customer experience

This tag is associated with 2 posts

Quail Ridge Books and the dark matter of customer experience


Last weekend we stopped into Quail Ridge Books, a wonderful independent book store just down the street from where we live in Raleigh, NC. After browsing for a while and finding a few things, we went up to the cash register to buy them.

I have to admit, I always experience a little ounce of dread when I walk up to the counter at a bookstore. Most of this comes from my experiences at Barnes & Noble, where each time I approach the counter I’m alerted that I could save from 10-40% on my purchase just by joining their membership program and whatever else is in their rehearsed speech that has probably been tested to ensure each word helps optimize their chances of getting you to sign up so they can “capture” you.

I’m sure Barnes & Noble keeps detailed monthly metrics at their corporate office highlighting how many people sign up at each location due to this point-of-sale promotional technique. I’m also confident that there are incentives (either carrot or stick-based) that 100% guarantee that I’m going to not only have to listen to that speech each time I approach the counter, but also turn them down when they ask me to join. (By the way, I don’t have anything against these sort of programs, I just don’t need to join one for every single store I shop in.)

So I’m standing there at Quail Ridge Books, and I see the cashier reach for a yellow bookmark that I’m positive is going to be the entry point to Quail Ridge’s version of the membership club speech. Instead, the cashier simply says, “We have a membership program called the Reader’s Club. I’m going to put this bookmark in your book and if you like, you can look at the benefits there.”

Whoa. No speech, no sales pressure forcing me to say no. It was like a breath of fresh air.

I’m sure if the folks at the Barnes & Noble corporate office had seen this performance at one of their stores, they would have hit the ceiling. Multiply that approach all across the country at every Barnes & Noble and their point of sale membership spreadsheet would look atrocious. People would get fired.

The problem is, Barnes & Noble is only tracking the data they can see. They have no way of tracking the dark matter–the impact their membership strategy has on the experience of people like me, who now go out of their way to avoid shopping there.

I don’t expect I am the only person out there who is annoyed–not just at Barnes & Noble, mind you–but at every store that forces me to say no to a point-of-sale sales pitch… to give a dollar to this cause, or to join this program, or whatever.

Because the spreadsheets only track the revenue impact that come from these promotions and not the negative brand impact, they probably look stunning on paper. What’s the downside, right?

Well, the downside is people like me not wanting to ever set foot in a Barnes & Noble store.

Stores like Quail Ridge Books that don’t sacrifice the health of their brand community for the sake of hard numbers on a spreadsheet understand the importance of the customer experience in establishing brand reputation, loyalty, and even recommendation.

So next time, before you implement a strategy that is guaranteed to make the numbers look good, make sure you are also studying the dark matter impact to your brand experience and reputation at the same time.

Just because these impacts are harder to measure doesn’t make them any less powerful.

Quit marketing now tip #1: default to personal communication


Ah, poor marketing.

It has definitely been a rough patch for marketing the last few years. From those predicting that [fashionable term X] is the “new” marketing (social media! engagement! community-building! customer experience! design! communications!) to those predicting its outright demise, there are a lot of people looking past marketing to whatever comes next.

It's hard for me to say I'm sorry for putting a picture of Chicago in this blog post. I just want you to know.

For many of us, marketing is what we know. We’ve been practicing marketing so long, it is, to paraphrase Chicago (yes, I just did that), a “hard habit to break.”

So if you’ve been tearfully exclaiming, “I wish I knew how to quit you, marketing!” I come bearing hope. What follows is the first in a series of things you can do right now to break marketing’s hold on you. Quitting has to start somewhere. It might as well be here.

First, a short history:

In the beginning, communications were personal. I’m sure it all started when Og was sitting in the cave talking to Grog about his new stone arrowhead design, responding to Grog’s questions and telling stories about all of the animals he had killed with the new arrowhead (brand positioning: lighter design, so you can throw farther, kill bigger, and feed your clan better).

Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution, and all of the sudden we humans were creating goods and services that could be delivered to many more people at once than ever before. While this was fantastic, and made a lot of people a lot of money, the downside was that we could no longer communicate the benefits of the goods we were making to each person individually.

So we developed new ways of communicating to many people at once—mass communications. Along the way, the idea of marketing was born (fun fact: a telegraph was used for mass unsolicited spam as early as 1864!).

And all was awesome. For about 100 years or so.

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