. The Transom .

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

InBev vs. Anheuser-Busch: Which Buffett Are You?

As with most great debates, the InBev / Anheuser-Busch potential buyout ranks up there with most presidential political discussions, at least here in St. Louis. I just learned that two influential heavy hitters are on opposite sides of the debate. On the side of InBev, throwing his weight behind the merger is icon investor Warren Buffett. On the side of Anheuser-Busch is icon crooner, Jimmy Buffett, which begs the question... which Buffett are you?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sarah Steelman: gun provider for minors

Sarah Steelman, who is running for Governor in Missouri, just bought her 13-year-old son a rifle. In fact, she brought the media along for the shopping spree just so she could make a point about her belief in the second amendment. After a brief speech on why hand cannons are a good idea for any American, she let her young boy pick out a stick of death. I wondered about this curious action that some would call a monumental lack of judgement or parenting, so I went online to www.sarahsteelman.com to check out her beliefs. Turns out her website lists only three at this point, gun control not being one of them. So I called her office. I wanted to ask if she had bought her 13-year-old son a cell phone yet. I'm guessing not, which makes it only more ridiculous that any child would own a gun before a phone, but that's just a guess. No one at her office answered. Probably out teaching her son how to kill things. If you want to call her office and ask, the number is 573-635-5385.

The curious part about her beliefs is that she is (obviously) pro gun, but also very much pro-life. This position has always perplexed me as a voter. Is she saying that we shouldn't kill unborn kids, instead waiting until they are older so they can be shot?

In terms on managing a reputation, whether on a campaign trail or not, hawking your 13-year-old son for purposes of publicity ranks right up there with selling your grandmother for prostitution. And in terms of her priorities, check out what's working on her site. There is nothing under News/Events. And apparently she only cares about three issues. But if you want to send her money or be a volunteer, both of those sections are working perfectly. She might think she knows how to manage Missouri, but until she figures out how to manage her reputation, she isn't getting my vote.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Papa John's customer service gets an A+

After ordering two pizzas online for my staff last week from Papa John's, I was told that delivery would be within 30-45 min. Ok, not too bad. I ordered at 11:45 and expected delivery sometime around 12:30. Well 12:30 comes and goes, and then 1:15 comes and goes. I made a call around 12:45 and was told it was already on its way. Finally, at 1:25 the pizza shows up.

But that's when the bad news ended. I went online to the PJ's customer feedback section and filled out my complaint form. Thinking this would get me nowhere, since that had been my historical truth with any other company, I explained the situation in detail, more for my venting purposes than expectations of anything on PJ's side. I hit the Submit button and went back to my cold (but still tasty) pizza.

About two hours later, I received an automated email saying my complaint was received and sorry for the inconvenience. I assumed this was the end of the line. I was wrong.

The next day I received a call from Papa John's corporate office saying how sorry they were that I had a bad experience. I was told my complaint was sent to the local store of purchase and that I could expect a call in the next few days. Yesterday I received a call from the store manager saying that she was out of town last week, but just got back and say my complaint. She apologized for my experience and immediately offered two free pizzas for my trouble. I didn't even have to pay twenty-three cents. Free!

So let this be a lesson to other customer facing organizations. Whether you sell pizza or widgets, there are two key lessons here that Papa John's aced. First, have a place for customer feedback. Nothing is more annoying than wanting to complain and not being able to. Second, actually follow up with upset customers. I didn't ask for or expect free pizza, but PJ offered it because they want my business and knew I was upset.

Will I order from Papa John's again? You bet.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

"Adverleading" and the NBA Finals

In watching game 2 of the NBA Finals last night, I recognized another example of the difference between today's advertising and PR. This example isn't limited to the NBA, but most professional sporting events. Many major American professional team sports (NBA, NFL, etc) have professional cheerleaders. One could argue that their purpose would be to lead the crowd in cheering for their team. One could further argue that it's their responsibility to get the crowd pumped up. However, professional sports cheerleading and advertising share similar traits.

First, no one goes to an NBA game to watch the cheerleaders. We're there for the game. The game and the players are the PR. The cheerleaders and stadium announcer are advertising. Sure, the cheerleaders are fun to look at and provide 'entertainment' when there is a break in the action, but they don't really serve their original purpose. Take last night for example. Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics goes in hard and slam dunks over Kobe Bryant, drawing a foul. It was a critical point in the game. As he walks toward the free throw line, he waves his hands in the air, signaling to the crowd to get louder. And the crowd responds. Why? Because their player is a) talking directly to them, b) genuinely wants support, and c) is the reason the fans are there in the first place. So why aren't the cheerleaders effective? Because no one pays attention to them. We know they want us to cheer. They are paid to, theoretically, get us to cheer. It's overt sales.

Advertising has the same dilemma today. It used to work. It used to be persuasive. Today it's mostly just eye candy. The world has changed. "Adverleading" has not.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How much does service cost?

A little while ago I went car shopping with a friend. He was looking at a Honda and a Ford. Long story short, we never made it to the Ford dealership because he bought the Honda. But what struck me about the Honda dealership was their service... or lack of service.

Once we parked and walked into the showroom, no one greeted us, the receptionist at the desk made eye contact but didn't say hello or get up. Several salespeople were in their offices, yet no one came out. We snooped around and sat in the Honda S2000 (my friend's eventual purchase). After determining that he wanted to take a test drive, I walked up to the receptionist desk and asked if any salespeople worked here. She turned to the first office on her left and asked loudly, "Dave, are you busy?"

"Are you busy?" Did she really just ask if someone was too busy to sell a car? The service bar was set and never went north of mediocre from there on out. But the car won the day in my friend's eyes, not the 'service.'

I drive a Lexus. Until the Honda visit, I didn't fully appreciate the service that goes with that purchase. I'm always greeted promptly, offered a beverage or if I'm waiting, an office in which to make calls or plug in my laptop. There are complimentary soft drinks, coffee, tea and bagels. When I'm speaking with anyone from the service tech to the salesperson, I'm always treated promptly and with respect.

I know that Honda isn't Lexus. But does it cost that much more to have your salespeople show interest, to make the customer feel, oh I don't know, appreciated? Honda failed that test miserably. And that's partly why brands like Honda, Ford, or Nissan will be stuck in lower priced markets. It would cost next to nothing to improve customer service and would allow them to charge a premium.