Tag Archives: Customer Engagement

CETW Session #4 – A Match Made for Engagement: Digital Signage and Location-Based Mobile Marketing

These are my recap notes from the next-to-last session at CETW (yay!) I know Paul very well and am always interested to hear him talk about stuff. Asif is obviously very knowledgeable about mobile – it’s always refreshing to hear from people on the forefront of actually doing the work. And with something as new as mobile, his knowledge and experience are like gold. And Bradley Walker seems to be very knowledgeable about “engagement” overall. So, while the session might not have been the most appropriately named, I still found it interesting.

Speakers – Bradley Walker, Asif Khan, Paul Flanigan

Emerging trends session:

For example, some of what we’re seeing are:

  1. Screen to screen interaction – interact w/ screens that people bring with them to the screens around them.
  2. Remote controls for games – use the mobile phone to control games on large screens.


Consumers today are learning new behaviors. If large companies like Apple and HP, consumers are being trained that those mobile devices are able to control other screens.

Location-based marketing is about using the actual space around to deliver content/value to consumers.

Location-based services are just that – services. Foursquare, SCVNGR, Yelp.

Technology is the commodity, content is the asset.

Location-based marketing is powerful because it can make all the content fit YOU.

The size of the screen doesn’t have much impact on consumers. The message is what does.

Bradley Walker dropped a new idea on the group – “Context appropriate presence” – think about a black hole – high concentration of gravity at the center of the “hole”

Bradley Walker's "Context Appropriate Presence" Model

Model goes from the outside > in: Brand ID/mass communication > outdoor/storefront > display/in-store > customer/product intersection


CETW Session #3 – Hybrid Experiences – the Holy Grail for DOOH?

These are notes recapping session #3 that I’ve attended at CETW. Excellent session because of the panelists. Agency and big brand point-of-view that this conference has desperately needed. There are many issues that the proliferation of technology has presented us all with. Operational issues, platform issues, knowledge issues – this world of marketing & communications & providing brand experiences is new, it’s fragmented and it’s happening very quickly. So people are doing what they need to do, figuring it out as they go, putting good thinking around it, but there is no 1 solution yet. This was not a panel about “DOOH,” it was a panel on “omnichannel” experiences.

Speakers – Carrie Chitsey, CEO, 3Seventy, Jeremy Lockhorn, VP, Emerging Media, Razorfish, Michael Tobin, Macy’s

What is your perspective of the hybrid experience and what does it mean to you?

Tobin – there are a couple different lenses that I look through when thinking about “hybrid” experiences – digital experience, physical retail – what are the benefits of both?  Customers and employees are both audiences, too. Take the best of what’s happening online and the advantages of real-life, in-store and combining them.

Most of their early success has been enabling associates. Have not had a lot of success with self-service (customers).

Chitsey – we’re dealing w/ a different type of consumer today. The social ADD consumer. Phone is always w/ them, posting on FB good/bad/ugly about experiences, checking prices, etc.. Mobile bridges the gap between online and in-store. Provide instant reviews from peers, enabling instant rebates and coupons (time-sensitive), etc…

One strategy for one demo will not work. Location, as it relates to brick and mortar stores is really important.

Really have to think about what you’re trying to accomplish via mobile technology before you actually do something on mobile.

Lockhorn – up until 5-6 years ago, we were shackled to the PC. Suddenly, we have this entirely set of new tools that we can use. Seeing radical transformation of the web brought forth across all channels and industries. Tremendous opportunity to find better ways to engage consumers.

Hybrid experiences – mobile/image recognition, augmented reality

Questions around specific mobile technologies:

Tobin – Mobile is the bridge, but what do we owe them on the other side of that bridge? When we take it beyond the utility of the experience, what’s the magic? What do we owe them?

Lockhorn – re: voice activation – this represents a broad trend now, a move towards natural user interface. Remarkable how that expectation has proliferated. People are ignoring keyboard and mouse for touch and when it doesn’t have touch, people won’t interact with it.

Touch and gesture, much more engaging and interactive. Really intuitive.

