Didn’t Know You Could Shop Furniture Like That?

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Today’s world of savvy consumers expect a lot from online retailers; whether you are pure-play online or store plus online, you cannot ignore the power of the modern consumer, as a retailer the viability of your existence is at the mercy their clicks – they can make you or break you.

Although brick and mortar stores still account for 90% of the revenue created, there is a clear shift in the purchasing habits of shoppers, they are migrating online. A survey by UK’s webloyalty shows that overall online purchasing has increased by 27,6 percentage points over the past ten years[1].

Ecommerce evolution

When you think of furniture you don’t immediately think online shopping. But maybe you should. Just maybe furniture today is where shoes were 10 years ago. Back then everyone was saying that you couldn’t buy shoes online, that you had to try them on first. And along came Zappos and ASOS and changed all of that!

Today online sale of furniture account for 8% of the total industry sales in the US and it’s forecast to grow 45% by the time we hit 2015.

But how exactly do you buy furniture online? I wouldn’t trust buying a new sofa from just seeing a picture on a website! Well, some pretty nifty creative gadget are now available courtesy a few businesses with enough foresight to see that this is what tomorrow’s shopper wants.

I want to share two of them with you.

The first one is called LoveMyHome and before I get on with how awesome they are, I want to have full disclosure and let you know that I work with LoveMyHome, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome 🙂

LoveMyHome supply the furniture industry with interactive product visualization tools that help you and me when we shop furniture online. First up is the issue of viewing products properly, that means knowing what a product looks like from all angles. Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t buy an armchair that I didn’t know what looked like from the back. That’s where 3D product visualization comes into play – it allows you to spin the furniture around, zoom in and out and change things like fabric or material if the furniture comes in different colours.

LoveMyHome 3D Room Designer
LoveMyHome 3D Room Designer

Second issue when buying furniture is will it fit in my house. This problem has always existed, whether you shop online or in store. I often get misled when it comes to the size of things when I’m in a furniture store because the store space is so huge it makes the furniture appear smaller than it really is.

Then when you receive delivery of the new King size bed, you realize why they call it King!

So LoveMyHome created a super user friendly 3D Room Designer that allows you to draw your room or house to scale and then place furniture in it to see if it will fit. It is fun to use and you can jump into your own design and take a walk in your own virtual home. It resembles a computer game when you are in this mode, and it is a powerful experience to see your home and the new furniture online like this.

A great way to really understand what something will look like before you buy it. The furniture store equivalent to the fitting room!

Check it out for yourself www.lovemyhome.net. I think all furniture retailers should have this feature as part of their website.

The second one is SnapShop. This little fella is really cool if you just quickly want to get an idea of what something would look like in your home. It works as an augmented reality app and can be downloaded for free from the Itunes store.

The SnapShop app
The SnapShop app

You simply take a picture of the area you want to furnish and then place items on top of the picture. There is access to a number of stores directly from within the app which makes it really easy to find new stuff for your home. You can scale items so they look correct in the picture. For me the big issue with this app is that you don’t actually know when you have hit the right size. Not so cool if you buy something you believe will fit because you have scaled it to fit, but in reality it looks like you have purchased a child’s furniture.

Still it is a very cool tool if you just quickly want to see if something would go with the decor of your home. Check it out here  www.snapshopinc.com

 

 


[1] Experian White Paper: “The changing face of UK retail in today’s multi-channel world” page 8

[2] http://www.webloyalty.co.uk/images/webloyalty-conlumino-home-retail-research.pdf page 19 viewed Feb. 26th 2013

10 Reasons Content Marketing is Excellent Customer Service

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The world seems to be in love with content marketing, and for good reason.

Your Ignored Ad Here

We are bombarded daily with messages of all sorts; we are so overwhelmed we do everything we can to filter the noise and only let the most important through. From no-call lists to spam filters, we use every weapon available to stay sane in this meteor shower of selly sell (a term borrowed from Chris Brogan; I love that he always puts it plain and clear when he is in a selly sell frame of mind).

No wonder traditional marketing methods are proving less and less effective.

That’s where content marketing is different. Instead of shouting out your sales pitch in the vain hope someone will hear it, you draw people to you with interesting, informative and helpful content.

But wait – being interesting, informative and helpful, that sounds an awful lot like qualities used in customer service?

Yes, that is exactly what it is and that is the essence of why content marketing makes excellent customer service.

Let me give you 10 reasons:

#1 When you write blog posts that highlights relevant news from your industry you become like a mini newspaper, your customers know that they can count on you to keep them up to date.

#2 Supplying the internet with lots of fresh good content will help your SEO, this in turn will help your customers find you.

