Category Archives: Customer Service

Get Your Customers Back

Loyalty geofencing is helping dealerships like Pacifico Marple Ford Lincoln recapture car buyers by sending powerful, targeted, above-the-lock-screen messages to their smartphones.

March 2016, Auto Dealer Today – Cover Story
by John Possumato

One of the things I like the most about digital marketing for automotive retailers — specifically, mobile-focused digital marketing — is that it is truly a great equalizer. It is no longer about how much money you spend but how intelligently you spend it.

No better example exists than loyalty geofencing, also known as proximity marketing. You are now able to track every prospect, walk-in, phone up, Web chat, email or text lead from the moment they make first contact, then hit them with a killer “Come back today!” offer if they drive onto a competitor’s lot. Your message will appear above each car buyer’s “lock” screen, like any other alert, where it can’t be ignored.

All of this is made possible by the advancing capabilities and clout of Apple Wallet and Google Wallet, one of which is on virtually every smartphone in America. All you need to communicate with them is a strategically placed beacon and a targeted message.

Think about the possibilities. You can reach customers by placing beacons at car shows, oil change shops or the highway that runs by your store, and they don’t even have to install an app to see your messages. Better yet, it’s incredibly cost-effective, and it’s not too late to be an early adopter.

With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the technology and how it works.

The Final Destination

Loyalty geofencing is a new technology based on an old rule: The last dealer shopped usually wins the sale. Remember when dealers gave out half gallons of ice cream to new prospects to make sure they stopped at their store last? Well, you can accomplish the same thing with loyalty geofencing, and you don’t even need a freezer.

Instead, you can send an offer for free ice cream (or a hot dog, or a slice of pizza) at any local shop to any prospect in the form of an Apple Wallet or Google Wallet pass. Once they accept it — even if they never cash it in — the connection is made. You can now reach them anywhere, anytime, or whenever they get within range of your beacon.

How? By getting their permission, of course, which they grant when they accept your offer. The authorization link can be introduced in many different formats. It can be in print, with a QR code link or SMS keyword/short code callout (e.g. “Text PIZZA to 69696 for free pizza”), or through a digital link to an online landing page.

So you offer the free pizza and the recipient clicks on the link, sends the text message or scans the QR code, thus authorizing the offer to “pass” into her Apple Wallet or Google Wallet. She doesn’t have to give her name, just authorization for the pass, and the process is finished. If she takes her phone to the vendor you partnered with, the one-time offer is processed and the pass is executed. But even if she never makes it to the pizza parlor, you have already obtained her permission to contact her.

Get the Word Out

Once a prospect or customer has accepted your offer — and as long as they have permissions for contact set to “On,” which is typically the default setting — you now have many ways to get your next above-the-lock-screen message to them. Remarkably, although your offer message appears in the same form as a text message notification, it is not technically an SMS message and thus is not bound by the FCC’s texting regulations.

There are three ways to use loyalty geofencing to retain your customers:

  • Send a general offer message to everyone who has accepted a pass in their walle
  • Send a targeted offer whenever a prospect steps into a specific geofenced area. You pick the distance, from a few feet to a few miles, from a given point on the map. So the initial offer can be for a piece of pizza, and if the prospect visits another dealership, your second offer can be for a discount on a vehicle if they buy today
  • Send messages by beacons.

Traditional beacons are small devices, about the size of your hand, that cost about $35 apiece. They can send out any message offers you want, whenever you want, to a range of up to about 250 feet. The battery life is typically about two years.

New to the market are smaller beacons, about the size of a postage stamp. They only cost about $10, but their range is closer to 20 feet and the battery only lasts about a year. These are meant to be put on products or in specific store areas to broadcast information useful to those in the immediate vicinity.

With your beacons in place, it’s time to get your message out. Here’s how it works with different types of customers:

New leads: You work hard and spend a lot of money to get a new prospect to walk in, call, chat, text, email or even just visit your website. Some dealers will add an incentive, right at the start, to promote contests or gifts for those who take a test drive. So why not use Apple Wallet and Google Wallet to offer every visitor a free “no brainer” gift just for contacting you? They don’t even have to reveal their name to be added to your database. You can track and reach out to serial numbers.

