Tag Archives: Voice of the Consumer

Blogging – Should Your Business Drink the Koolaid?

One of our motto’s at Ideopia is “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” Perhaps nothing fits this category better than blogs on corporate web sites. They can be hideous, pumped full of hype and hard sell, or they can be funny, chock full of useful content and make you love a brand even more. In that spirit, we offer a few observations that might help you decide to blog, or not to blog.

Do blog if you want to:
1. Entertain a small group of friends and your mother
2. Communicate and engage customers
3. Demonstrate expertise on key issues
4. Build search rankings for your site on specific business areas
5. Convert prospects and leads on the blog
6. Share information and ideas within your company
7. Make your brand come to life
8. Be open to opinions other than your own
9. Want a book deal

Don’t blog if you:
1. Need to control information flow
2. Value a corporate voice versus personality on your blog
3. Won’t accept negative comments
4. Want to broadcast instead of have a conversation
5. Just want to sell and market your services
6. Don’t have specific goals for your blog
7. Think your blog can outsmart Google
8. If you expect the same audience for your web site as your blog
9. Want a book deal

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Pump up, and Pork out.

A follow-up to my Outrage (see Voice of Consumer Category) rantings about my gym, the Mercy Healthplex in Anderson. I think the maintenance is getting better. I’ve actually noticed broken equipment that’s been fixed with 24 hours. But here’s the latest brand disconnect: A table right next to the club entrance and exit features muffins, cookies and other treats, so that a patron who may have lost 2oz of flab (mostly water), can put it back on again instantly. What happened to the good old Fruit Bowl?

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Getting Fat and Crazy with Words

Every time I hear a young mother tell her toddler to “use his words,” I cringe. Tell the kid to blow out his peas and carrots instead, I say. There are too many words already. And the more words there are the cheaper they become. Thanks to the Internet, we have huge containers called websites, discussion boards, MySpace, and – the worst – personal, blogs, that overflow with words faster than a McDonald’s Dumpster. Our society is bloated with words while the average working stiff barely has enough time to floss every day. The “axis of evil,” of course, is the computer, especially the Apple computer. It’s too freaking easy. Copy, cut, paste, and share every last photo of your kid’s last soccer game, and then blow it out to all your friends, colleagues and family. Guess what? Outside of mom, dad and brother Billy Bob, nobody cares. I know, because plenty of my best friends don’t read my stuff.

Our customers are beleaguered by all our words. They’re deluged, frustrated, and close to exploding. That’s why I’m calling for a national word diet. We’ll train ourselves to think in haiku, and stick our fingers down our throats anytime we splatter down more than 50 words. Soon people will opt to visit wordless resorts free of scrolling text and email, or desperate emails from the Nicaraguan princesse who wants to launder her inheritance through your bowling league.

The problem is that rarely know when to stop, edit, slash, or burn. There’s too much available hard disk space, and by God we’ve got to fill it. My 200 words were up 88 words ago. See you in the bathroom.

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Little Signs

Not to flog a dead horse, but I keep coming across evidence that the safety and customer service problems at Mercy HealthPlex Anderson are endemic. I noticed yesterday that all the out-of-order signs on the treadmills and cross trainers are hand scrawled  on scraps of paper. The out-of-order signs on the vending machine are neatly laser printed and taped over the the coin slots to PREVENT use.

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What’s in a Mission Statement?

Mission  statements capture a point in time where executives of a company actually sat down and came to a consensus, however tortured, or fleeting on a company’s values, its strategy for long-term survival and relevance to its customers. But employees and the other people who do the real work don’t read mission statements.

Instead, they take their cues from the actions of management.

Continue reading

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Little Things That Go Boom in the Night

Though brands sometimes spontaneously combust, they are just as likely to die of dry rot and the deterioration of the values and operating principals that launched them in the first place. Benzene in the Perrier can kill you as sure as tennis balls bobbling across the indoor track.

That’s why it is so critical to stay close to consumers.

Because, like me at the Mercy Healthplex, the average consumer doesn’t have time to conduct full-blown research. I’m just a consumer with a beef, and I have a handful of observations that support it: maintenance problems on treadmills; tennis balls rolling onto an indoor track; a sense that staff turnover high, and a revolving door in the director’s office. 

