Customer Service

Aviva wins on customer service

I was on the ‘phone to Aviva earlier.

Talking to their Life Insurance team about a policy.

They were very helpful.

“Is there anything else they could help me with?” they ask.

Well, as it happens, yes.

I’ve been trying to renew my Home insurance for a couple of days now, can I do that too.

“Well it’s a different team,” they say, “Can we give you the number?”.

“No. That’s alright,” I reply, “I have the number. It’s just that each time I call there’s a horrendous queue and I get diverted and have to hang up to take care of something else”.

“Oh, ok,” they say, “we’ll email them and get them to call you“.

AND THEY DID!

Only if you have worked with, or worked for, Aviva, will you understand how truly remarkable this is.

I have done both.

Five years ago, this kind of inter-business co-operation – something that seems simple common-sense to customers – could never have happened.

The systems, procedures and protocols simply wouldn’t allow it.

I know lots of the people who have been battling to put customer service at the heart of Aviva’s commercial strategy.

Fighting off the number crunchers who see it as a cost, rather than a driver of commercial value.

And slowly and painfully making the argument that joined-up business is the only way to even have a chance of driving customer loyalty (and value).

And this tiny, apparently insignificant event is, I believe, important evidence that their efforts are beginning to work.

Because not only did they communicate beyond question that they realised I’m the kind of person who disproportionately values their own time.

But they also got across the message that they were each proud, empowered individuals with the capability of making exceptions and working the system for their customer.

I need hardly tell you that I renewed straightaway.

And I’ve spent some of the minutes I would have spent listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, writing this blog of praise to my former colleagues and their persistence.

By the way… I still can’t see my Life Policy on the online portal.

But I’m prepared to believe they have the power to fix that too!

 

 

 

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Advertising, Behaviour Change, Marketing Strategy, Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking in Five Simple Steps

Every ad agency has a gimmick. At the Gate, ours is “Predatory Thinking”.

Originally the brainchild of the great Murray Chick, it has developed into something of a way of life for our Chairman, Dave Trott, over the last few years.

He’s even written a rather good book about it, a masterclass in out-thinking the competition: http://goo.gl/7PXDVQ.

Unfortunately, like many a good messiah, Dave tends to talk in parables.

It makes him an enormously compelling speaker, and everything makes tremendous sense whilst he’s actually talking.

But afterwards, it can lead to some head-scratching amongst the ordinary mortals, when it comes to applying the teaching to their day-to-day lives.

So we’ve boiled it all down to five key principles, to help our people and our clients ask themselves the right questions and get to quicker answers.

I hope you like them, Dave does.

More importantly, I hope you find them useful in out-thinking your competitors.

And if you ever need a helping hand…

Predatory Thinking2

Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking3

Predatory Thinking4

Predatory Thinking5

 

 

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Advertising, Marketing Strategy

Are you being a good parent to your brand?

I’m continually perplexed by some brand owners’ attitudes to their assets.

They starve them of support. They teach them no new tricks. They give them nothing to say. And they still expect them to deliver.

They seem to think they can survive on air.

The same people who will agonise about whether to spend thousands of pounds privately educating their children (or spend even more thousands of pounds moving to a house within the catchment area of a good ‘free’ school) seem to feel clever if they can squeeze performance out of their brands, without preparing them for the competitive environment in which they have to live.

It’s a bit like sending your kids to school with no breakfast and no books, and giving yourself a pat on the back.

Tomorrow you could see if they succeed in getting to school with no shoes?

I’ve noticed that successful people with bright kids don’t say, “Oh well, little Ruby’s so clever, we don’t need to bother educating her”.

“I know! Let’s see if she can still win the junior poetry prize, after not eating for a week?”

Instead they teach her to swim and play chess. They drive her to ballet classes and buy her a pony. All so she can out-compete the other overachieving super-kids she’s up against.

Even the strongest need food to remain strong. Even the most innovative need to move forward to stay relevant. Even the luckiest need an edge to make sure they stay in front.

So if you’re in the brand business, why not ask yourself if you’re doing as much for your brand, as your brand is doing for you?

Are you treating it like your future and giving it every chance to succeed in a world that’s getting more and more competitive? Are you helping it talk about relevant things and dress in a way that doesn’t get it poked and laughed at?

