Be Inviting

They Call it the Hawthorne Effect

They Call it the Hawthorne Effect

In the 1930's some studies were held at the Western Electric production facility outside Chicago in a place called Hawthorne. The intent of the study was simple enough: invite a handful of employees to participate in various working condition tests to determine which conditions were most conducive to increased production. Those conditions that "tested" best were then to be rolled out to the general production floor. One of things they tested was brighter lights. Production went up. Then they tested dimmer lights. Production went up. In fact, no matter what they tested, production went up!

Dr. Paul Marsden, from the London School of Economics, brought my attention to the study and the results which have come to be known as the "Hawthorne Effect." He explains it like this in the preview chapter of his book Connected Marketing:

By singling out a small group of employees to participate in an exclusive trial, participants felt valued, special and important. The special attention they received gratified their ego and created a positive emotional bond with what they were trialing. The practical upshot was that the research trials effectively transformed the research participants into advocates for whatever it was they were trialing.

What does the Hawthorne Effect have to do with growing your business? Creating advocates, or promoters, or evangelists is the first step to harnessing the power of word-of-mouth marketing. The researchers at Hawthorne created advocates by singling out a small, exclusive group, giving them special attention, and asking for their opinion. It is possible to do the same with your product or service.

Case in point: text book publishers. Whether they know it or not, text book publishers have been using the Hawthorne Effect to sell more text books for years. The smart publishers pro-actively select instructors with large adoptions and stellar reputations to review forthcoming text books. Sure, they get good feedback to improve the text, but they also realize that professors that review texts are much more likely to adopt them. I know this because I worked with a unique company called Content Connections that helps publishers do exactly that. Content Connections has developed online tools and processes that facilitate the review process and helps authors and publishers harness the power of the Hawthorne Effect.

Put the power of the Hawthorne Effect to work for your business today. Choose some customers, make them feel special, and ask for their feedback on new products or services. Not only will you get good feedback, you'll get advocates and all those they go on to tell.

Need some help? Contact us at Zeryn.

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Customer Surveys Gone Bad

Customer Surveys Gone Bad

Asking customers for feedback is a great way to get them more engaged and find opportunities to improve any business. Unfortunately, as with anything good, if not used appropriately they can cause more grief than benefit. Here are a few holes not to step in:

1) Don't ask just because you can. There is nothing worse than a long customer service survey--so long that by the time you finish it you can't remember what the original shopping experience was like. Is anyone really using that data? Make it as short as you possibly can and then cut it in half. Your customers will thank you and you'll stay focused on what is really important. Want more detail? Contact a few of those that answered your short survey and ask them if they'd be willing to spend some more time on additional questions.

2) Pay attention to the details. Nothing destroys credibility faster than a stupid question. If you limit yourself to only a few questions all the stupid ones will go away. Here is an example from the September 2006 Readers Digest:

Maybe I was overreacting, but I couldn't help worrying about the quality of care at the local hospital. On a form titled "Some Questions for Our Pregnant Patients," the very first item was: "1. Gender? (check one) M_ F_." Jenniey Tallman, Tyro, Virginia

3) Numbers are good, comments are better. Numbers, if used appropriately, can give you a good feeling for trends and direction over time, but they are no match for free-form comments from your customers. Numbers can be manipulated and misinterpreted but actual comments like the following paint a compelling picture that doesn't require interpretation.

...location has long lines all the time (out the door). They could do something to speed up the process. Sometimes we don't go there because we know it takes so long.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Customer feedback is a great thing. Just be careful how you ask.

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more

True Blue Fans Create!

True Blue Fans Create!

I've written some in the past about the benefits of inviting your customers to participate in the creative process. Two benefits: 1) the content produced and 2) the fact that the more they do for your business, the more likely they are to mention it to others. Just came upon another example of that process taking place online.

CougarBlue.com is a discussion board for BYU Cougar fans (yes, I am one). Anyway, a new thread got started that suggested fans bring a white or blue towel to the football games this fall. The thread quickly became an online brainstorming session including assignments and reports on assignments etc. You can check it out here. Several pages of posts you'll need to scan through to see its progression.

Not sure if the vending or marketing folks at BYU are plugged in to or are aware of it, but it is a great example of fans (customers) getting involved and creating something that they love and will pay for. How can you turn your customers into fans, creating something they will love and pay for?

Go Cougars!

Promoterz is the hands-free, word-of-mouth marketing service that takes care of the details so you can focus on business. Learn more

Look What I Did!

Look What I Did!