Tobin – re: Google wallet – benefits of mobile wallets are profound, everything is connected to YOU. It’s not about no-more-carrying-around-credit-cards, it’s all about having the potential to make YOUR experience better over time.

Lockhorn – Mobile has ability to activate print and most everything (if not all) around us

Who do you think is doing great at bringing digital/physical worlds together?

Lockhorn (and the other 2) – part of me thinks that no one is doing it well. You know why? It’s hard. There is no fully integrated solution. You have to hack things together.

Chitsey – the biggest barrier is knowledge. Most people don’t know enough about mobile to do anything other than implement a campaign. Thinking strategically is hard because of these pockets of knowledge. How do you use data to do something else beyond the initial execution/campaign? The intellectual models have to change.

Other challenges?

Lockhorn – we’ve all heard about the funnel, right? Very linear process. Not that way anymore. We’ve all seen different “journey” models now. We have our own take on that. We haven’t figured it out, but got a lot of smart thinking behind it. The journey changes from category to category.

Other nuggets:

Chitsey – re: SMS still relevant and here to stay – interactive text messaging is here to stay. What will be gone soon will be this 1-way push messaging via text messaging. We don’t do anything without interactivity.

Tobin – put customer at the forefront of the experience and solution.

Chitsey – who is the new CMO? Look at IBM deck.

All of this technology is great, has lots of potential. But continue asking, especially after you do something with these new technologies – Now what?

CETW Keynote #2 – MetLife at the Meadowlands: The Next Level of Customer Engagement

These are recap notes from the Day 2 Keynote at CETW brought to us by MetLife, specifically in regards to the experience/engagement that they created at the new Jets/Giants stadium. Having been at the new Cowboys stadium and completely underwhelmed by the level of fan engagement through technology, I was impressed by what these guys set out to do from the beginning and what they’ve done up to this point. They’re continuing to push, too.

Speaker: Jeff Damon, VP MetLife

Much of their activation strategy came out of the desire to separate themselves from previous sponsors

They wanted to deliver an unexpected experience, especially considering what they might otherwise be “known for.”

Traditional sponsorships – signage play for brand exposure and awareness, hard to make your brand stand out

Meadowlands cornerstones – different for 3 primary reasons:

  1. MetLife would be 1 of only 5 sponsors, gave opportunity to stand out to fans
  2. Stadium home to 2 sports teams
  3. Ability to be exclusive brand presence on 3 levels in that humongous stadium


Their goals for this sponsorship:

  1. Enhance brand image
  2. Actively engage fans (note, “actively” – not just put up signs)
  3. Measure engagement
  4. Increase consideration
  5. Provide world-class hospitality


Central philosophy for this effort – make fans miss MetLife if we weren’t there

Recipe for fan engagement – environment + activity + technology

Prizing central to their activity activations – instead of extending all of the perks (tickets, souvenirs, etc..) to sr. executives, they want to give those back to the fans.

The key to all of the activations was technology. Engage and capture. (Partnered w/ Sapient Nitro.) Personal swipe cards (Countdown Cards), 62 touch screens throughout stadium, 34 hand-held tablets, some activities tied directly to MetLife’s FB page – all activity tied back to the cards, keeps history.

For the most part, their “signage” (they have exclusive control of the content that shows up on that screen – unlike most, if not all, of the partnerships that exist) is used to advertise their prizing campaign. This is good – they’re not advertising MetLife, per se, they’re advertising the experience that they’re giving to the fans.

They’re looking to utilize new technologies, too – for example, Kinect. Mobile app (PocketPass app. – their agency is Crispin, Porter)

Results – 78,00+ measured activations, 36,000+ countdown card sign-up, 32,000+ visits to their website

Lessons learned:

  1. Enhance gameday experience, don’t interrupt it
  2. Combination of activities and technology works to engage
  3. Teams value fan focus from sponsor


Room for improvement (what they’re learning from and going to improve):

  1. Simplify messages
  2. Don’t underestimate the tailgate
  3. If you build it (online), they won’t (necessarily) come


Questions from audience:

How do we know it impacted sales?

A: Overall a program trying to reach fans in new, different ways. There’s not a straight way to measure that. Measurement is designed to understand how people are engaged in the program.

