not a win for USPS. And it doesn’t help much that the USPS hot-line gets me worked up by telling me definitively that my package has been already returned (again, to CHINA).

Now, I guess you could call this a case study #Fail for USPS, true. But I hope the company is listening. Why? Because this is also an opportunity to not only correct the 2008-circa notice they leave on people’s doors, but to change the protocol and procedures to ensure that this type of thing (which you can bet is going on a lot–same notice for all, remember?) doesn’t happen to a recipient of a delivery every again. If I was the CRM contact for USPS (a functional company, BTW, no longer a government service), I’d want to know about this incident and I’d want to get it fixed so that it won’t “almost” happen to anyone else, or worse yet, “actually” happen to anyone else.

And one PS: Dear USPS, the closest post office to me and my fellow Houston-hugging Richmonders is NOT the one you think it is. Frankly, we’re a bit exasperated that you think that’s a location for us, when we can drive just 5 miles away to get a convenient location on the main strip. Please consider allowing us to select which post office handles our mail. I know not every wish is doable, but this little switch toward one-on-one customer relations might really pay off huge dividends. As to the details of fitting this kind of (no doubt) significant request into your to-do list, I’ll quote Boss Hog from The Dukes of Hazard: “Handle-it handle-it?”

Who are you fishing for?

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I realize that my own blogging is still relatively young in blog years. And no, I’m not engaged in a competitive attempt to get the goat of bloggers here–it’s something else. A very tricky “something else” (I can be kind of a tricky guy).   

Marketers often aim for a non-existent target reader. It shows in how they address their as-yet-to-be-defined audience. Instead of shooting for a tin can in their backyard in the well-lit daylight, they’re aiming for an abstract moon at dusk. Why we do this is sometimes a mystery upon closer examination. And then it hits you: “I haven’t even thought through who my audience actually is yet!”   

This is a frightening thing for a content writer who blogs or writes copy for their own sites. It’s even more scary for those who write for a client. Not knowing exactly who you are writing TO is a problem more writers have then they themselves would like to admit. The reasons are mainly of one sort: time.   

The feeling is that we don’t have time to focus enough to fully penetrate who this reader really is and thus we we’re really writing this content in the first place. Copy is a misleading term, because it’s not about copying anybody or being unoriginal, in fact copy writers are expected to be original and startling, to unnerve and shake the reader’s expectations up in the blender of creative expression.   

So how is it that we become unclear whom a piece  is for? Because the illusion of time. Time is not hindering you from putting your best effort forward, a lack of focus is doing that. That just means you aren’t focusing because your environment or your mood is off, not tuned in to the creative process. It’s not that other people are hindering you so much as your lack of ability to focus.   

I’m always taken aback by people and “experts” who claim that creativity is hindered by influence…really? Really think you can create without influence? Try it some time and see just how full of influences everything you do really is! There is no creation without influence. Even your own creations of 1-2-3 influence your next creations of 4-5-6.   

A writer is ultimately doomed to be influenced in all “original” creations. Deal with that and you’re going to be able to see that it’s not what you are handed, but what you’re doing with what you’ve been handed that matters. That’s what the reader inherently knows to look for. As a writer, however, we can get lost from this realization about the creative process.   

When you think you’re writing for social marketers specifically for a particular piece, you may in fact be writing for all marketers. This piece, for example, is for all content writers, but if it were just for social marketers, I should probably want to address items in detail that they are confronted with, like say, how to writer with a hook title, how to include the best possible excerpt teaser, or how to have a burning red-hot focus on the point of the piece throughout. Since it’s not about any of those, I’m more all over the place on this one, but that’s more to the point of my purpose here.   

In hindsight, this entire post is a kind of throat-clearing as a writer. I think (I hope) it may help others in the congregation to feel it’s okay now to clear theirs, as well. At least that’s how it always seems to go the few times I found myself in a pew. Want to cough? Go ahead! Cough up a comment or two while you’re at it! [tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]