Friday, July 23, 2010

When Small Doesn't Mean Small

I just finished reading a recap about the Ad Age Small Agency Conference held in New Orleans recently. One of the discussions that permeated the conference was “how to replace the term small.” Everyone seemed in agreement that the word small gave the connotation that the agency did not have the ability to provide the client with all the services needed to do a first class job of communication. In some cases this might be true, but in many cases, the “small” agency is faster, more creative, more affordable, and just as darn good as the mega-agencies at providing services for clients.

Imagery is small. We are also what we term “virtual.” We don’t have fancy offices that increase our overhead. We can provide all the marketing services needed by clients – research, strategic planning, all the advertising and public relations services including creative and media, web and social media services, and a few other things that our larger competitors don’t touch, like custom training programs, meeting facilitation and custom secret shopper programs. The client has access to what she or he needs, when she or he needs it, without having to pay for the overhead of "all those people under the same roof."

How can we do it? We have a network of exceptional professionals that we bring in when the client needs the services.

Are we free? No. Are we cheap? No. We’re cost effective. Let’s face it, folks, no one gives her time and talent away. Do we get results? Yes. And we have clients that will tell you that.

Our clients are small to medium sized businesses and non-profits. The small business and non-profit clients used to think they couldn't afford an agency. We convinced them that they could and been partners in their growth.

We might be small in numbers "under the same roof," but we’re mighty in creativity, experience, skills, and abilities, and we know how to get the job done excellently. Small can be a good thing, even in the agency business.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How about a little e-mail courtesy...PLEASE?

Face it...e-mail is a way of life, whether it's personal or business. When you think about it, a necessity really. How did you feel when your ISP was down and you couldn't get into your Inbox. Arrrgh! "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Which leads me to ranting about my new pet peeve - some people just don't understand e-mail etiquette. Some things that get me all "het up":

1. Forwarding received e-mail 150,000 times
OK, that's an exaggerated number, but you know what I mean. What makes you think I have the time to scroll down through all the forwards to get to the cheesy message you sent me, believing it's the first time I've ever read it?
Reality check #1: I read this back in 2004, thank you very much. Use a mail stripper progam. Many free downloads on the web, some are easy to use.
2. Not using Bcc: function
Yo dawg, no way am I interested in your e-mail address list. Bcc: means "blind carbon copy" and incoming mail appears to be sent to only one person from sender.
3. Spell check
No, not spell checker (it is not your friend). Did you hear about Mr. Webster's tome, the dictionary?
4. Something seems to good to be true, but you forward it anyway
Reality check #2: AOL, Amazon, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not going to send you a gazillion dollars for forwarding to everyone in your address book. Before you forward that preposterous, unbelieveable claim, check it out on Snopes or some other fact/fiction URL.
5. PowerPoint e-mails with the worst music in the world
Sorry, Charlie, but even if the pictures are beautiful, if the music is smarmy, I'm outta there! 'Nuff said.
"What did I do to p*ss you off this time, baby?" ~Lyle Lovett, Here I Am

Sure you have you own pet peeves, sent them to me to share here.

Meanwhile, check out 101 E-mail Etiquette Tips ( for suggestions to up your courtey quotient.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There is Hope for Customer Service


Today I got a response to my letter to the president of JC Penney.

A very nice person called to assure me that JC Penney took customer service seriously and that my glasses would not only be replaced, but my warranty on the lenses would be good for a year after I get the replacements and they were also sending me a gift card. She also assured me that she would follow up and give me a call when the glasses were ready for me to pick up.

Frankly, I don't need any gift cards, although I won't turn it down. I am, however, very happy to see that the company responds to complaints and wants to keep customers satisfied. The sad part of all this is that it took a letter to the president of the company to get action, which means that they need to do some employee training!

I know the economy isn't good, and usually training is one of the things that companies scratch from the budget under such circumstances, but management should think twice about NOT training employees in customer service skills. The lady who contacted me on behalf of JC Penney said that one call to a regional manager from the local employees could have solved the problem quickly. I'm sure the local employees would have been happy to get me off their backs with a phone call, but it didn't happen.

Marketers... make sure your company is doing its best in customer service and protect your "customer lifetime value!" All the advertising dollars in the world can't un-do the damage that results from bad customer service. And be happy if customers complain. You'll have the chance to fix the problem. If they just walk off and don't complain, you don't have a clue that there is a problem.

I'm waiting for JC Penney to follow through.

Monday, April 12, 2010

AT&T and Verizon are Wising Up!

In the email news I received today from Advertising Age, the online publication reports that AT&T is dropping its whiny response to Verizon's "apps and maps" campaign for a more positive campaign concept. I'm not sure what "Rethink Possible" means, but at least AT&T seems to have gotten the message that spitting contests don't do much for the average consumer.

The article also says that Verizon is expected to shift gears to a more positive campaign message.

