Are We Smothering Our Customers with Social Media?

I bought a tube of lipstick on a rainy weekend afternoon. I love lipstick, and I love the store in which I bought it. But let’s be real—It’s just lipstick.

After the purchase, I was given a receipt that had an online survey to fill-out about my experience in the store and my purchase. As a former sales associate, I understand the employee bonuses are often tied to these survey results. I almost always complete these surveys, especially after a good experience. So, I filled out the brief survey with all positive marks.

Next thing I know, I’m invited to join the mailing list, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Then, I’m encouraged to follow Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Photobucket for special offers.

“Hashtag our name, and you can get a free sample of face wash!”

“Like this picture, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $500 shopping spree!”

“RT and we will follow YOU!”

When does it all end?

As a fellow marketer, I understand where the company is coming from with their social media campaign. They want to be connected and part of the conversation with their customers.

Awesome.

There is definitely something to be said for staying current and constantly evolving with the changing times. It’s really important! And most large corporations have entire teams or task forces managing a specific and separate social media platform. In a small business, like the one I work for currently, I am pretty much it for our social media footprint. I can see from the front lines when engagement turns to smothering; however, the further the person responsible for the update on Facebook is from the customer, the further they are from seeing this change.

How do big corporations fix this?

This isn’t necessarily a problem for each corporation or business individually, but the trend has a possibility of becoming overload. It can lead to Unfollows, De-friending, Opt-Outs in e-mail blasts, or even, causing a customer to leave the business and adopt a new company.

I think we would all benefit from a minute to think about that. We don’t want to smother our customers, and for the most part, we are coming from a good place. We simply want to talk to our customers. It’s important to practice balance. Consider a balanced approach to social media. And for those big corporations with different teams managing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest: Let’s commit to do what we intend to do. Let’s actually engage and communicate with our customers. And each other.

What companies are you following on Twitter today?

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Refreshing Customer Service

How many times have you gone into a store, hoping to achieve something or receive some retail therapy, only to leave frustrated, angry, or disappointed? I am willing to bet that nine times out of 10, those feelings stemmed from a mishap on the service end of the experience rather than the products purchased or not purchased.

Of course, if a business doesn’t have a quality product, there is little hope for the business to “make it big” and find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I mean, a shoemaker that uses felt for soles in the shoes to save costs will not be selling or making shoes for long! That being said, even the best quality products can leave a sour taste in your mouth if coupled with poor customer service. You may purchase that product again, but you’d find it elsewhere. Unfortunately, if you can’t purchase the product elsewhere, you will find another substitute. This is true across the board in consumer behavior. I would take a “good substitute” shampoo at another store than get the best shampoo at a store with poor service any day.

But, what about the opposite? Would you take less-than-perfect service for the best product?

Probably not.

However, there is always a niche product that you will deal with anything for to purchase and enjoy. For example, last night, my boyfriend and I went to his grandparents’ house to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. We were planning a pizza party from their favorite pizza place and a fondue party afterward. I made my almost-famous homemade brownies and fondue, and it was delicious! However, the pizza was not allowed.

Nope. Desallas Pizza is closed on Mondays.

Have you ever seen a pizza shop closed during dinner? I’ve never had Desallas Pizza, but I hear that they play by different rules. They make up the rules. Being closed on Mondays is just one example of one of their rules. There is nowhere to sit. They yell at you to order. The line is out the door. The shop is tiny with just a cash register and a pizza oven. No bathrooms. They answer the phone “What do you want?” when a customer calls for pizza. Even so, customers keep coming – They keep coming in lines out the door every single day!

And even so, my boyfriend’s family wouldn’t accept any substitute for the pizza party. Instead, they made leftovers and we got Chick-Fil-A on our way to their house. Instead of picking up another shop’s pizza at the dozens of pizza shops from our house in Point Breeze to their house in West Homestead, they opted to postpone our pizza party until a day other than a Monday soon.

