How to Confuse Your Customers … If That’s Really the Goal

I continue to be amazed at how companies can do so many things wrong and not see it.  This story is a little long, but there are many points/lessons within it, so bear with me.

The FCC recently removed the requirement that cable companies be compatible with DVRs and similar that are not theirs, such as Tivo. This now gives those cable companies the opportunity to create a stronger bond with their customers or alienate them, depending on their approach.

We became a Spectrum customer when we moved to Reno at the end of 2018. Got a good deal on the bundle (internet, TV and phone) and then, two years later they doubled the price. I get that, they all do it. A loss leader to create a customer.

I was not aware of the FCC rule change, and I started getting deluged by emails telling me that the TV adapters for my Tivo DVRs are going to stop working at some unknown time in the near future and I need to replace the DVRs. No explanation but an implication of a good deal on their DVR or Apple TV (unclear why that one). Called Spectrum and they could not provide an explanation. Called Tivo and they said it wasn’t true for existing installs but was true for future installs since the FCC rescinded the rule that the cable companies had to allow other equipment to be used.

It seems like Spectrum’s marketing communications team was prepared to blitz their customers while their ops team was not prepared in the slightest to explain what was going on and better yet how a customer could take maximum advantage of this “great” change.

This is a perfect example of confusing marketing communications with marketing. Spectrum had apparently not thought thru the customer implications (a marketing job), but had created a communication blitz (a marketing communications function). They failed to “think like a customer,” which is a core skill for marketing and marketing communications people.

Called Spectrum back and got yet another incomplete explanation of what was going on, and when it would happen. However they would not be supporting my Tivo adapters but if I switched to their DVR they would install it for me, give it to me free for 2 years and remove the cost of the Tivo cable adapters I was paying for. Have loved Tivo since they came out, but free is compelling and lowering costs is even better.

Scheduled the tech to come out in three weeks. He arrived. He was on a temp assignment from MI as they did not have enough techs to do the work here in Reno. He said the Spectrum DVR was two generations, or more, old, but we got it installed. It was talking so long to download its “stuff” that I let the tech go to his next customer thinking I could handle the rest. Silly me.

Upon starting up the DVR it told me that I did not have access to any channels without an “upgrade.” That seemed odd/silly. Tried to watch thru the Tivo and got the same message, so called Spectrum. I was transferred 4 times by friendly but unhelpful people until I got to a guy who might be able to help. He told me this whole process/”upgrade” that Spectrum was doing was a mess and that no one had complete info. In fact, when he finished helping me, he had learned additional information no one had told him.

Long story shorter, he got the Tivo boxes working again, and I have since returned the Spectrum DVR. He did say that he was told the Tivo boxes would stop working on or about August 15 due to a system upgrade in Reno. He fixed it on the 19th and so far, it is still working. Meanwhile I have determined how to leave Spectrum if needed.

Spectrum badgered me into thinking I needed to change. They sent me almost 50 emails telling me that I was in danger of losing service. However, nobody could tell me about useful options other than their free DVR or an Apple TV. The training for their support team was beyond abysmal. How does that happen? Their marketing communications team had the blitz covered, and then some, but the company people who needed to explain options were not trained. A marketing failure.

They have succeeded in creating a potential former customer because they cannot explain the options, which it turns out are several and may be better than Tivo and virtually free.

They had the audacity to send an NPS (sort of) survey, which I did not bother to complete because it was supposedly about the tech installer, which was not remotely the problem.

Stop thinking inside-out when you are going to make changes that affect your customers. They are the only thing that really matters. I get that ops will possibly have it hard, but as someone said to me a long time ago, you can solve 100% of your ops problems if you lose 100% of your customers.


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The CMO is Back to Getting Fired Quickly … Again

If you check the CMO category in this blog, you’ll see that we have written about the role of the CMO and their short tenure many times. For a few years the tenure was increasing, and we did not write about it much, but the CMO is back to being the sacrificial lamb, or a mis-defined role, so it’s back in the news, and we felt the need to add our 2 cents.

A recent article by Chris Warren for the ANA Magazine, Why Chief Executives Run Out of Patience with Their CMOs returns to the theme. The article is based on a survey of 150 CEOs of the largest US companies and finds some disturbing issues: mostly around the CMO not being in it for the company or to support the CEO, but rather for “themselves.” While the survey details were not included, if accurate, this is a real issue.

The more important finding to us is that the CMO is not focused on growing the company’s business. Since that is the core job of marketing, it is beyond disturbing. However, we would argue that is a hiring mistake by the CEO, and a role definition trap.

It’s not clear to us that the CMO role actually exists in a large company. Virtually all CMOs are really the Chief Marketing Communications Officer, not the Chief Marketing Officer. We believe that marketing consists of four roles and Communications is one of those roles. It’s the one that spends the most money and has the most visibility, but it is not where the leverage comes from.

Identifying, selecting, and getting the right new products and services to market is a far more important job, and not usually under the purview of the CMO in large companies. If the product/service team creates the wrong products/services for the market, the ability to fix it with social media, advertising etc. is at best limited. And since that is all the CMO is responsible for in most large companies, they are doomed in too many cases.

What do we suggest? In large multi-product/service line businesses that have business unit managers, we suggest that the CMO is unnecessary or at least mis-titled. Chief Marketing Communications Officer (CMCO) is likely a valid role. And as a service organization to the rest of the company as well as the Brand consistency “police,” this is a valid role and if hired correctly, should not have a short tenure.

Each business unit will have its own CMO who will partner with the CMCO as required. This seems the most effective use of people. That being said, if the CEO needs to fire a “sacrificial lamb” she or he may need to identify the actual weak link and deal with it.