How do you manage brand ID?

A: Needed to create a new brand – MetLife Central (for sports marketing).

Superbowl in 2014? Significant factor?

A: Challenge w/ Superbowl is an NFL property, not a Jets/Giants property. It’s going to be a challenge. Going to be a great media play for sure, but in terms of fan activation, don’t really know what they can do.

How challenging was it to manage the content that went across all of these screens?

A: Laugh. Very challenging. We had network challenges. Lots of lag.

Interesting note – the question of “ROI” has come up in every session the past two days and even more interesting, no one has given a direct answer. “Depends” is the consistent answer.

This answer always should match back to the objectives. What are the objectives of the initiative? Whatever those are, that’s what you should measure. And there are many ways to measure those things.

CETW Session #2 – Choreographing Consumer Touchpoints: Mapping the Path to Purchase

This is a recap of the 2nd session that I attended at CETW. It was a great session brought to us by Aramark. They really dove into the old & new “consumer” and the “journey” that a consumer takes when purchasing something. Obviously, the way that brands touch them along that journey is critical and complicated, particularly with the introduction of so many new channels and touchpoints (more on that below). The speakers were:

Danna Vetter, VP, Consumer Strategies, ARAMARK

George Yunis, Sr. Director, Creative Services, ARAMARK Strategic Assets

Going to talk to you guys today about communication & environment. And we’ll begin with the idea of the connected consumer – expectations are greater than they’ve ever been. Media consume, the way they consume it, etc..

The evolution: the traditional consumer > the online consumer > the connected consumer

The standard marketing funnel – a linear one – is not the case anymore, with today’s connected consumer. The way they make decisions has fundamentally changed. See the difference between that and McKenzey’s new decision journey:

Purchase funnel and consumer journey

It’s circular, based on decision stages, however, missing a couple of things (see Brian Solis below). Particularly, post-purchase experience, the most critical part of the journey, particularly with the open web, social media now.

Brian Solis – adds more dimension to the McKenzey model:

Brian Solis Journey

Formulation > Pre-Commerce > Commerce > Post-Commerce

Awareness > Attention > Trigger > Evaluation > Decision > Experience > Enjoy > Loyalty > Bond

There’s an influence loop that can’t be ignored

At Aramark, when mapping the path to purchase, we look at all of the Consumer Decision Stages (Active Evaluation, Moment of Purchase, Post Purchase)

At Aramark, we plan horizontally and vertically

If the experience that a consumer experiences online is different from the experience they get when they go into a store to buy the product (or somewhere else in the real world), there is a huge disconnect for the consumer. And they tell people about it.

Difference between channels & platforms:

Channels – platform based

Touchpoints – can be part of a channel or something entirely different (think offline at an event or something)

Everything maps back to Experience.

This is the new way – Integrated, Convergent, Connected Consumers

Photo credits: McKensey & Brian Solis

CETW Session #1 – Understanding the Landscape of Customer Engagement Technology

This post is a recap of the first session I attended at CETW. This panel included Brian Ardinger, David Weinfeld & Janet Webster

“The first stop on your journey here over the next 3 days.” (Truly a 101 class.)

Where do you start? Going to provide you a framework. Try to avoid getting into technology first.

The 4 keys to this framework:

  1. Customer
  2. Business
  3. Environment
  4. Technology



Their journey – map it, know what else they’ve consumed to get to that point, want consistent, forward-moving messages/value

Gotta understand customer first. Put yourself in their shoes. The last thing they’re going to be thinking about is seeing more ads. Try to understand what their needs are and then try to create an experience that fits those needs.

The thing about digital signage, kiosks, mobile – make things easier for customers and provide an innate value in a physical environment.

What are your customer’s expectations of you as a business?  How, really, will this improve their experience?

What’s available vs. what they’re looking for = what you deliver and how


Criteria – where’s content coming from, what else can I leverage, are there infrastructure assets, content assets, database assets? What do you want to do with this particular technology? What are your objectives? And how are you going measure? Need to understand the infrastructure required. How is this going to play into everything else I’ve got going on?