It just goes to show you, customer service has to be good, but sometimes good doesn’t mean professional, cheerful or a certain number of rules. Sometimes good customer service is just different. For that, customer service must be refreshing.

Do you have a place with refreshing customer service – Unconventional service you wouldn’t dream of replacing?

 

2013 Celiac Awareness Tour – Pittsburgh

This morning, I was the Brand Ambassador for Triumph Dining (San Francisco, CA) at the 2013 Celiac Disease Awareness Tour in Pittsburgh, PA. I arrived at the Monroeville Convention Center with a suitcase of product that weighed at least 100 lbs. and the remains of yesterday’s snow storm laying in treacherous strips all over the parkway. I left the Monroeville Convention Center with an empty suitcase, clear streets and picturesque fluffly snow flurries across a sunny sky.

I left exhilarated. I had a blast.

For five short hours today, I returned to my comfort zone of selling fabulous products that make people feel better about themselves. Of course, before, I was working at a makeup store with expensive wrinkle creams and lipstick. Today, I spoke with the coolest people. Each person that came to my booth had a story to share about their battle with Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance or gluten insensitivity.

It’s amazing what people will share with a complete stranger—especially one they believe they’ll never see again.

I soaked it all up like a sponge. Not only was I selling, marketing and creating my own environment for “my store” today, but I was also talking to people. I love that. People are truly amazing. And each time I rest on this realization or revisit this revelation, I see it from a new perspective. Today, I saw amazing people that overcome food problems with each and every bite. It was a blend of joy, understanding and finding a place of belonging.

I had a ball. I think every person that left my booth did too. That is all I ever hope to achieve any time I’m with someone. To say the least, I was truly grateful for the opportunity that Triumph Dining gave me today. It was exactly what I needed.

With that being said, I’m going to go back to snuggling under the covers, watching movies from the 90’s on E! with a cup of peppermint tea.

Stay Warm!

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Have you ever just “spilled the beans” on a total stranger? Why do you think that is?

Back To School—Already?

Sadly, yes. Last week was my first full week of my second year in grad school. And yes, I finished my first year already! I couldn’t believe it either when I first realized it. I apologize for my words being so scattered, I am still trying to gather myself to be ready for this semester. I spent the majority of my three weeks on holiday break recovering from last semester, but thankfully, some of it was spent surrounded by friends and family. I have to be honest—I still haven’t fully recovered from last semester, and I’m really having some issues getting back into the swing of things with this new semester.

My first assignment is due in Business Law on Wednesday night. It wasn’t too difficult of an assignment, in that it’s a paper, and I love papers. However, I took both days of this entire weekend to relax and sleep mostly. Writing that 1-2 page response and strategy to a case settlement scenario just wasn’t tickling my fancy. I finally sat down and wrote more than the title and heading of the paper this morning. I got it out of the way in the first two hours of being awake, yet I did little else today.

Yesterday was reserved for errands. My boyfriend made gourmet grilled cheeses with proscuitto and peppadew peppers with soup (BOGO soups at Whole Foods from Friday!), and I pretended to study my Business Law textbook while watching re-runs of Law & Order. Of course, it was for purposes of achieving a reference point. Yes?

At this moment, I can feel my words starting to spin in this blog, so I’m going to try and keep it brief. This week will bring me a lot of work and stress, at both work and school. I will also be at the Gluten Free Expo at the Monroeville Convention Center on Saturday, hosting a table as a brand ambassador for Triumph Dining. (I love their Dining Cards!) Not to mention, I’m still waiting on my blood test results for Celiac Disease. I also have about four loads of laundry to do, a bathroom, kitchen and all floors in the house to clean. Needless to say, I am overwhelmed. I thrive in this environment, or at least I have done so in the past. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this week!

I truly hope that this week goes smoother than my first week back to the classroom went. I also hope my Business Law class is as exciting as I think it will be. I enjoy law studies, and I am still watching re-runs of Law & Order as we speak. To marry my excitement for this semester with a recovered body from last semester would be ideal.

