Feel Good Marketing–Article 2

In the first article, Feel Good Marketing, I talked about how a company can get and retain customers by generating a “feel good” experience for the consumer throughout the entire business process; from marketing, through the sale, through post sale, on to continuing business.

I recounted an example of poor customer service by way of example of how a company may be able to sell a customer on their product, but fall down during the post sale experience. As a balance, I want to show a couple of examples of how a company can do well through the entire process.

To review, in the first article I outlined a few basic principles of great feel-good marketing:

1. make it easy for them to buy your product–remove the obstacles to sale
2. make your product stand out as the clear choice in a sea of choices
3. make them confident of your company (“image” branding)
4. let them see your product in terms of its value to them
5. understand the motivations of your customer
6. make them feel good about their choice post sale
7. offer them a chance to do good with their purchase

Recently, I bought a new cell phone with Virgin Mobile and had a great experience with this company. I’ll go though the principles above, one by one, to see how VM has racked up a 10 in my scoring system so far.

1. make it easy for them to buy your product–remove the obstacles to sale

OK, Virgin Mobile has a variety of phones in Target, a place where I shop for a variety of other things. The packaging allows me to see that the process looks easy, and I have some choice (but not so many that I am confused). The process was clear: buy the phone and follow the easy instructions inside the brochure (the distressed typeface and red/black/white color scheme is not the clearest, but fits the company’s young image) to set up the phone, transfer the number, buy minutes. Easy, no obstacles there.

2. make your product stand out as the clear choice in a sea of choices

I had a variety of choices in Target, from the Go Phone — which was my first choice, if only because I was with Cingular at the time, and I wanted to transfer the SIMM card. The other choices were rather poor — the Go Phone offered only a couple of phones. No other company offered the camera phone I wanted at such a low cost as VM. The other pre-paid companies didn’t have the coverage of VM (which uses the Sprint network), or had expensive phones.

3. make them confident of your company (“image” branding)

The image of the company is that of a hip young alternative to the expensive post-paid phones. Who doesn’t want to be hip? Certainly, I am confident of the company, being in the Virgin family. When you call them to set up the phone, a young girl called Simone answers. The voice is not that of the bland vanilla corporate voice mail operator, but someone you or I might already know. Although, I got pretty tired of Simone’s patter after trying to get to a live operator for a couple of days, still I appreciated her friendly tone and verbiage, even when told I had to wait yet again.

(Wouldn’t it be great to have Lily Tomlin alias Ernestine as the voice on the phone? “One ring-a-dingy, two ring-a-dingy…”)

4. let them see your product in terms of its value to them

The brochure was clear in that I could control my costs easily, without overage charges. The camera phone was only $59. as opposed to a comprable AT&T phone at over $200. (the free phones come with a contract). Obviously, one of these companies is either living in the past when this technology was new, or is looking for another way to gouge the consumer. Or worse, lock him into a contract with a “free” phone.

5. understand the motivations of your customer

The copy on the brochure and packaging was targeted directly to someone like me, who has been burned by post-paid charges — I once had a $700. bill with Cingular — and wants to not only keep their costs down, but keep their current number and have flexible plans.

6. make them feel good about their choice post sale

Now, this gets interesting. I had a problem switching my phone number from the Cingular / ATT post-paid service to Virgin Mobile. I started the process with a call on Friday; the issue was not resolved until the following Tuesday. The third-party vendor, San Diego Wireless, who was in control of my Cingular monthly account claimed that Cingular would not allow a number transfer between post-paid and pre-paid service. The manager at Virgin Mobile, Ron, said that that was not true and that they were able to transfer such numbers all the time. For an entire day, I made calls between the two companies, trying to resolve the problem; I started to feel like a ping-pong ball in a match.

Until that day, I had been very happy with San Diego Wireless, and I had made a point of telling them so. The tech people had been very helpful, and I liked being able to have a phone service without a contract. As the day wore on, I contemplated what it would mean to me to lose this number. I was finally resigned to my loss, but by 10 pm that night, I got a message from VM that I had retained the number.

I was surprised, and pleased. I am not clear whether it was though the efforts of VM or the techs at San Diego Wireless, or even Cingular who came through. I would like to thank whoever it was. However, my point is that during this process I got to talk quite a bit to the people at VM, Ron, the manager, specifically.

Ron told me that he, himself, has a VM cell phone and is pleased with it. He started to outline some of the features that are not apparent at first glance. Some of these appealed a great deal to me, such as the ability to switch on the fly between plans. For instance, if you are on a monthly plan, and want to go on vacation, you can switch to a pre-paid until you get back. He made me feel that I had made the right choice to buy from a company that not only offers me the kind of flexibility I desire, but good, knowledgeable service, and people who obviously were willing to go the extra mile for me.

Most companies do not sufficiently reward good employees who go the extra mile for their customers. Perhaps they don’t understand the first two principles of business — that the satisfied customer is your best advertisement, and that the customer you already have is your best customer. Retaining that customer saves the cost of going out and getting a new customer. A happy customer does your advertising for you (see my articles on viral marketing).

I encourage consumers to make sure to report when they are well served by someone in customer service, to thank these people “on the front lines” when they do a good job (sometimes despite the regulations) when they make you feel good about yourself and about your transaction/interaction. These people are often not paid well enough for taking all that flak in the name of the company. One of the ways to pay them is to tell them and their superiors about how good a job they have done for you. (Since writing this article, I have emailed VM to tell them what a great job Ron and the others did for me.)

7. offer them a chance to do good with their purchase

During the many calls I made to Virgin Mobile, the hold contained a message from Jewel about the many homeless kids on the street, and about VM’s effort to give phones to them. The package the phone came in contained a postage paid envelope for shipping used phones to the company for recycling or as gifts to the homeless. I used the package to mail my used Cingular phone (good riddance!) to VM; I hope someone can use it to help themselves.

The entire process of buying from Virgin Mobile makes me feel good: I feel good that I made a good purchase. I got exactly what I wanted: I kept my number, I got a camera phone, I have a flexible plan with a company that provides excellent customer support. Best of all, Virgin Mobile helped me do good by recycling my old phone by giving it to the homeless.

— copyright 2007 Aliyah Marr

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