Google – fast & happy

Disconnected channels just don’t work for customers. So, is your business offering an integrated solution for your customers? (Wow. Some language/verbiage.)

There is no cookie cutter anecdote/advice we can give you for measuring success.

Question – can each of you address ROI?

Ardinger – it all depends on how you implement the solution. Webster – usually a company has their defined way of measuring ROI. Weinfeld – lots of data that you can capture, it’s all useful, but maybe not right away.


What are the experiences that you want to create and what is the environment they’re going to be in?

Traffic patterns. Lighting. Noise. Weather.

Sometimes that might lead to a decision to not deploy a solution. You’ve got to be able to adjust based on the environment. At all costs.

Market tests – important. Include them in your business plans. Do them as much as you can.


If you don’t address the first 3, you’re going to get the technology wrong.

It’s straight-forward getting the content to a display. There are so many different considerations that you must consider – indepth scheduling, having content react to data, management of sending content to multiple screens.

How are you going to maintain and support the technology? A lot of times the IT groups do not have the expertise for these solutions.

What about payment options? There are requirements out there. Have you taken them into consideration? Disability compliance, too.

Bringing it all together – hopefully, this provides you a framework as you venture out on the showroom floor.

Net – nice nuances on the differences, all the things to think about without being overwhelming

CETW Keynote #1 – Driving Customer Engagement through Digital Experiences

Note – this dude is a heavy hitter and brought to life a great way of thinking about this wide, open space that technology and our world has given to us. This is a post that captures many of his thoughts from his keynote.

Brought to us by, B. Joseph Pine, author of Experience Economy & other books – now Infinite Possibility

Progression of Economic Value – goods and services no longer enough, what consumers are looking for are experiences

Commodities > Goods > Services > Experiences

What we need now is innovation in experiences

New digital frontier that changes things today; need a tool to help us explore the digital frontier

The known universe – time, space, matter – in Future Perfect (Stan Davis), he says he wants to give new meaning to time, space and matter. This will require profound transformations in the way we think about these 3.

When you have matter, you have no-matter. Matter is material things, no-matter is about bits.

If there’s no-matter, then there’s no-space and no-time. No-space is virtual places. No-time is autonomous events. This now is a model about what is possible in today’s digital space. This is what he calls the Multiverse.

This is not a plea to abandon reality. But there is a migration going on. More and more, people are spending their time in virtual worlds through screens.

We can access virtuality through screens of any sorts. Virtuality is an experience that you have through any screen.

You can have virtuality without digital technology. Think about books. Just from words on paper, you can create a world in your mind where that is taking place.

Enchantment – close to Engagement

Reality and Virtuality

Augmented Reality – this is the quintessential reality/virtuality example. It augments what you’re experiencing in the real world by giving you information in a virtual environment, typically on your mobile phone. Using digital technology to enhance the real-world.

Showed a lot of examples of AR – Word Lens – real-time translation of your own language that you see, take a picture of. Pop notes – virtual post-it notes.

Think of AR as a virtual prosthetic.

Augmented Virtuality – interact with the virtual world from the real-world. Augmenting that virtual world. Some material substance that is controlling that environment.

Wii. Kinect.

Look into this company – Personal Space Technologies.

He also showed an example of Hallmarks cards that, to me, seem like Augmented Reality (not Virtuality??) He addressed this. So, what’s the difference? Primary experience is either in the real world (reality) or the digital world (virtuality). Interesting. I like it.

Alternate Reality – alternate view of what’s going on in the real-world. Use the world as your playground (ARG’s).

Alternate reality is no time.

World Without Oil – HBR article by the author. We can use Alternate Reality as the new Business Reality.

Physical Virtuality – design experience that becomes real. For example, take a digital picture of a physical space. Then, it turns into a 3D space. Now, use a tool to design how it should look. Then, you can make the furniture. Make it real based on the virtual experience that you have online. Your ideas can become real.

Shapeways. Autodesk. Techshop.

Warped Reality – taking you into the past. Reenactments like the Civil War Adventure Camp. But what about the future? Not reenactment, but preenactment.