Like I said these are mere impressions. Like any other consumer, I’m not seeking to verify these impressions by conducting interviews or focus groups. I just have a feeling that something is wrong, and this is enough to guide my impressions, my blogging, and my response to anyone asking my opinion about gyms in the area.

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Signs of Disease found on Website

Great brands have depth. It’s not just the packaging, it’s the organization and the ethos of its leaders. So it goes with big brand probems, e.g. customer service at Mercy Healthplex that I mentioned in my previous post. Yesterday, I visited the club’s website, so I could send them a courtesy copy of my post. But, I couldn’t find the name or email of a single manager or employee; the site doesn’t have a contact form. The only method of contact appears to be one general phone number. Is it just me, or do they want to avoid hearing from their members?

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Digital Tsunami for One

An Unfit Gym, Corporate Indifference, And What I’m Doing About It.

I’m steamed. The health club, Mercy Healthplex, put me through another scare on one of their treadmills. It’s not a big deal to you. To me, it’s huge.  I’ve been a member for five years, and my safety has been jeopardized once again.

The story I tell could affect many people. For the sake of the marketing discussion, let’s pretend it’s all about me. A tale of corporate indifference that sparks the ire of one individual, who now has the power to  bite the corporation in the ass.

This is my story.

I joined the Mercy Healthplex to improve my running and stay in shape. Along with running on an inside track and outdoor trails, I regularly used treadmills. Sometimes they broke down: squeaky belts, the sign of poor belt adjustment, treadmills that would decelerate quickly, or simply stop. One evening, a two-foot-high exercise ball was sucked under the treadmill pitching me into the air while the treadmill was still running.

After each incident, I reported the problem to the club. Later I found the treadmills in operation again without being serviced.

The standard response was no response, and back in the cave days this may have worked.

But then it happened again.

One of the machines I had complained about was back in service. I decided to try it. About 15 minutes into my run the belt slipped to the right. I examined the belt and discovered that it was the same belt I had complained about four months ago. The edges were deckled from wear. And both sides of the belt showed signs of shredding. Worse was the same half-inch cut on the left hand side of the belt. This time when I complained to the assistant membership director, He clucked and assured me that I would receive a call from Mercy Healthplex’s director. I never heard from him.

1.    It was my fault the belt shredded on the treadmill because my gait is imbalanced.
2.    Replacing the belt costs $400. Her patronizing look told me that I should feel very guilty.
3.    I needed to be more careful and examine the belts before, during and after use of the machine.

Now they’ve made it the customer’s fault, (See Neanderthal)
In my anger, I consider calling local media, OSHA, and my lawyer.

I was furious. After I cooled down, I went to my blog, like thousands of consumers every day, and told the story to the world myself. Not only had the club not addressed my safety concerns, they now had a strategy to intimidate, or at least blame me.

This is the message I got from the Mercy Healthplex. Don’t complain when things are broken. We love our customers until they make inconvenient demands.

Pretend you’re in the meeting that happens after I send a link to this post to all the executive officers of Mercy HealthPlex. A meeting will be called with legal, the director, public relations, and someone from corporate..

Lawyer: “No laws have been broken here, but we can always sue.”

Director: “It’s just a blog, how many people read these things anyway?”

Public relations: The guy runs an ad agency, he’s probably a kook. We can spin it that way if the media finds out.

Corporate Guy: It’s agreed then. We’re going to ignore this thing, if this guy tries anything else, we’ll squash him and kick him out. Understood?

In the flurry of ass covering that ensues, the one serious liability and issue that matters to the clubs members is ignored. At least, that’s how I imagine it.

My fear is that one-day someone will get knocked off one of the treadmills, get seriously injured, or even die. It may be five- or ten- years from now, but this blog entry will still be here for the legal authorities who search for “Mercy Healthplex treadmill injury.”

The customer service boondoggle, which wouldn’t have happened with  a dab of commonsense, is obvious. The cost in reputation, memberships, and brand equity is hard to calculate. But it’s certain in this case that better communication and maintenance could have avoided it altogether.

We live in a world of one, where one person can create a tsunami.
Let’s see if I’m right. In a few seconds I’ll click the button that makes this post appear on the Mindfeed Blog. As a result, a dozen Internet and blog search engines will be pinged. In a few days you can search for this post.

Over the next month, two- three-hundred visitors will visit Mindfeed. They range from family and friends to colleagues, clients and CEOs.

I am one customer, and I am the tsunami. But will the treadmill work tomorrow?

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