This is a good thing! Maybe the two communications giants will give us some solid reasons to buy their brands instead of acting like kids having a playground spat.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Letter to the CEO of #139 on the Fortune 500...

Well folks, after no attempts by the J.C. Penney personnel to keep this long time customer and card holder happy, I finally had it today.

I've called and called about my lost glasses and all I get is the answering machine at the J.C. Penney optical department in Mobile. I've left messages asking for the department manager to call me back about my glasses. No call backs! No nothing!

So I just finished a letter to Mr. Myron Ullman, President and CEO. It will go in tomorrow's mail and should be in Plano, Texas by Thursday or Friday. Perhaps Mr. Ullman will get the picture. If not, I'll know that the problem is company-wide and that J.C. Penney is too fixated on door busters and one day sales to care about customer lifetime value, which can be computed in dollars and cents. Just ask Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart knows its customer's value in terms of sales and profit dollars over years of buying, and teaches its employees how much bad service can cost the company.

Obviously J.C. Penney hasn't taught its employees as well as Wal-Mart. That could be why the company must have a "sale" every weekend.

Nor have the J.C. Penney employees been monitoring the web for any "bad news." If they had, they might have answered my blog quickly, like did. "Abe" gets an A+ in "net savvy", and has redeemed itself on the customer service front! I will return to the site for purchases in the future. Not so with J.C. Penney.

J.C. Penney, you just failed the marketing 101 midterm. I hope you do better on your final.

Marketers, keep an eye on your company's customer service and take action to protect that "customer lifetime value!" Train employees in the art of customer retention. It's as important as any of the "p's" in the marketing cycle!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Funeral Services for Customer Service on Hold...

I've cancelled the funeral service for customer service in respect to our online book order problem. I got several emails from and from the book seller who shipped the book. And the book arrived within 4 days. So we have no quarrel with Abebooks. I even got a comment on the blog posting from Abebooks. I can appreciate the fact that the book site and seller made things right. The book seller does need to make sure that his email response is correct from now on, though. It is a bit disconcerting when you pay for expedited shipping and get an email saying that your package is coming via Uncle Sam's pony express.

I haven't cancelled the funeral for J.C. Penney's customer service, though. It's been almost two weeks since the local store said I would get a new pair of glasses to replace my now long lost pair. I haven't heard a word since my last call to them. And I'm keeping notes on dates, times and what has been said.

You would think that a company of J.C. Penney's size would respond at least as fast as our online book buddies at Abebooks. Not so. And I guess they don't have anyone who monitors the Internet for things that are being said about the company. I'm not sure how large or small Abebooks is, but I'm sure they don't have the corporate hiring power of J.C. Penney, and yet they obviously monitor the blogs on the Internet.

Good for! Bad for J.C. Penney! Perhaps I should offer them our services in public relations and customer service training.

Thanks for restoring my faith in techies, (especially Scott)! Perhaps you need to offer your services to J.C. Penney, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Customer Service Died an Unnatural Death!

No wonder my blood pressure is high. I've been caught in a customer service nightmare with several companies. Companies are not paying attention to what employees are doing to ruin reputations and chase off customers! Shame on you, marketing professionals! Customer retention is of utmost importance!

Incident number 1: J.C. Penney Optical - last year I had my eyes checked and bought new glasses at J.C. Penney Optical. This was the second time I decided to use them. The first time, I has a very good customer experience and bought glasses without pressure to pay a fortune for things I didn't want or need. This time, the buying experience was good again.

However, I paid for insurance on my lenses so that I could have them replaced if they got scratched or damage, so when that happened around the first of this year, I took them back and asked to have them either repaired or replaced. The women who were on duty were trying to deal with lots of customers. It was obvious they needed more help. I dutifully waited until I could get service. The sales person was nice, but distracted. She said she would send the glasses back to the lab and call me when the lab had an answer about what they could do.

Several weeks later, I hadn't heard anything about my glasses, so I called. The person who answered my call had no idea what I was talking about and asked me to call back when the optical department manager was in. I kept calling back. The optical department manager wasn't in each time I called. I finally got her. She said she would check on my glasses and call me back. Some time later, she called back and said the glasses should be shipped to the Mobile store within that week. I called back several times and finally was told the glasses had come in. I went to get them on a Friday. The frames weren't the same. The glasses didn't have Transition lenses. The glasses made my vision blurry. But the sales person assured me they were my glasses and that I should go home and wear them for a few days. I went home, tried again, got sick to my stomach, and took the glasses back the very next day to complain. They weren't my glasses. The girl who took them said she would leave a message with the manager. I wrote the message - explaining the mistake. Since then, I have called, gone to the store and done everything in my power to get them to either give me the right glasses or give me my money back. The last time I was in, I was told by the clerk that I had to get permission to get a refund on my glasses. She was too busy talking on the phone to someone and laughing it up to treat my problem with any concern.

My next step... I think I'll write to the CEO of J.C. Penney and complain. But first, I'll blog.