Starizon (company) – you determine what experience you want to have happen in the future and then they create it.

Flow – look at this book. “Freedom from the tyranny of time.”

Mirrored Virtuality – real-world experience & time tied into virtual world & time. Anything you can track is an example of this. Look at MLB.com and you can see what’s going on in the game, real-time via your computer. Tweetdeck – no real world component, but it’s mirroring what’s going on real-time in the Twitteverse.

This is the Multiverse.

Some tips as you think about each one of these components in the Multiverse.

  1. Reality – shift marketing from advertising to marketing experiences.
  2. Augmented Reality – use smartphones to bring messages to customers when and where they most need it. Stop bothering them when they don’t need it.
  3. Alternate Reality – use the real-world as your playground for engagement.
  4. Warped Reality – get customers into the flow. Engagement them so much that all time goes away. Or help them envision their future.
  5. Virtual Reailty – shift your marketing dollars from advertisng to virtual marketing experiences.
  6. Augmented Virtuality – use customers own bodies to control what they experience from you.
  7. Physical Virtuality – mass customize your offerings – not just target your messages – to help your customers realize their dreams.
  8. Mirrored Virtuality – help your customers track what’s important to them in your offering category. And then give them a dashboard.


The best offerings are those that do not live within one of these categories.

On My Way to Engage at CETW

Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW) Logo

I’m headed to NYC today for Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW), which is being held at the Javits Center Wednesday & Thursday. In my opinion, it’s one of the best digital/interactive signage and emerging technology shows that no one knows about. The folks at CETW have done a great job of repositioning themselves and the conference to focus on engagement at the point of impact, across whatever channel/screen is available and utilized. They’ve moved it from being a show about the technology to being a show about what the technology can do.

I’m not speaking this year, but am looking forward to seeing colleagues in the industry who are speaking and exhibiting. I will be giving a few exhibit floor tours on Wednesday morning and then introducing a panel in the afternoon. Outside of that, I just really hope to soak in all of the great information and perspective being shared.

As I do at these things, you’ll get a lot of real-time “reporting” on the sessions I attend with a little bit of my own perspective sprinkled in. I’m really looking forward to it. I hope you enjoy it as much as me.

If you’re going to be at the show, drop me a line and let’s get together for a chat.

CETW Keynote #1 – Inside Target’s Multi-channel Strategy

Chris Borek from Target – “Bull’s-eye!  Keeping your eye on the Target – Successful Strategies of Customer Engagement Technologies”

Key ingredients for the theme of this show – Engagement & Technology

Engagement is all about emotion – want to spark something that enables  the consumer to “feel” – favorable attention

Experience is a little bit different – it’s a touchpoint, not a feeling, but the “type” of experience (good or bad) dictates what kind of emotion (engagement) will be felt

Target looks at Engagement as – “Helping our guests find things, learn about things, and ultimately buy things.”

Strategies for How Target Engages Guests:

  • Consider the environment – physical space
  • Challenge assumptions + Evolve
  • Go Where “She” (target audience) is…but don’t stalk her.  Mobile – enable shopping anywhere, anytime – they call mobile a “bring your own kiosk.”  Doing lots of things w/ mobile including coupons and an app.  Simplicity, functionality, utility are the keys to mobile success.  (Good!)  Social – She’s there, they’re there.  He talked about some of their learnings in the social space – same ol’, same ol’ – it’s an ongoing/never-ending conversation
  • Listen & Learn – What does your audience want?  “Video Game Learning Center” – answers some of the needs from their target audience (I just wonder how much “she” is using this??)  Her needs are all about easy and fun.  Is she intimidated by these touch screens?
  • Wow ‘em – 8.18.10 – held a Kaleidosopic Fashion Spectactular.  Looks very cool – used the side of a building to showcase models/new fashion line – made a big spectacle out of it in NYC.  Target gave away some branded binoculars – nice event.  Check it out:
  • Let her drive – Consumers are becoming more and more empowered to have personal experiences – IMO and I’ve talked often about this – this is going to be a conscious expectation of the consumer before too long.  My Merona – can piece together a fashion look/outfit that she might like (on FB page)  My Target Weekly – piece together your own circular based on the regular, weekly Target circular (on FB page) – can filter deals you want and then the coupons.  And it keeps a history so it grows over time.
  • Leverage that media!
  • Collaborate + Stay true to your core

Nut – Target understands their target (couldn’t help that one) audience and their story.  These 2 key components enable them to tell their story across multiple platforms in a compelling way.  They are really pushing the limits in trying to understand all of the channels in today’s landscape and to their credit, using them, even if it’s experimentation.

