Megan McQ’s Musings

Archive for July 2009


The other day I met with Lou, President of ValueStar, a customer ratings and reviews service from confirmed customers. (Disclosure: personal acquaintance).

The directory service provides companies (such as Company XYZ) the opportunity to have Company XYZ’s previous customers rate their experience on ValueStar’s Web site. This service varies from other social network rating systems, because it ensures that actual customers of Company XYZ are rating the company. Of course, it’s up to Company XYZ to complete quality work to obtain good reviews, and not all of the reviews on the site are positive.

Lou and I were discussing social media and it was enlightening to discuss the marketing element of a directory service, due to the variety of constituencies such service like ValueStar has to reach.

On the one hand, ValueStar has to draw customers to their web site and ask them to review a company with whom they have had an interaction, and use the companies listed on the Web site. On the other, the company has to obtain companies seeking the marketing opportunity ValueStar has to offer.

The problem arises where Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategy is concerned: How does one company diversify their message to such different constituencies? It would seem an IMC campaign that unifies messages across platforms would leave something to be desired for each constituency ValueStar is trying to reach. Juggling the communication needs of either constituency would be dangerous.

Because I’m an advocate of using the same communication messages across platforms, here’s my take on the situation:

Everyone is a customer of some sort. At some given time, we’ve all been the purchaser in a transaction. In my opinion, then, I think that ValueStar should focus its marketing efforts to the customers of the “Company XYZ’s” on the Web site. Utilizing a SM strategy that fosters genuine human interaction, ValueStar could cultivate relationships with this constituency and encourage them to become reviewers and users of other companies listed on the site. (Insert the 80/20 rule here). This communication strategy would inevitably include company owners and marketers who will see the value in the site, and want to become certified and listed on the directory.

A social media campaign would then be able to identify the business owners among the primary communication target. A specific, tailored message could be constructed for these new constituencies. Due to the highly-specific nature of these messages, they should resonate with the constituencies–eliminating the need for message repetition. After all, that’s the whole purpose of social media: building meaningful relationships with potential customers, and reach those customers with valuable messages.

But that’s my take, anyway. I’m curious to hear your input on this type of communication campaign.

photo via Mark Pummell


I’m currently blogging in several locations. As such, I’m planning on beginning a new series on Sundays on this blog to let you know where I’ve been posting in the previous week.

Community Marketing Blog

Semantic Web: An Intro

Shoe Girls

Fractures, Feet and Crocks, Oh my!

Bloggers Block

Major League Baseball Tryouts

You know what really grinds my gears? Twitter Followers.


If this arm were a GPS, it would be *my* GPS. It’s just that broken.

My GPS busted a few weeks ago on the way to a lunch with Patrick Ashamalla from A Brand New Way. Needless to say, locating the office via Blackberry while driving was interesting.


Finally, I get around to calling the GPS company to see what we can do to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, when we have products that break, we’re unable to speak directly with the person who invented this product, nor speak with the manufacturer of the device. I’m going to have to speak with a customer service representative. Ouch.

Thankfully, I realized a few years ago that customer service representatives are humans. (Profound, I know). As such, I try to treat interactions with customer service representatives as I would any other client or acquaintance I meet.

Just like any introduction, the first thing we do is say hello and exchange names. Thus, after getting off hold (the typical 45 minute wait), I obtain and remember the name of the person with whom I am speaking.

“Hi, thank you for calling Broken GPS, Inc. This is Josephine, how may I help you today?”

“Hey there, Josephine! How is your day going so far?”

…This is typically where a stunned pause takes place…

“…Um, well, I’m doing alright, how about yourself?”

“I’m doing okay. I’m sure it’s been another long day, huh?”

…This is where they realize I actually, genuinely, care what they have to say.

“Um, well, yes, it has been a long day. Thank you for asking. But, what can I do to help you?”

…Note that by this point, the tone of their voice has changed completely. Just as I genuinely cared about establishing a positive working relationship with Josephine, she also genuinely wants to do her best to help me.

…This is where I instill my three rules for solving whatever problem I’m having with the company/product/bill/etc.  in question:

1. Recognize that it’s not Josephine’s fault that my product is broken and that I’ve been on hold for far too long.

2. Understand that Josephine has typically annoying company policies that will limit the amount of help she will be able to give me, because she has to follow them.

3. Know that I can not get any resolution on the situation without Josephine’s help.

In other words, I’m going to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Hopefully, Josephine doesn’t have 1,000 eyes or 6 legs. But even if she did, I’d still need her to be on my side to help me resolve my situation.

After a deep breath:

“Well, Josephine, I was hoping we could work together to figure out a way to solve this issue I’m having with my GPS which happened to stop charging a few weeks ago…”

Being genuine in my interactions with customer service representatives has been a mutually pleasant experience (note: except for long hold times), and has typically led to getting the problem resolved (in the way I wanted it to be resolved).

If at any point there seems to be a difficulty or lapse in communication, I try to make a comparison we will both understand:

“You see Joesiphine, it’s as if my GPS was like a Happy Meal, except I didn’t get the french fries, but I got two toys…”

I mean, who hasn’t been to McDonalds?

Anyway, while I was on hold, I had a lot of time to think about companies who are using social media to their advantage. I also had a fair amount of time to listen to the elevator music version of ‘Reflection’ from the Disney movie ‘Mulan’ and finish my goat cheese enchiladas (they were delicious, thank you for asking).

Point being is there are several advantages to using social media within a customer service realm:

1. Proactive is Powerful: Instead of companies having to be reactive in their approach with customer service, companies who use Twitter to proactively search and resolve customer complaints almost put the company in charge of the situation. They are able to resolve situations before they get out of hand.

2. Enhanced Online Reputation: Also, I’m willing to bet that because they conduct the customer service through a social media platform, the company is more likely to have the individual who ‘complained’ about the service turn around and speak as an advocate of the company once their issue is resolved. In essence, the company has a greater opportunity to have a larger, more positive, digital word-of-mouth conversation. Social media makes it possible for individuals to interact with a brand and then disseminate their (hopefully) good experiences with the company to their friends and followers. The potential for having an increase in brand awareness through social media customer service is profound.

3. Genuine Human-to-Human Connection: It’s beginning to bring us back to genuine human interaction. Companies and brands can humanize their brand and make it easier for people to identify with who they are.

image via active rain

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