#3 Allowing your customers to comment on blog posts shows them that you really really care about them, you want to know what they think and be in a direct dialogue with them.

#4 Providing Q & A’s gives your customers a way to quickly and easily solve minor problems.

#5 When you incorporate social media into your business you give your customers easy access to your company.

#6 Providing how-to-do’s gives your customers the tools they need to get moving.

#7 Offer lots of video content; 65% of all people are visual learners meaning they understand something much better through illustrative content than by reading. So help them understand better.

#8 Give your customers free ebooks; they can keep them and use them later for when they need to be reminded of how to do something.

#9 Intrigue customers with interesting blog posts that will make them feel like they just discovered something great.

#10 Stay in touch with your customers through newsletters; it’s always nice to know you have a friend nearby…

I often hear people refer to “the good ol’ days” when you would get good customer service because you knew who you were dealing with, not like now a days when companies are just big corporations who seem to not care one iota about you.

Well bring back “the good ol’ days” with content marketing. Put a human face on your business, get to know your customers and build long-lasting relationships with them. In the end the efforts you put into this will be rewarded; your customers will be happier, they will recommend you, you will grow and you will feel great because you are doing all of this by being interesting, informative and helpful.

 

How I Accidentally Ended Up Buying A Miserable Cow

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cow

Have you ever been in a situation where your emotions got the better of you and all logic and good reasoning seemed to disappear into thin air? Well, that’s what happened the day I became the owner of a miserable cow.

It all began with a farmer placing his cow right outside my house – at the time I lived in Barbados where it is not uncommon for cows to graze in the middle of residential neighborhoods. The farmer didn’t take very good care of this cow, didn’t give her water nor feed. She was very skinny and I felt terrible when ever I looked at her.

So one day I decided to don my cow-saving cape and confront the farmer. He offered a gazillion excuses for not taking proper care of his cow, none of them good enough for me, so as you do I offered to buy the cow. I really hadn’t thought it through, actually hadn’t thought of it at all and didn’t expect him to immediately jump at the chance to get rid of his cow. Talk about an emotionally driven impulse buy!

I took on my new role as cow owner very serious and read books on how to take care of a cow. I bought her proper feed, although the woman at the farmers market kept asking me if I wasn’t sure I had a horse, apparently not many women keep cows! I made sure she had plenty of water and a placed a very attractive umbrella in the field so she could enjoy some shade. And I named her Rose.

Rose the cow
Rose enjoying the cool shade

Rose quickly came to associate me with food, which resulted in her literally giving chase every single time she saw me. Now if you have ever been chased by an 800 lb. cow you know it can be quite scary. The more Rose regained her strength the more unruly she became. When I attempted to move her to a spot with fresh grass she would take off leaving me scrambling trying to hold on to the rope while she galloped through the neighborhood. She would often fall in love with some other cow or bull – what do I know, and muh at the top of her lungs at all hours of the night driving everyone insane with her endless serenades.

Boy did I have a serious case of buyer’s remorse!

Had I known what exactly I was buying into that day and had I not let my emotions run the game, I would most certainly not have become the Rose’s owner. So my point of telling you all of this is; as the seller make sure you give your customers ALL relevant information on your products or you can be sure they won’t shop with you again. And as the buyer keep your cool, don’t let impulses or emotions control your purchases or you might just end up with a miserable cow.

In the end Rose collided with a motorbike on one of her rampages, the police was called and I mysteriously disappeared, Rose was taken away the 5-0 never to be seen again. Although I felt kinda bad I was also immensely relieved to no longer be Rose’s owner. Oh, and nothing happened to the man on the motorbike.

Please The ROPO And They’ll Be Back

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Ok I know that pun was a bit corny – couldn’t help myself.

robo

So what’s ROPO? Why, glad you asked. ROPO short for Research Online Shop Offline, sort of a cousin of Showrooming, and it is what 90% of people do when it comes to purchasing high involvement goods such as consumer electronics and home furnishings. Think about it – didn’t you as well last time you purchased something of significant value?

And we don’t just research in one place, in fact almost half of us use 3 or more channels when conducting our research; smartphone, website, tablet, store etc. All this research has resulted in a purchasing journey that is twice as long today than it was 10 years ago. In 2002 it took us 5.2 days to reach a decision, today the number is 10.3 – and 5.5 of those days are spent looking online. Just when we thought technology was making life faster it turns out to be doing just the opposite. Go figure!

Although the vast majority of purchases still take place in a physical store, there is a clear trend towards less brick & mortar sales and more online sales. Besides up to 80% of consumers indicate that the information they gather during their online research has a direct impact on the purchasing decisions they end up making, regardless of whether the purchase takes place in a store or online.