Word of the session – Cheap Chic

Friday’s 4-1-1, Looking Ahead to CETW Style

Yup, doing Friday’s 4-1-1 on Saturday for the first time.  And hopefully the last.  The week was just a bear for me and I finally found myself at 10:00 last night weighing whether or not to push on through the blog post or call it a night and get some rest.  I chose rest.  So, here we are, early Saturday morning trying to play catch up, which is the feeling I’ve had all week.  I was preparing for a huge pitch (which happened on Thursday), trying to tie up a couple of large initiatives that we’ve been working on for a few months, and participating in the office-wide move (we basically “flipped” wings on our floor), and that’s just work.  2 of the 3 kids at home came down with strep throat this week and on top of that, just generally, they’re about to drive my wife crazy (the boys are in their destructo mode, treating the house and each other like coloring books, punching bags, and jungle gyms.)  But enough of all that.  Let’s get into this week’s 4-1-1.  I wrote yesterday about the session I’m participating in at CETW next week, but I failed to talk about what else is going on at the conference.  I’m looking forward to the entire conference.  It looks to be a good one.  So, today’s 4-1-1 is all about looking ahead to what I’m excited to see next week.

1.  Increasing the Number of Customer Touch Points – I’m not familiar with Vernon Slack (speaker) or AOpen America (his company), but the description of his session has sold me.  The first two lines – “Customers want to be engaged, a part of the action. They want to “experience” your business.” Yes, Vernon they do.  We’re talking the same language, man.  I will be there to hear what you have to say.  Although this is focused specifically on “in-store,” I’m sure the things he’ll share enable consumers the ability to “experience” your brand/business outside of those 4 walls of the store.  We’ll see.  (Session is Wednesday morning at 11.)

2.  Lessons Learned From Health & Beauty Augmented Reality Programs – I believe Augmented Reality is a powerful enabling technology that allows “out of home” to become an engagement vehicle, not just an awareness vehicle.  This session looks to focus on the health & beauty industry only, but this niche of an industry is smart for using this type of technology.  Here, in this industry, Augmented Reality actually serves a purpose (which I think is the holy grail for AR.  It can be really cool, but it can also be really useful and solve business problems), and at the same time, provides a rich, engaging consumer experience.  (Session is Wednesday morning at 11:45.)

3.  Who Moved My Customer?  Engaging & Empowering the New Digital Consumer – first, Nanonation is top notch, so I suspect anything they talk about will be enlightening.  Second, this session is aligned with what I’ve been talking about for awhile – engaging consumers, not just talking to them.  Consumers expectations are increasing – we see this in social media, we’re starting to see this in mobile, and the “out of home” world is staring this fact right in the face. I believe that consumers already expect brands to make them aware via any channel, digital or not.  When they walk into a store, they expect a monitor with moving images and messages.  When they’re walking down the street, they expect a sign that moves.  I believe their expectation, sooner rather than later, is for those “screens” to give them the ability to engage with a brand on a personal level.  I look forward to hearing another POV on this in this session.  (Session is Thursday morning at 11:15.)

4.  Driving Customer Experience:  Using Digital Signage to Engage Customers and Increase Repeat Business – one of the last sessions of the conference looks to be one of my favorite.  Again, the session description speaks right to my heart – “The greatest potential of “Digital Signage and Interactive New Media” is the opportunity to facilitate a one-on-one relationship with each of your customers.” This session looks to be more geared to CRM as a whole, not just focused on “out of home.”  If it is what it sounds like, I completely agree with the concept (touching a consumer “out of home” is only one touchpoint in their relationship with the brand) and again, look forward to hearing another’s POV on what I believe to be true, too.