Or are you starving it and beating it and expecting it to work harder and harder, in the same crushed velveteen flares that you bought it in the 1970s?

 

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Advertising, Behavioural Economics, Marketing Strategy

Seek familiarity, not fame

Everyone who comes in through our door wants a “viral” these days.

I explain as patiently as I can that “full-service” doesn’t include that sort of thing anymore and we’ve all had our jabs in any case.

They then look a bit confused until I put them out of their misery.

“Oh!” I say, “you mean a punchy little film created for next-to-no-money that suddenly hits the webby-big-time and gets shared by countless millions of chortling geeks, all for free?”

“That’s it!” they say, brightening visibly.

I guess it’s just a function of our preoccupation with celebrity and the parallel attraction of something for nothing.

But there’s usually a problem.

Scan the list of most shared videos online and count how many have commercial/branded origins?

Now take that list and count how many have succeeded in a way that is consistent with their brand idea and character and doesn’t contain a moonwalking Shetland pony.

(Although that was quite a good one.)

There are some, but we’re entering Lotto-style percentage territory.

What you can’t check is the same picture looked at the other way round.

How many truly appalling, cringe-worthy attempts have been made to leap this particular existential chasm, and how many mangled examples of ill-conceived, out of character nonsense now languish at the bottom of the trench, their abject failure indelibly tattooed on them for all to see: “143 views”.

More extraordinary still are those organisations that seem to think that they can swap their successful strategy of carefully deploying professionally crafted integrated marketing communications assets for an approach where you essentially stick everything on red and hope you hit the jackpot.

My point goes further, though, than showing how slim your chances of digital glory are.

Because even when it works, it doesn’t do you as much good as you might imagine. Successful brand marketing is about achieving everyday familiarity not about getting famous.

If the difference between these two things seems mostly semantic to you, consider the following:

Branded products are trusted over non-branded products. This is a fact. Branded products are more considered by potential customers than non-branded products. They also command higher price points and (usually) margins too. These things are also facts.

But why is this?

Marketing people, who seek constantly to impose rational order on the behavioural chaos that surrounds them, will usually argue that it’s because they have come to stand for something on which the customer can rely.

This is true. But it’s not as true as they imagine.

Research we conducted into a very undifferentiated, apparently price-driven market threw up some rather astonishing results.

Before I explain these results I need to emphasise a crucial difference between two commonly used marketing research measures: spontaneous brand awareness and prompted brand awareness.

Spontaneous brand awareness is measured by asking a question like:

“You’re thirsty and fancy a (non-alcoholic) drink. Which brands come to mind most easily?”

Prompted brand awareness is measured by asking a question like:

“Have you heard of Coca-cola?”

(Sorry if you already know this.)

We discovered that brand consideration was almost perfectly correlated with spontaneous brand awareness.

The correlation between brand trust and spontaneous brand awareness was also extremely high, in excess of 0.8.

Familiarity

We were a bit shocked. But we shouldn’t have been.

Actually the recent research into behavioural science confirms the power of familiarity. It seems our brains are hard wired to prefer the things they recognise and to fear unfamiliar things, people and concepts.

If you want a really shocking demonstration of how these effects influence all our judgements and prejudices, visit yourmorals.org and take a few of their online tests.

When you get into the science itself, it’s all part of the way in which our brain conserves energy, using data from previous experiences rather than recalculating anew each time.

We make choices that have worked for us in the past. When we have no experience, we search for instances of other people (as like us as possible) having positive experiences and we use that as a proxy.

“500 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong”, we say to ourselves and the job is done.

Another effect (called the “availability heuristic” in Behavioural Economic Science) means that we also tend to overestimate the prevalence of things we are familiar with and/or have experienced recently.

“Is this phenomenon widespread?” we ask ourselves. Off scurries the brain, searching for examples. If it can find two or three examples easily, it concludes the phenomenon is indeed widespread. If no examples come to mind, it concludes the opposite.

Here’s the next thing.

There is practically no correlation between prompted brand awareness and either brand consideration or brand trust.

So being famous (‘have you heard of) doesn’t get you trusted or considered. But being familiar (‘which brands can you think of now’) does.

I’ve used data from an undifferentiated market (where products are considered quite similar to each other) because that’s where this effect is most marked.