This speaks volumes for the need to engage consumers while online. If you are a retailer you better make sure your site is experienced as a destination for great content that will inspire, entice and inform your visitors.

Here are 5 tips to for making better online content:

1. – Make it engaging. Capture the imagination of the customer by offering them creative solutions.

2. – Make it relevant. Consumers will leave a site in a heartbeat if it does not answer their questions.

3. – Make it personal. Offer unique solutions that are tailored to the individual.

4. – Make it mobile. Cater to all channels. Anytime anywhere is the mantra for the modern shopper.

5. – Make it complete. Offer solutions to every step of the purchasing journey; from browsing to researching to purchasing.

 

Source: http://www.webloyalty.co.uk/images/webloyalty-conlumino-home-retail-research.pdf

Fake It Till You Become It – Works In Customer Service As Well

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This is one of my all time favorite TEDtalks. Amy Cuddy talking about how your body language shapes who you are.

The idea that by practicing being powerful we can actually become powerful. That we have a tremendous impact on the events that shape our lives and our everyday experiences by the non-verbal messages we send. Events such as dealing with a difficult customer or having to give a pitch, like a sales pitch or any other social threat situation that we may experience.

The term powerful is not to be understood as having success, money, power or anything of that nature, but rather being assertive, confident and comfortable – and who wouldn’t like to be that?

When you deal with customers on a daily basis, you often find yourself in these unequal power situations. As a salesperson or customer service person you will likely have experienced feeling powerless in front of an a complaining customer. Unfortunately being powerless is a self-reinforcing mechanism; the balance of power tips and it becomes difficult to restore as the customer is more likely to act in an aggressive manner because the more you shrink the more they powerful they become and vice versa.

This imbalance does not do much to promote constructive communication and unfortunately it can result in a lowering of overall service performance as you will fear a similar situation next time you deal with a difficult customer and therefore start out in a defensive and low power stance.  

Now I am not advocating that you should put your hands on your hips and give back as good as you get, but you can improve on the situation by being more powerful yourself. By exuding power you become more confident and people trust confidence as it gives us a sense of security. Your customer will evaluate you much more positively and the likelihood of a successful outcome of the situation will have increased dramatically.

So my advise to everyone is – take two minutes out of your day every day and practice Amy’s high power poses and walk out there and fake til you become it!

Tips on How To Make Customer Service Work Using Social Media

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Many businesses have a presence in social media with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a host of other options available. Social media is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word and show lots of great content. It is also a great way for consumers to interact with a company and reach out in times of customer service needs.

Departments pie chart

And it is exactly on the customer service side of the equation that the film often breaks. Social media is usually the responsibility of the marketing and/or and public relations departments, and they do a fantastic job when it comes to transmitting corporate messages and showing off all sorts of “can’t-live-without” features and latest models. It seems that some companies forget that good customer service is out-of-this-world fantastic marketing and PR. Adding customer service to the mix will complete the circle and add tremendous value to the overall customer experience.

Unfortunately I see an awful lot of poor customer service on the various walls around the net. Unanswered queries and messages that get answered by someone who either doesn’t work in customer service or shouldn’t be working in customer service, they often carry a  passive-aggressive tone with a hint of defensive self-righteousness. They make my toes curl – it looks ever so bad.

Seeing such walls makes me wonder what kind of customer service I can expect from these companies who seem to prioritize pushing sales messages so much that they don’t have time to stop and pay proper attention to existing customers. I have actually chosen not to buy from companies because of how poorly they have demonstrated their ability to handle after-sale service issues on social networks. Surely I’m not the only one…

So here are some tips on how to it right.

The first tip is really not a tip at all. It’s a requirement. Answer ALL customer queries. There really is no middle ground here. You answer the phone when it rings right? This is no different, except here everyone can see when you choose to ignore the call.

There is a lot discussion going on as to whether 1 hour or 24 hours is the correct amount of time to answer customer queries. I’d say it really depends on your industry, but in general the sooner the better. Customers love immediate attention; makes them feel valued and a timely reply can easily be an ice-breaker if the query is of a difficult nature.

twitter-customer-service1

When a customer reaches out, the first and most important thing you must do is to acknowledge them and show them empathy. I see companies using phrases like”Oh no, we understand your frustration and will….” or “Dear XXX please accept our sincere apologies we will immediately….” These types of responses are great, they really show that you care about the customer  and appreciate their predicament. One thing to keep in mind though is to not use the same phrase in response to all queries, a whole wall full of “Oh no..” looks like the responses are insincere and rehearsed, like a broken record.