Sold customers: Wallet passes are also useful for building loyalty programs. You can distribute service specials and coupons without the cost of postage or the ineffectiveness of email. Better yet, you can geofence your top 10 service competitors and have your service special reminder pop up, above the lock screen, whenever your customers visit them.

Service customers: Use a strategically placed beacon to broadcast a highly valued loyalty service discount or special that’s good only that day — remember, you can set an expiration date for any of these offers, at any time, be it in the next hour, day, week, month or year. You will reach literally every customer who has accepted one of your offers in the past and is driving by or in the area. This would not have been possible just a short time ago, when loyalty geofence and beacon technology required every prospect to download a customized app and allow location notification.

Showroom visitors: Of course, using beacons in and around the dealership can be an effective sales and service tool. Larger beacons can be used for simple tasks such as sending a special greeting to every customer when they pull in the lot or sending general information on specials going on that day. Smaller beacons can be placed in every vehicle in the showroom to kick out messages to customers in their orbits.

Event attendees: Beacons are portable, so you can broadcast your private message or offer to your customers who are at a stadium, in a mall or at a car show. When you really think about it, the possibilities are endless. Without the expense of erecting a booth or taking an ad out in the local magazine, you can send out a specialized show vehicle offer to all of your customers in a given crowd, without any expense. Is your banner up at the local high school football field? Reinforce it with a beacon and a smartphone notification. Is your shop low on appointments? Park a vehicle at a busy mall parking lot or shopping center close by with a beacon inside, sending out your service-special message to everyone within a few hundred feet.

The Beacons Are Coming, the Beacons Are Coming!

While the integration of beacons with Apple Wallet and Google Wallet is a relatively new innovation, the message is spreading fast, particularly in our industry. In the first half of 2015, for example, Ford Motor Co. announced a pilot program that uses beacons to broadcast information to customers and prospects who walk into participating dealerships.

As described in an industry publication interview back in June, Ford’s experts suggested that the beacons could be positioned inside vehicles, for instance, to broadcast information on specific features or special rebates or discount packages. Initially, they added, the campaign would require the use of a third-party app to operate, so a customer or prospect would have to have that app installed on their phone and have already “opted in” to proximity-based messages in order to receive Ford’s beacon message.

Another app-based, beacon-enabling product was recently introduced by AutoMotion, a popular customized app vendor. Once a prospect or customer downloads their dealer app and allows for push notifications, the dealer can send customized messages through beacons or when the app holder enters geotargeted, geofenced ­locations.

My own company has invested in loyalty geofencing technology geared specifically toward auto dealers, and larger digital marketing providers are getting into the beacon game as well. Last year, Verve Mobile acquired Fosbury Inc., an innovator in beacon and mobile wallet technology.

With beacon-triggering messaging alone expected to drive $44.4 billion in U.S. in-store sales next year, expect more and more marketers and dealers to jump on the beacon bandwagon. Considering the marketing power and clout of Apple Wallet and Google Wallet technology, it’s clear this is a “when,” rather than an “if,” situation. Loyalty geofencing will have a major effect on how new vehicles, used vehicles and service are sold.

These technologies present an exciting opportunity for those who get in the game early and master the new strategy and tactics before their competitors can catch up. As Michael Pacifico, dealer principal at Pacifico Marple Ford in Broomall, Pa., puts it, “As this loyalty geofencing technology rapidly advances, it’s best we start using it now to reap some of the early benefits, before it becomes a ‘must-have’ tactic.”

John F. Possumato is an attorney, the founder of Automotive Mobile Solutions and a nationally recognized mobile marketing expert. No part of this article is intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such.

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10 Steps to World-Class Customer Service

Because the business world is presently entrenched in a too-many-suppliers-chasing-too-few-spending-customers death spiral, there has been a renaissance in Business Media about Customer Service. This proves, in one fell swoop that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining. However, what is often overlooked (and what is certainly being overlooked at present) is that great customer service, like charity, begins at home.

word class customer service

The critical component in any Customer-centric strategy is your people, they are the point of delivery, where ‘the rubber meets the road’ as it were. So in order to make customers happy, we must first ensure our people are happy, demotivated employees make lousy brand ambassadors, highly motivated and enthused employees will provide a sustainable strategic edge (no mean feat in a world where differentials are eroded hourly). Consequently, leaders should make it their business to ensure that the troops are fed, watered and enthused.