The more differentiated your product is within your particular category, the less important everyday familiarity will be, relative to other brand dimensions. But don’t underestimate its power, even in these instances.

Until you are talking about real fashion brands and high-end luxury purchases, familiarity remains the single strongest driver of both consideration and trust.

Despite this, an amazing number of marketing people insist on using prompted brand awareness as their key measure of success even though they can link it to no commercial effect.

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Behavioural Economics, Marketing Strategy, Persuasion

When did you stop beating your customers?

I don’t for a moment imagine that the clever and experienced marketing people employed by Britain’s banks have failed to keep up with the latest thinking in behavioural economics. I know quite a few of them and they’re all super sharp cookies.

So I’m really scratching my swede as to why they’re all spending so much money reminding us how shabbily they’ve behaved for the last umpteen years.

 “We’ve changed,” they’re all shouting.

“We’re on your side now,” they’re all bleating.

“We’ll make things simple for you,” they’re all promising.

Virgin Money – who I never really lumped in with the “really-evils” anyway – are promising me “Banking you can see through”.

“I’ve always been able to see through it, matey,” I mutter to myself.

Every penny they spend reminds me about the problem. Every ad they issue makes me question (again) their motives.

And – as is usual in financial services – they’re all doing and saying the same things, reaching for the same solutions, exploiting the same insights, gleaned from the same customers, in the same focus groups, through the same research companies.

And they’re reminding me that banks are all still the same: still shit and still wishing they weren’t.

If you can’t be bothered to read “Thinking Fast & Slow”, I’ll give you something easier to absorb:

  1. Telling people you’ve changed just reminds them what a monster you used to be (people in advertising used to have a name for this phenomenon called, “When did you stop beating your wife?”)
  2. If you must advertise, find something you’re actually good at (perhaps even a little better at than others?) and try and make that thing desirable to the people you’re trying to attract (You may not succeed with everyone, but at least they won’t hate you for standing up for what you do best and trying to have a go)
  3. If there is literally nothing even potentially desirable about the things you do and the people you are, keep your head down, rather than flushing even more of your customers’ and your shareholders’ money down the bog.

As my hero Tom Lehrer once said, “I feel if a person can’t communicate, the very least they can do is to shut up”.

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Marketing Strategy

Everyone’s spending again. Time to prepare for cuts.

Everyone’s spending again. The IPA Bellwether report, released last week, shows the highest rise for the last six years. Good news for the economy, if the past is anything to go by, and good news for marketing people.

So let’s not repeat the mistake we made after the last two recessions.

Now’s the time to start preparing for the next round of cuts.

Marketing people are positive, optimistic souls who believe in opportunity and demand-led growth. Which puts us at a horrible disadvantage when it comes to justifying our spending plans in front of our über-left-brained colleagues in finance. They don’t always think in terms of opportunity. They think in terms of risk.

“If I switch this off?” they say, “who and/or what will die?”

Since marketing investment is to brands, what food is to bodies, the answer is usually, “No one and Nothing…. yet!”

So they cut the food supply off and the body gradually starts getting thinner.  But no one notices. Not to begin with. Then people in the business do start noticing and what’s more, they think – like dieting – that it’s a good thing. “We’re fitter.. and leaner”,  they say. If you’re working with wankers they add, “…and meaner!”

And all the time the marketing people are getting smarter about deploying funds, becoming more efficient, trying to pretend the brand isn’t starving to death.

And the famine gets worse and goes on longer, not just because the economy is still crap. But because the brand isn’t generating any demand any longer.

Remember Joseph and his trendy coat? He has this dream about 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. So he spends the first seven years storing food for the second. And boy does it help them out later on.

I’m not suggesting you hoard your newly acquired budget. They’ll just have it back next quarter, we all know that.

I’m suggesting we use the good times (you know, the one’s that we’re hoping are just around the corner) to invest in robust, accountant-proof data to show how your marketing spend builds your brand, how increased brand strength builds demand and how increased demand leads to better retention and lower new-busineses acquisition costs.

Then you can tell them who and what will die, if they switch the machine off. And you’ll be able to tell them when it’ll happen.

And you can start calling lack of marketing investment “Brand related risk” and tracking it over time.

That’s when they’ll begin to start listening.

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