The second thing to do is to demonstrate action. Let the customer know what you intend to do about the situation. And please do not say that “there is really nothing you can do” or “Facebook is not the right place to…” Yes, I have actually seen responses such as these, and there is ALWAYS something you can do and Facebook is an obvious place to demonstrate how much you care about your customers. So tell them that you will personally see to some action taking place or ask them to contact you personally with more details.

The last bit of advise I’ll give for now, is to NEVER reply to a customer query if you are in a bad mood or feeling irritable. In that situation a later reply is likely better than what you would be delivering immediately. When we communicate in writing, we only have the actual words to interpret, there is no tone of voice or body language to guide and help us, so you have to be acutely aware of your choice of words and using positive and supportive phrases is just a lot easier when you are in a good mood.

I came across a great example of how you can turn a very uncomfortable and difficult situation 180 degrees by giving the customer the answers they are looking for. It was a furniture company with a very unhappy customer who had received a sofa in less than prime condition, the reply to the customer was a detailed explanation that with complete transparency and honesty told how and why the situation had occurred, apologized for the unfortunate events, offered a solution and was signed in person and with a personal e.mail address attached.

Not many companies would dare to expose faults as openly as this company did, but judging from the subsequent comments I think it was the right thing to do. Admitting when you are wrong is a character trait that earns respect, not just for people but for businesses too.

How can you make Showrooming work for you

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??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Basically Showrooming means that consumers browse physical stores in order to gather information only to turn around and purchase the products online. This practice is not likely to become a favorite with retailers anytime soon, as it in 33% of the cases[1] means a lost sale for the brick and mortar store. 90% of smartphone owners who used their mobile while in a store to research products were looking at somebody else’s site. That’s not good news for the pure brick and mortar operations as they have very limited means to fight it. As for multichannel retailers, they better do everything in their power to make sure the consumer is encouraged to surf their site.

If you can’t beat it – join it!

According to an IBM study, Showrooming drives 50% of online sales[2] perhaps not surprising considering one in five American consumers actively practice Showrooming.

The main reason consumers showroom is to compare prices between retailers, so the obvious answer to combat Showrooming would be to be the cheapest. This approach however is gravely flawed, as that would catapult every retailer into the reddest of red oceans, leaving everyone on the brink of extinction.

A much better approach would be to recognize that not all consumers are created equal. Not everyone is driven purely on price. Offering your customers an engaging and satisfying shopping experience will go a long way to retain them in your store. Good old fashion customer service would be a good place to start. A study done by Zendesk shows that the two main factors in creating loyal customers are quality and service, price only makes it to third place[3].

But since 20% of your customers will likely reach for their mobiles while in store anyway, the second place to focus attention is on the online experience you present them with .

Ready – Set – Engage!

Engagement is the keyword here; make the experience interesting and useful. Personalize the journey as much as possible by allowing customers to interact with your brand, make it suit their specific needs and let them share their findings with the world through social media. The more time a consumer spends online with your brand, the more engaged they become and the more likely they are to close the sale with you.

In addition the transition between the online and offline store should be seamless and coherent; the offering, look and feel should be equal across all channels, leaving the customer with the feeling that it is one integrated experience. The use of responsive design when building websites, where the pages will adapt automatically to the medium being used to view them, will go a long way in creating a consistent impression when using a digital medium.

Use data driven marketing and take advantage of what technology makes possible, offer free wi-fi in store and include smart sensors and QR codes offering personally tailored specials and information in real time. A global survey done by Cisco reveal that 75% of consumers want a personalized experience, once they have opted in[4].

By making it more advantageous to be on your site while in store, you actually make Showrooming work for you.

Build customer service on effective communication

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Good customer service is founded on the exchange of information; messages being send out, received, de-coded and acted upon. Needless to say it is very important that the messages we send out are de-coded in the way we intended them to, but more often than we like to admit our messages become misunderstood. To our great bewilderment what we thought was ever so cleverly communicated turns into a tangle of confusion, contention and more questions than answers.

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Human communication is a complicated business it involves a complex mixture of verbal and non-verbal cues such as; tone of voice, the words being used, facial expressions, gestures, posture, appearance and the list goes on and on. Ever since Albert Mehrabian published his 7-38-55 rule, which basically states that we base our approval of a person on 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% on the spoken word, the importance of non-verbal communication has received much attention and discussion. Whatever the distribution really is one thing is for sure; the majority of the cues we use to understand a message are not actually related to the spoken word, but are instead based upon physical observations. If you work in customer service you will know that being liked by your customer is crucially important for the outcome of any given situation.    