Incident number 2: - I ordered a text book I needed for teaching my Marketing Management Class at Spring Hill. I ordered expedited shipping (2-4 days) and was charged about three or four dollars more for it ($7.99 to be exact). I just got notice from Abebooks and from "The Book Place" that the order had shipped, but the shipping notice said it was shipped standard mail (4 - 10 days). So I emailed them back and said I had paid for expedited shipping. I got a reply that made no sense. "We are sorry you haven't received your book yet. If..." Nothing about my payment for expedited shipping, or graciously saying they would refund the difference. That's the last time I'll shop on and I'll be sure NOT to recommend the site to any students, professors, peers, friends... you get the picture.

I guess companies don't bother to explain to employees that in lean economic times, the employee's job and the future of the company may very well rest on customer satisfaction and customer retention. And the employees obviously don't give a hoot about customer satisfaction once the customer has been fleeced out of the bucks.

So we must hold a funeral for customer service. It's dead. Though I don't think it's buried yet.

March 12th - Addendum: The latest from and The Book Place... I received an email saying that the notification template that was used was wrong and that my order had been shipped per my payment and request for expedited shipping. So we have closed the book on this one, I hope and I'll be expecting to get the book soon. One thing I can say about the customer service for these two providers, they do answer email quickly. And that's a good sign! Maybe customer service isn't totally dead. Maybe it can be revived.

(Imagery Marketing Consultants can produce and facilitate custom customer service training programs. Contact Imagery for help in training your employees how to retain customers through excellent service.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

AT&T and Verizon: C'mon, boys! Your playground arguments are getting on teacher's nerves!

Okay. So we have "apps and maps" and we have "maps and slaps." Can anyone tell me why we should believe either of these two companies' advertising arguments?

I looked at the two maps that Verizon uses in its advertising and had to laugh. From just looking at the coverage comparison, I really doubted the truth of the commercial! It was just a bit too far fetched to think that AT& T had that many holes in its coverage. I'm an AT&T user and I call all over the United States and get calls from all over the United States. Yes, there are areas where call strength might not be the best, but I've also talked to Verizon customers who have the same problem.

And AT&T, just because I'm your customer doesn't mean I like your pouty little comeback to Verizon's maps. Your commercials and spokesperson sound like a whiney baby. And I dislike whiney babies in business!

In fact, I don't like either company's advertising strategy! I like the "Now Network" strategy that Sprint is using. Sprint isn't talking bad about the competition. They are talking good about themselves, and throwing in a little humor to grab my attention.

I thought the objective of advertising was to tout the benefits of your product to the consumer, not give your competition face time on your dime. Especially the mean way these two companies are going at it. The commercials aren't even funny! And the differentiation of any wireless brand is questionable these days. The only difference I can see is customer service, and I'm convinced AT&T still has the best. That's the reason I'm sticking with them.

Progresso abandoned its attacks on Campbell's in favor of its current ad strategy, the "string-and-can phone inquiries" which are extremely humorous, get my attention and promote the benefits of the Progresso brand and products. I've actually started buying some Progresso soups, which is a big change since I've always been a "Campbell's soup kid."

So AT&T and Verizon, stop acting like children and tell me what's great about your product in an interesting way!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 With A Bang! Robertson vs. Christianity?

Well, 2009 went fast! And updating the old Phlog wasn't possible with everything that was going on... helping clients through the economic wasteland, teaching future communications and marketing professionals how to think strategically, taking care of family and pet, and trying to keep the financial wheels on the track for a small Lutheran congregation.

But excuses aside! We're in 2010 and I still have some of the same obligations. However, a discussion about Pat Robertson's comments on the earthquake that devastated Haiti took place at our church this morning and gave me good reason to sharpen up my "pencil" and blog.

Pat Robertson does not speak for the entire Christian church on earth! As a Christian, I resent what he said about "God's punishment of Haiti" and I'm sure there are a majority of Christians out there who feel the same. In fact, I found one comment on the New York Times web site that said what I feel. God is really at work in the charity of nations, organizations and people who are contributing to the relief efforts to help the people of Haiti.

God is also at work in the miracles that have taken place there. I have a friend who has family in Haiti. He reported the other day that the members of his family who are still on the island were safe, pulled from the rubble alive, and who thanked God for it. He believes that this is a miracle. So do I. His entire U.S. family has been praying since the earthquake hit, and they believe in the power of prayer and point to this "miracle" as proof.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that a new-born child, just 15 days old, was pulled from the rubble alive, having survived "nearly half her life without food or water amid the ruins." (Wall St. Journal, January 20, 2010, 1:41 p.m.; by Christopher Rhoads & Michael M. Phillips;

What a miracle!

These "miracles" are evidence of God at work in a world that men have messed up!

Pat Robertson... well, God bless him; maybe some day he'll learn that the Christian God is a God of mercy. That's what makes the Christian God different from all others.