So, assuming that we have good systems and processes in place for firing up our people, what about the customers themselves? Who are they, where are they? what do they like? what are they like? Do you have internal as well as external ones (we have written about the internal supply chain before, often hugely overlooked and a must-have component in any customer service strategy).

Much has been written about ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ and, whilst it has merits, it can be dangerous because it can lead companies to assume they know what the customer wants and assume the customer will be delighted when we exceed that expectation – this is not always the case. As a default, keep your promises, do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it and do it with the minimum of fuss and hassle to the customer – that will be enough.

So how to provide world-class customer service? Follow the 10 steps below and you will not be far off;

1. Take the customer seriously. He is always right, especially when he’s wrong! He is right about how he feels and he is right in that he can leave your premises and tell the world and his wife that you and your company suck, so – take the customer very seriously!

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If things have gone wrong say so. Do not lie (this is insulting and sends a message you do not want to send). It insults your customer’s intelligence. Customers understand that people make mistakes, they do not expect you to be perfect, they expect you to care when you screw up..

3. When things go wrong, do not despair, complaints are gifts. Customers are so used to flawless service now it is taken as standard. When things go wrong your responses may be the only chance you will get to show just how special you are. I will say again, A complaint is a gift – treat it as such.

4. Be available, if you cannot deal with someone immediately at least acknowledge them immediately. People do not mind waiting, what frustrates them is feeling ignored.

5. Respect – should be a given, often (in a depressingly large number of cases) isn’t.

6. Listen don’t talk. Do not assume you know what the customer wants and do not answer them from your own perspective. The solution that will work in the long-term is the solution the customer wants, not the one you do.

7. Know your stuff. It is not acceptable to be ignorant in front of a customer. All staff who are customer facing (and that includes those on telephones) must know their products and services and where and how to route a call and when (and this is so much better) to ‘own’ the problem themselves.

8. Quality and value – Both are very important, both are hugely subjective and both are determined in the customer’s brain. Taking the time and trouble to know the customer and to listen to him really pays off here. The world is full of companies giving ‘added-value-solutions’, many of them are giving added-cost-non-solutions since their interventions cost them money and if they haven’t taken the time to listen to the authentic voice of the customer, will almost always not be perceived as either quality or value because they do not address the specific problem the customer has in mind.

9. Treat as you would be treated. Courtesy, respect and appreciation are the bare minimum. Many customer service staff complain that customers do not respect them. Remember that respect, like love, has to be given away before it can be received. No customer will ever respect us until and unless we respect them first.

10. My word is my bond. Give staff the power and authority to deal with a customer’s problem. The ownership belongs with the person taking the call, they should be allowed to provide a fix. If the staff member always says “I’ll have to ask my boss” the customer will get frustrated and want to deal just with the boss. Have the faith and confidence in your staff and your products & services that you can trust them both and that you will stand behind them and back them. THEN you will have the basics for world-class customer-service and world class customers.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive



3 Benefits to Delivering a Good Customer Experience

Delivering a good Customer Experience is all the buzz lately. It’s discussed in all fields of business and is the topic of many a staff meeting and board of director’s meeting. But is there really a good understanding of what it is all about? The benefits of designing and crafting a good experience are vague to some teams. So, why, other than it seems to be the latest business “should do” are we striving for that good experience?

customer service and satisfaction

Increased Profits

Let’s face it, when you create an experience that your customer truly enjoys – they’ll pay you for it. Are you aware that 70% of your lost customers left ONLY because the experience provided by someone on your team was lacking? Someone treated them rudely, with indifference, or just merely pushed them through the system in your company? It has nothing to do with the product or service you provide or the price you charge.

Customers are willing to pay more for a product or service that they fully realize is not the best available simply because they know they will receive better treatment and customer service. Are you prepared to continue to lose customers and revenue dollars by continuing with business as normal?

Customer Engagement

Engaged customers are your best customers. These are the ones that view you and your business as partners and a resource for their needs. People do business with those that they know, like, and trust. By providing a good customer experience each and every time they do business with you, your customers will become more and more engaged with your business. They’ll know what to expect and be pleasantly impressed when they feel that you are actively working with them to solve their problems.