The root of the problem lies in the emotions we build into the messages we send by our physical behavior. Being able to understand the messages from the receivers perspective can alleviate potentially negative and contentious situations. It’s a case of “putting the shoe on the other foot” and imagine how you would feel as the receiver.

Here are a few tips on non-verbal communication that will help resolve differences, build trust and foster an environment where cooperation can flourish.

Face-to-face communication

When dealing with a customer face to face the most important part of your body to be aware of is, well, your face. And in particularly your eyes and the area around them. Raise your eyebrows to the top of your forehead and you will look like a deer caught in the headlights. Relax your eyebrows and you will look like you don’t give a damn. Practice what your facial expressions look like by standing in front of a mirror and be acutely aware of them when dealing with your customers.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Keep eye contact with the person in front of you, that will tell them that you hear them and are doing everything you can to understand them. But be careful not to stare at them, that could make you appear somewhat intimidating, and watch out for knitted eyebrows that read “I don’t understand a word you are saying, but you are giving me a headache”.

If you can smile with your eyes, well that is half the battle won right there. People who master this seem friendly, inviting, caring and attentive – all things that makes people relax and open up.

Your mouth is the second most important feature. A lot of people will look you in the eye while they talk, but quite often look at your mouth when you talk. Tight lips and clenched jaws will certainly make you look annoyed and angry. Pout and you look like an obstinate teenager.

It will probably not come as a surprise that I recommend smiling. Smiling is just one of the most attractive things we humans can do, smiling makes us feel good and it is infectious; in a difficult situation it can turn animosity into cooperation.

But smiling also has it’s limitations, as much as a genuine smile can bridge a gab between people, so can a fake smile widen the gab beyond repair. Do not attach hooks to your cheeks and pull them up behind your ears, apart from looking freakish you will also look condescending, and that will get anyone’s back up against the wall.

Moving on down the body we come to the arms. Try to avoid putting your hands in the pockets, especially the back-pockets, it looks a bit too casual like you are not taking the situation serious. And never cross your arms in front of you, by doing that you communicate that you are closed and will not listen. Instead keep your arms relaxed down the sides or hold them in a loose grip in front of you or behind you. When you talk use your hands to illustrate that you welcome the dialogue by holding your arms out and open up your hands.

Eyes, mouth and arms are the three main components to master when communicating non-verbally. Top them off with a good posture; straight back and chin up, and you are well on your way to making your customers feel appreciated and valued and that will help them de-code your messages in the way you intended them to.

In a later post I will give tips on effective customer service in non face-to-face situations, such as through social media or over the phone.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

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I start this blog about customer service on the day they announced in the news that my native country Denmark, in a survey done by the World Economic Forum, is ranked as the number 117th nation when it comes to locals friendliness towards visitors.

Tourists are left to their own devices when visiting Denmark
Tourists are left to their own devices when visiting Denmark – no helpful Danes around!

http://cphpost.dk/international/denmark-less-attractive-tourist-destination

Ouch that hurt!

I didn’t expect such a paltry ranking, but I have to admit I am not surprised that we are no where near the top.

After 15 years in a country whose main source of income is tourism, it has been alarmingly clear to me ever since I returned to Denmark almost 3 years ago, that we have serious issues when it comes to our service levels.

In my other home country, Barbados, they often discuss whether or not their service level is up to par; they are all too aware that as a tourist destination, every day they must sell their country in order to prosper. Not to say they don’t have room for improvements as well, but at least they acknowledge the severity of the issue.

Is the lack of friendliness in Denmark because we think tourism isn’t that vital to us?

But it is. As a small nation we are deeply dependent on the rest of the world in order to maintain our high standard of living. It isn’t just tourists who experience the low levels of friendliness and lack of common courtesy. Businesses feel it too. We want and need to trade with the rest of the world, so shouldn’t we start giving our visitors are warm and heartfelt welcome, -who knows they might return to do business with us!

Why is it so difficult to be friendly?

I had a funny experience a while ago. I was catching the bus one cold and windy Copenhagen morning. There was a ton of people at the bus stop, everyone with5490020-bus their shoulders drawn up around their ears and no one speaking a word. As the bus stops everyone pushes to get on board, not giving the bus driver the slightest acknowledgement. When we are finally all cramped like sardines in a can, the bus driver closes the doors. Pulls the speaker and announces with a strong Indian accent: “500 people just entered my bus and only 8 said good morning. That is simply not good enough. I refuse to drive anywhere until everyone has said good morning” And so true, he didn’t move an inch until everyone on the bus like a bunch of naughty kids being scolded sounded out in unison “Good Morning”

That bus driver made my day and hopefully also made a bus full of Danes aware that a little bit of friendliness goes a long way.