Let’s all hope I can pull this off again—I got straight A’s on my finals last semester, so it won’t be easy!

Love Your Job; Money Will Follow

Today, on Forbes.com, there was a story listing quotes from the women of Old Hollywood. Really, they weren’t just quotes, but words of wisdom about careers, success & money. Of course, I have some favorites, but the one that spoke most to me today was by Hedy Lamarr:

I know why most people never get rich. They put the money ahead of the job. If you just think of the job, the money will automatically follow. This never fails.

For me, this is a hopeful nugget of advice, a yellow brick road to my Oz, an end for my means. In May, my mom passed away due to complications with her battle with alcoholism. She is free. I couldn’t be more relieved for her freedom. But, as with many major life events, I was faced with an unsettling combination of feelings, including fear and a sense of being completely lost. I also faced the ice-cold truth that I was unhappy in my job and the career path to follow it.

I left my job – a very comfortable, salaried position from one of the biggest employers in the Pittsburgh area. I took a look at my options, deciding that I’d rather make minimum wage facing customers, doing something I enjoyed, than make a salary, continuing to work in a suffocating, cubicle, data processing position. I knew it would be tough, but I had done it in the past. I mean, while I was an undergraduate, I was working up to 3 or 4 jobs at  a time to make end’s meet while taking 18 credits per semester.

I could handle minimum wage while in grad school, right?

Wrong. See, when I was an undergrad, I hadn’t gotten used to making much more per hour than I made at those 3 to 4 odd jobs. Now, I was used to a salary. I was used to spending my money a certain way, living a certain lifestyle and worked my relationships around these truths. I had to re-learn how to budget, cook creatively and date my boyfriend cheaply. And, it hasn’t been easy.

Since I resigned from my salaried position, my Downtown cubicle with a view of the city, I have taken myself on a ride, trying to find my new path. Tonight, on New Years’ Eve before the first day of 2013, I can see that I’m finally coming into my new path. After various attempts to find my new path, including a stint working in retail again, being a full-time grad student, and then working as a barista, I find that my current path may not be a perfect fit, but it’s an excellent start.

Today, I have a full-time internship in marketing at a school, continue my studies in the part-time MBA program at University of Pittsburgh, and work one afternoon a weekend as a barista. It’s just enough to feel overwhelmed to scare me into accomplishing everything I need to on a daily basis. It’s diverse enough to keep my engaged. And, as always, I’m a jack-of-all-trades, wearing many colors on my colorful cloak.

Sounds great, right?

Well, unfortunately, I am barely making end’s meet. I’ve had to ask for financial help from our parents, and have had to depend on others to make it through each month. (Luckily, they can help and I am so thankful for them.) For the six days per week I work, the six hours of class time per week, the homework, and LIFE, I am not even making half of what I made at my last position. Gas money and groceries are sometimes provided by my piggy bank. My morning latte has been replaced with coffee made in my Mr. Coffee and a hot shower. I eat Cup of Noodles on the regular again for the first time since my dorm days. Instead of buying a refill for my toner, I’m digging through my old products for a suitable substitute. My boyfriend and I have changed our date night venues from some Pittsburgh favorites to Chipotle or places for which I’ve found coupons.

And you know what? I couldn’t be more thrilled.

This bump in the road is exactly what I needed to get back to me. I’ve always made these thrifty choices, and I’ve always been most inspired and driven by tough circumstances. It’s almost like I become stifled the second I get comfortable, or normal.

Ringing in 2013 is not just looking forward to what’s in store in the coming year for me, but it’s also slamming the door on what 2012 brought. I learned a lot about myself, my family and my future; I wouldn’t trade these lessons for the world. However, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see 2012 go. I’ve made many goals that I’ll share in coming posts, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into where I am today, on the Eve of the New Year. With that, I’m taking into account that I’m doing just what Ms. Lamarr suggested. I am focusing on the task at-hand, not the money. Let’s hope her story is true.

And if my fortune cookies from the past few months are any indication, I’d say it’s safe to say I have some green in my future–

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