“Uh-huh” – overall, I just get a feel from the sessions that it’s all about using this channel as an engagement channel, not an awareness channel.  There are multiple mobile sessions (my buddy, David Weinfeld is moderating one – Integrating Mobile into your Customer Engagement Solutions – Wednesday at 2), multiple multi-channel sessions, multiple strategy sessions, and the two keynotes are specifically geared around “engagement.”

“Duh” – yes, this is a no-duh – the conference is now called, “Customer Engagement Technology World,” but it’s one thing to talk about it and position yourself in one way, it’s another to actually do it.  I felt, earlier in the year, that this conference recognized the need to showcase how we can use this channel as an engagement channel and not just as an awareness channel.  I was excited that they even changed the name of their conference, which before didn’t say what it seems like they want to say.

So there you have it.  I, no doubt, left out some good sessions.  I’m going to try to fill my day – both days – with these sessions.  There are plenty and it will be easy to fill my day.  If you’re around and want to chat, let me know.  I’d love to.

Brands can Learn What Not to Do from Hertz

I just got back from a much needed weeklong vacation with my wife, without our kids.  It was as we all want vacations to be – quiet, peaceful, relaxing, not driven by time or schedules, and without work.  I came across a few things that I wanted to blog about while I was out there, but I resisted and stayed unplugged (pretty much).    

There were many moments for us that defined our experience, the overwhelming majority of which were positive.  This was the first time we’d been to the east coast of Florida – from St. Augustine to West Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale, the beaches were awesome, the towns were all nice, each with a different personality, and by and large, the people were accommodating and friendly.  But unfortunately, the one moment that was the recurring thorn in our side was brought to us by Hertz.

This is certainly not the forum to go into everything that made that experience bad, but suffice it to say, they really didn’t seem to care about us, two kidless adults, eager to enjoy a relaxing vacation together.  And whether they liked it or not, they were part of our experience.  From this point on though, they will no longer be part of any Cearley-vacation experience. 

See, the thing about companies in the travel and leisure industry is that they actually play a part in people’s well-being.  Some companies understand this to the point of creating mission and culture around it.  Their purpose, and everything they do, is to make life easier for travelers.  But on the other hand, there are some companies who seem to feel content as just another part in the commodity game, and could care less about making things easier.  Hertz, unfortunately, came across this way.

Nevermind the hours that my wife and I spent on the phone or in front of actual people (at least 10) without a single answer or commitment of ownership, the attitude, above anything else, was extremely disappointing.  We repeatedly got an “it’s not my problem” attitude rather than a “what can I do to make your Hertz experience better” attitude.  An “I’m sorry” attitude would have even worked, but that was nowhere to be found.  I even asked one of their employees, “so, it doesn’t matter what we feel or think about this fiasco?” And he said, “no, not really.  There’s nothing I can do.”

I know companies are big and they have business to attend to, but just as I advise every one of our clients – if you don’t show people that you care, in turn, they won’t care.  And if the whole point to any money-making business is to build loyalty, not caring is a heavy weight that can lead to a slow death. 

Everyone is connected now.  Consumers to brands.  Consumers to consumers.  Words spread.  Service (or lack thereof) is amplified.  This hyper-connected world requires a higher level of consistency in philosophy, particularly as it relates to service.  Many companies, Hertz included, have many different channels that they monitor and field comments and complaints.  These different channels, regardless of the size of the company, are entry points into brand experiences.  These are all opportunities to let that philosophy shine and in the case where that philosophy is not best-in-class-service-oriented, it comes through in everything (and everyone).  What does your brand experience say about your philosophy?

I think this is such an important lesson, certainly for us in the business of providing services.  Is your brand experience and philosophy lined up?  Does your brand embody and foster an “it’s not my problem” attitude or an “I’m going to do whatever it takes (even within reason)” attitude?  Does your organization breathe this?  Are the “faces” of your brand restricted or empowered to serve customers? 

To me it all adds up to being the difference between just another place I can buy a commodity and the place I can trust with my well-being.  On the one week of the year that I can step out of my house and have a vacation.  It’s an important experience.