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Not All Process Improvement is Actually Lean Thinking

In this short video clip we look at a simple task that needs improvement and examine various approaches to improving it; or at least trying to. And we examine the difference between a Lean approach and others.

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Using Process Management to Effectively Deal with Customer Complaints

Customer complaints are a gift. Complaining to you, rather than about you can help you get better without the loss of customers. Amazon has a famous and effective process for making this happen.


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Make Doing the Wrong Thing Hard … Fundamentals

To help prevent errors, a construct translated as “make doing the wrong thing hard” has been around informally for many decades. It was formalized as part of the Toyota Production System by Shigeo Shingo and called poka-yoke in Japanese. This replaced the original name, baka-yoke, which translates as “idiot proofing.”

There are some examples of this concept on the blog and you can find them by searching. In this short video we discuss the foundational idea behind the concept.


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Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

When companies get in trouble, often times their knee-jerk reaction is to reorganize. Public companies will do that in hope their shareholders think they are taking action. Others do it because they have the usually mistaken belief that changing people or the organization will solve the root cause of the problem. Rarely is that so, as we explore in this short video.


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Control Charts: One of Ishikawa’s 7 Tools of Quality

Our focus is on helping you improve the revenue side of your business, and also the bottom line, by using proven process management methods in Marketing and Sales. Ishikawa developed seven tools he felt would improve results. We look at applying them to Marketing and Sales.


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The Demise of a Great Brand

It is sad to see the demise of a once great brand. It is even sadder when the demise is self-inflicted. And, as is often the case, this time it was caused by a focus on cost not the value of what the customer was buying.

To be fair, as is often the case, this product was bought for two likely purposes: to support the organization and for the taste. I am talking here about Girl Scout Cookies and most specifically Do-si-dos, or Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies.

I have been a strong supporter of the Girl Scout Cookie drive for decades. When my neighborhood only had one Girl Scout, she got the orders. When more came, I split them, but the girls knew I was likely their best customer as the minimum order for each was one case. (Come on, they must last a year).

My favorite became the peanut butter sandwich cookie. I loved them. Several years ago, the Girl Scouts changed the bakers they were using for the cookies to save money; and the quality/taste of the peanut butter sandwich cookies have deteriorated. Further, they offer two names for the “same” cookie depending on whether the baker is East Coast or West Coast. And the cookies are materially different, and both are very poor imitations of the original.

As I live in the West Coast area, I get the “Peanut Butter Sandwich” named cookie. It has become marginal at best and I don’t plan to buy them anymore. I got a chance to buy the Do-si-do named cookie by contacting the Girl Scouts of America and they connected me with a troop in the East. The problem was I had to also paying shipping which does not support the Girl Scouts but does make the cookies more expensive.

While these were also a poor imitation of the original, they were materially better than the West Coast version. Thus, not only has quality taken a dive, but there is no consistency either. While you can argue that they have different names and people are unlikely to get both, this is further damaging to the brand.

I am very sorry to say that I am likely a former customer for the Girl Scouts and I suspect I am not alone. Perhaps the increased profit they make on the cheaper cookies offsets the loss of customers, or more likely, they have no idea what is happening and why sales may be declining.

But too many companies know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.


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Real World Example of Customer Experience Differences

There is a fantastic example of customer experience differences being demonstrated during this pandemic. As more people can get vaccinated and more locations open to provide them, we see a stark difference between the customer experience by location, even though the vaccines being given are the same and the delivery method is the same.

While I am certain this is not 100% true, it has been my experience and those of many people I have talked to, so I am using it as an example.

In general, the medical community is not particularly customer centric. Their job, as they see it, is to provide medical expertise as needed to help solve the issues the patient is having. Surgeons are probably the extreme example of lack of “bedside manner.” As vaccines have rolled out, the initial location to get them has been a hospital or other medical center or the county medical center. The experience has been good, and most people report it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get in line, get their “jab” and wait to make sure there are no immediate side effects.

As the roll-out has expanded, pharmacies have joined the available locations including chains like CVS and retailers with an in-store pharmacy like Wal-Mart. People who have their “jab” at those locations report a 15–20-minute total time for the same process.

How is it that retailers can do it so much faster? Simple, they care about customer experience more than hospitals and county medical centers do. Yes, even Wal-Mart, which is not really known for customer experience anymore, beats the medical community hands down.

How can retailers do it? Because it is in the DNA. Why can’t medical centers/hospitals do it as well? It’s not even part of their thought process much less a priority. Every process is perfectly constructed to produce the results it does. Medical processes are not customer centric. Retail processes should be and compared to medical processes they clearly are.


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Brick & Mortar Suicide Continues…despite Covid -19

I have written on several occasions over the last few years about how brick and mortar retailers are doing more to destroy themselves than the e-tailers they blame. (Do a search on suicide and you will find them.) I haven’t provided a story recently, but then today happened.

One of the key reasons for using brick and mortar is to get the item right now. Such was the case today. We were in need of a new, entry level, Windows laptop. The obvious brick and mortar place here in Reno would be Best Buy, so off we went.

They had two excellent choices. We asked the sales person if he could get either of them for us. He scanned the items and said no to both. He was not even able to order them to be delivered to the store. They were not available. (Well I saw one of each available, but did not bother to ask if he could sell the “floor sample.”) We just left.

Next stop Wal-Mart. Nice computer department, just nobody staffing it. We found a clerk who paged the “technology specialist” who finally arrived. We showed her the item we wanted and she gave us the same answer as we got at Best Buy: not available.

Last stop was RC Willey a furniture store that also sells appliances and electronics. Found two computers there and the sales person was all over it for us. He went and got it and in the mean time 3 other sales people asked if we were being helped. Wow, not committing suicide here.

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