I remember having a note pinned to my shirt by my kindergarten teacher to make sure it made it home to my parents. (They don't do it anymore, probably because of liability issues--they used straight pins for goodness sakes--can you imagine all the things a five year old can do with a straight pin on the bus ride home?) What I don't remember is my teacher having to pin my artwork to my shirt. She didn't need to. It was always the first thing that got to my mom's hands-- "Look what I did!"

Nothing has changed. My kids do the same thing. We never see the notes from the teachers but we do see their artwork. And it doesn't change with age either: people are more likely to be excited and want to talk about something they helped create. What does that mean for your business? The more you invite your customers to be involved with your business, the more likely it is that they will tell others about your business.

In addition to the higher likelihood of talking about your business, depending on what you invite your customers to do, you can also gain valuable knowledge and insights.

For example, one of the simplest ways to invite your customers to get more involved is to ask for their feedback. Not only does customer involvement go up, but the content of their responses can help you improve your business. If you take the time to thank the customer for their response and mention how you are using it, their sense of "ownership" in your business will increase and with it their desire to tell others "Look what I did!"

Asking for feedback is perhaps the simplest and quickest way to get customers more involved but is certainly not the only way. American Express has encouraged customers to create 15 second commercials around their "My Life My Card" theme. Kodak sponsored a "create your own commercial" site that allowed users to upload their own photos which were then inserted in a Kodak commercial.

Just like every great idea, there are some potential pitfalls. Chevy sponsored a "Make your own Tahoe commercial" contest and ended up some that will certainly not win the contest.

Also, don't expect all of your customers to immediately begin to participate. Data is building that suggests that for every 100 people online, 1 will create content and 10 will then interact with it. The remaining 89 will just view it. Read more.

Neither of these pitfalls should keep you from thinking of ways to invite your customers to get more involved and give them the opportunity to say "Look what I did!"

Here is a final example of a company giving their customers a way to get involved and doing it successfully. This came from a post on Brains on Fire.

The company is Fiskars, the one that make scissors. Did you know there are Fiskateers? Yep, ambassadors for crafting and for Fiskars. They have a blog, a message board and gallery. Check out the community album. Any doubt those folks are saying "Look what I did!" to family and friends?

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more

What You Don't Know Will Hurt You.

What You Don't Know Will Hurt You.

I was in a hobby store yesterday buying model rocket engines (think venture scouts making jet propelled barbie cars). Anyway, I noticed a new restaurant had opened up in the same strip mall. While the attendant at the hobby store was ringing up my 24 rocket engines I asked him if he had tried out the new restaurant. His response:

"It's [bleep!]"

Not sure that I heard correctly and a little taken back at the language I said, "Excuse me?" He went on to explain that he hadn't eaten there but a fellow worker had and she had been sick the rest of the day. He also said his manager had ordered a taco and it cost him six bucks and was no bigger than what you can get at Taco Bell. As he handed me my receipt he concluded emphatically once again, "It's [bleep!]" I thanked him and made my way to door once again marvelling at the power of word of mouth.

Think about what happened there. Put yourself in the position of the owner of the new restaurant that just invested multiple thousands of dollars and has been open now for just a few weeks. I doubt he or she has any idea that virtually right next door someone who has never even been in the restaurant is giving out negative recommendations (with neighbors like that who needs enemies...).

It gets worse, studies have shown that irritated customers are five times more likely to vent to a friend than a store rep and on average they will tell four friends. It doesn't say anything about how many people those four will tell, but here I am telling all of you. The study did report that those told about a friend's bad shopping experience are up to five times as likely to avoid the store in question as the original unhappy customer! (read about it here)

What's the solution? First, strive to make every customer experience remarkable. Right behind that has to be a system that consistently invites each customer to tell you how they felt about the experience.

With modern technology, there is no excuse for not inviting your customers to give you feedback. I recently rented a car from Enterprise. A week later I got a call asking how the experience was for me. Phone calls can be expensive, so use the internet. Set up an online survey and hand your customers a card directing them to the url to tell you what they think. Of course there is always the written feedback card. Just make sure you review the feedback regularly and respond to it. The only thing worse than not asking for feedback is asking for it and not responding.

Certainly not all of your customers will respond, but enough will to give you an accurate idea of how things are going and give you the opportunity to "save" a few that were about to tell their four friends who will now be five times as likely to avoid your business!

Do you remember your customers on their birthday? On their anniversary? Do you give special notice to recently acquired customers? Promoterz does. Learn more
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