They’ll trust you. They’ll share their ideas with you and give you candid feedback as to what it will take to keep their business. They’ll share with you what they want to see you provide and what they really don’t care for in the way you do business. When you’ve gained the trust of your customers by working in their best interest, you’ve know taken the relationship to the next level.

Customer Loyalty

When you give your customers the memorable experience they are craving, they’ll return to you time and time again and you’ll become their sole resource for the product or service you provide. Today’s consumer wants to find a resource they can stay with over a long period of time. With the instant gratification gains in today’s fast moving world, they don’t want to waste time and energy shopping around. They want to find a business that values them, their business, and will do whatever it takes to gain their repeat business. As soon as today’s customer finds that, they will stay loyal for as long as that business is willing to create the experience that centers around them and works to earn their business time after time after time.

Customer loyalty is really another word for continued revenue stream. Suppose you are the owner of a local grocery store and I walk in your doors and spend $ 100 per week in your store. Do you see me as just a $100 customer, or the customer that could spend $ 400 per month, $ 5000 per year? Or, to take it to a reasonable long term loyalty example… If I live in the same neighborhood that is close to your store for 20 years, you stand to earn $ 5000 for each of those 20 years. Now I’m a $100,000 customer. If you treat me well, smile at me, show me where the products are that I need, engage in small talk while I’m making my purchase, and thank me for my business, chances are I’ll return to your store again.

It All Comes Full Circle

When you create that experience that is different than what your competition delivers, people notice. When you create that experience that is BETTER than what your competition delivers, customers will come back for more. They’ll pay you to treat them well and make them feel good. They’ll trust you and engage with your company and team. You won’t be viewed as a commodity provider, but as a partner with a relationship that is working to make the lives of your customers easier and better by solving their problems. They’ll reward you by not even thinking of going anywhere else and giving you their loyalty for as long as you are willing to work to keep it.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive



Five Ways to Wow Your Clients Every Time

When it comes to dealing with customers, keep these things in mind for repeat business: stay in touch, ask questions, choose “can do” terminology, deliver the goods, and follow up. We share the details of the how and why below.

Freelancers, whether they’re working as virtual assistants, writers, or transcribers for local law offices, are under constant pressure to please clients each and every time.

You know all too well how hungry the competition is. It’s one of the reasons you always try to go above and beyond with each client. The good news is that there are five ways you can wow your clients every time so they’ll never need to consider anyone but you.

Stay in Touch

You’d be surprised by just how much this means to clients. Not to mention how few competitors take this advice to heart. It’s easy to lose touch over the duration of long projects. A simple email note about the status of the project goes a long way towards helping your clients feel appreciated and preventing them from worrying about whether you’ll be able to deliver on time.

Ask Questions

More importantly, listen to the answers and use them in your work. Clients love it when you give them exactly what they want. Sometimes, that requires asking questions, refining, and narrowing.

Choose “Can Do” Terminology

When working with clients, there are many times when it’s not what you say that makes the difference, but how you say it. Learning to communicate effectively is a must when dealing with clients. However, learning to effectively communicate positively adds that extra little wow factor that keeps clients coming back for more. For instance, instead of telling your client that you can’t have a project finished until after 3 p.m. on Friday, try telling your clients that “I can have that project finished by 3 p.m. on Friday. Does that work for you?” That subtle change has a significant impact on the way clients view you. When you use words like can’t, they view you as someone who can’t get things done. When you change them to can, they see you as someone with a can-do attitude who will make things happen.

Deliver the Goods

In many cases, this is all it takes. However, you don’t want to merely deliver what the client asked for. You want to exceed your client’s expectations and you want to make sure that the client leaves the transaction believing he got more than his money’s worth.

Follow Up

The fortune is in the follow-up. You’ll hear this in almost any business you enter into. It’s not the one-time sell that becomes your bread and butter. It’s the people who keep coming back, month after month, to make use of the services you provide or the goods you sell. Follow up.

Make sure they’re happy with the product, service, etc. and double-check to ensure nothing is wrong, missing, or lost in translation. Then, ask if they need other products or services you offer and invite them to call on you again. This gives them the perfect opportunity to hire you again.

You don’t have to move mountains, make hard sells, or walk on burning coals to make customers happy. These five steps are relatively simple and yet they deliver happy customers time and time again. Try them out and see what a difference they make for your business.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they are visible on this page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive