. The Transom .

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Customer disservice the Sprint way

My wife has been a Sprint PCS customer for years. On her last bill, she had 29 separate charges for text messaging to her wireless card (How a wireless card for a laptop can receive text messages is beyond me). I called Sprint to inquire about the charges and ask that they be removed. After a few questions back and forth with very little help, I was given an 800 number to another Sprint technician. I was told to try this second person for help.

I had now spent about 10 minutes on the phone with a Sprint technician who was able to accomplish nothing other than to give me a different number to call (didn't even offer to connect me) and a poor attitude. But here is the worst part: Before I hung up, she informed me of four other offers from Sprint, such as increased internet speed, home long distance and nights that start at 6pm. Then she asked if I would be interested in buying any of those services. Are you kidding me? I just called to complain, Sprint was no help at all, and this is the moment they identify as a selling opportunity?

I declined the offers as politely as possible and called the second technician, who was in all fairness to Sprint, incredibly helpful. The charges were removed and the text messaging fiasco sorted out. I told the second technician about the 'sales pitch' from the first and he told me it was mandatory from Sprint to offer additional services on all customer calls. He said he felt horrible doing it and equated it to 'stopping at a car wreck and laughing,' but was told by his management that is was mandatory.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Sprint has no freaking clue about when to sell and when to shut up and apologize. It also tells me that Sprint doesn't listen to its customer service people. Here you have thousands of employees speaking directly with customers on a daily basis and yet, decisions are being made by executives who never interact them. Brilliant. With customer service like that, we're likely to switch cell companies. Can you hear me now?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Don't pull the plug on traditional media just yet

With so much buzz lately about blogs, podcasts, RSS and the like, it's amazing that there are people in this world who still read a newspaper, watch the evening news, and listen to the radio. Aren't these dying mediums, replaced by the wishes of iPod-wielding, tech-savvy sophisticates?

Actually, no. Not yet.

A number of studies have recently shown that 88% of the at-work audience have no clue what RSS is. I guess even Really Simple isn't simple enough. Just 22% of adults read blogs and 9% listen to podcasts. And yet the volume of attention given to these new tools is extraordinary.

Companies are falling over themselves to be the first in their industry with a blog or podcast. They want to make sure they are reaching the 12% of people who might be interested in subscribing to the company Kool-Aid. Of course, I'm exaggerating... a little. It is smart for companies to fully understand the best ways to reach their audiences. They just need to make sure the choices are based on expected results, not the communications flavor of the month.

Do I think blogs, podcasts and the rest of the 'new media' will increase in popularity and use? Of course. Are we there yet? Clearly we are not.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Celebrity endorsement should match reality

Dorin Levin wrote an article on Sunday about how Tiger Woods should be the pitchman for Cadillac instead of Buick. It was argued that, of the two GM brands, Cadillac has the best shot at actually attracting younger buyers with its new, sleek designs of the CTS and STS models. One point that Dorin mentioned, but that I felt needed more attention, was the use of celebrity spokespeople in unrealistic scenarios.

Case in point, raise your hand if you actually believe Tiger spends more time in a Buick than he is contractually obligated - in TV commercials and driving to and from tournament sites. Does he have a stable full of Lucerne's or Rainier's? Not exactly. He is usually spotted driving his Ferrari Testarossa or his BMW 7-series.

I'm not going to argue whether celebrity spokespeople actually drive sales, but in my opinion the use of a celebrity should at least create the belief that he or she uses the product of service. An example: Michael Jordan pushes Hanes underwear. No reason that doesn't hold some shred of believability. George Clooney does voiceovers for Budweiser. Tiger pitches Nike. Catherine Zeta-Jones pushes T-Mobile. These are all believable. Tiger rolling up to his $100 million estate in a $27,000 Buick? It just doesn't quite make it.

As a final point, consider Tiger's other endorsement deals and you tell me which one does fit: Nike, Tag Heuer (switched from Rolex), Accenture, American Express, Buick. Hmmm....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Remember who calls the shots

Citigroup has decided to pull approximately $120 million in cable and print ad spending for the remainder of the year in order to help boost the stock price. Who was the engine behind this decision? The shareholders.

Disappointed with a stagnant stock price and unimpressed with the results of Citi's nearly $1 billion (yes, with a 'B') annual ad spend, shareholders called for a cut in Citi's advertising. Not that Citi will be eliminating its advertising, just trimming the fat.

What does this tell us about ad spending? It goes back to John Wanamaker's famous quote. "Half of all money I spend in advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

I applaud the shareholders for forcing Citi's hand. Find a way to use my investment money more wisely than giving it to advertising agencies.