January 25, 2010

Hero or Zero: The Sad Tale of Lenovo and UPS

It's difficult to please but easy to disappoint. This tale gives examples of both. Both Lenovo and UPS are well-regarded companies. Your experiences may vary.

In late December, I ordered the excellent Lenovo ThinkPad X200 tablet online. The online order form didn't allow selection of the 8 cell extended life battery or the multitouch screen. I couldn't easily call from India. Zero!

I phoned on Monday Jan 4 when back in Canada. I learned that Lenovo removes items in limited supply from their website. That makes some sense but why not show the estimated delays instead? To my delight, the sales rep configured the computer just as I wanted. Hero!

On the downside, delivery would take at least four weeks (February 4 at the earliest). That was fine since we've got other computers.

Imagine my surprise to see a UPS delivery sticker on my door on Thursday, Jan 22 --- exactly two weeks before the earliest expected delivery. Hero!

The next delivery attempt would take place the next day. Since no one would be home, I phoned UPS to hold the computer for pickup at their depot. The automated attendant asked me to use their website. I did.

The only rescheduling option was Return To Sender!?! Since Lenovo already has plenty of computers, why would they want mine back?

I phoned UPS and eventually spoke to a person by pressing 0. She explained that even though I was paying, Lenovo dictated the delivery options. UPS would
  1. attempt delivery on Friday when no one would be home
  2. attempt delivery on Monday when no one would be home
  3. allow me to pickup the order from their depot for five business days starting on Tuesday
Crazy. Wasted time. Wasted fuel. Disappointed customer. Lose lose lose. Zero!

The Request
I phoned Lenovo Canada at the number on my invoice (which arrived that day). I got transferred to shipping ... in the US. They couldn't help me. They couldn't even access my file. However, they asked to use my first name. Why? They couldn't do anything except apologize. The rep gave me the correct Canadian phone number and told me to select option 6. Before transferring me, he asked if there was anything else he could do for me. Hero!

After a few minutes on hold, my call was disconnected. Zero!

I phoned the correct number and pressed option 6 for shipping. The rep immediately agreed to instruct UPS to let me pickup my order from their depot the next day. But he couldn't. Only the sales team had authority. He'd contact them to have the change made that evening. Hero!

It was now about 7pm. I'd spent an hour on websites and the phone. Zero!

Friday (elapsed day 2)
I checked the UPS website on Friday morning. Nothing had been done. UPS would make a delivery attempt later that day. When no one would be home. Zero!

Monday (elapsed day 5)
I adjusted my schedule to be home after dropping my son at school. I stuck a note on the front door telling UPS that I'd be home by 9am and giving my phone number. My wife left home at 8:30am. I returned home at 8:50am.

UPS arrived at 8:40am. Can you hear my groan?

I called UPS to have them hold my parcel at their depot. The location was a 37 km round trip estimated to take 45 minutes with normal traffic. I'd have to wait until Tuesday and was advised to phone first. Zero!

The Real Hero
At 2:10pm, the door bell rang. There stood the UPS deliveryman with my package!!! I refrained from hugging him but did thank him. He took the initiative to make a second trip. That's excellent service. Hero!

This experience shows that even good companies adhere to inane rules that hurt the customers they're trying to serve. Why not allow the bill-paying customer to modify the delivery time or location? Why not have evening and weekend delivery? Why not give a narrower delivery window?

I got my computer on Monday, instead of Thursday. This is about two weeks earlier than the target delivery date at purchase. Hero! But the delays in delivery process made this experience disappointing. Zero!

The exception is the UPS deliveryman who took the extra step of returning to make the delivery. This initiative gives our tale a happy ending. Hero!

See how quickly customer expectations change? You can easily disappoint your clients without knowing. Even if they seem happy today, they may not stay that way. What's the saying? A halo can quickly become a noose. Do you know where you're going wrong?

PS The X200 Tablet with a multitouch screen looks like a compact, well-engineered delight. Hero!

January 18, 2010

Three Lessons from Seth Godin live at The Linchpin Session

Watching Seth Godin live at The Linchpin Session revealed three valuable lessons:
  1. Prepare
  2. Be Gracious
  3. Scare Yourself
As usual, we'll explore each lesson.

Seth delivered a two hour first-time-ever presentation based on his new book, Linchpin. What's more, he synchronized his message with visuals. A presentation that long is tough to practice. Even if Seth has a knack for "winging it", I'm betting he prepared extensively. Often what looks easy is carefully orchestrated.

In the afternoon, Seth held a two hour Question & Answer session but I didn't get a chance to ask how he did what he did. If you find yourself doing a new presentation, these tips to prepare, promote and practice may help you.

Be Gracious
These days, finding gracious people is tough. If you think you're a star, you'll wait in your dressing room and whine that some M&Ms look like W&Ws. If you behave like a host instead, you'll make sure your guests enjoy themselves.

Seth personally greeted each early bird with a few words as we walked by him. He held a blue water bottle with both hands, which meant no handshakes. This was probably intentional for health reasons and was much better than wearing gloves or waving at us.

Afterwards, Seth autographed books and posters. He posed for photos too. Some authors put you on the spot by asking you for one thing you got from their session. With 500 in attendance, Seth spared us. He was certainly open to short discussions while he signed. He didn't have much time for lunch before the afternoon Q&A. Put another way, he ate last after his guests.

At BookCampTO 2009, some authors said didn't want to see or talk to their readers. We're an inconvenience. Would you dare ask them for an autograph?

Signing autographs must get tiring. I was at the end of the line until a handful of stragglers joined the queue. Even after hundreds of books, Seth remained upbeat. In contrast, some authors convey that signing is a bother. They just want you to buy their book and scoot. Some authors sign books at their leisure in advance. The Super/Freakonomics authors say they'll sign and mail a sticker which you can glue into their book.

Being gracious makes your guests feel welcome and encourages them to tell others.

Scare Yourself
At dinner the night before, Seth said he had laryngitis (a word I need a spell checker to correct). Somehow he recovered and didn't mention his condition. If the hours of speaking strained his voice further, he didn't let on. (Trivia: rabbits are masters at hiding problems. They can even fool vets.)

Some authors write the same book again and again. Linchpin makes points which are new and somewhat controversial. Seth didn't write a book to maximize sales. He couldn't predict how people would react. He didn't know what to write next. That's scary.

Seth said the idea of doing The Linchpin Session made him uncomfortable and that's why he did it. Have you done anything to scare yourself recently?

Let's also apply the three marketing lessons from James Cameron to The Linchpin Session
  1. Put the money on the screen: Seth set ticket prices to breakeven, which meant no money for frills like coffee
  2. Establish a track record: the audience --- some from thousands of miles/kilometres away --- attended because they knew of his previous work
  3. Stick to your standards: Seth expressed how he saw things, though this might offend some people (e.g., teachers)
You got six lessons for the price of three. For homework, see whether today's lessons can be applied to James' work. Class dismissed.


January 11, 2010

Three Marketing Lessons From James Cameron

Have you seen Avatar? What a remarkable film. Some creatures bring back memories of the underwater spectacle The Abyss. The military hardware could come from the Terminator series and the love story from Titanic. We aren't here for a film review, though.

We're here to learn three marketing lessons from Canadian director James Cameron:
  1. Put the money on the screen
  2. Establish a track record
  3. Stick to your standards
Let's delve into each and see how can apply them.

Put The Money On The Screen
"We put every dollar up there on the screen in Avatar --- [the money] is not squandered on star salaries." --- James Cameron
It's easy to spend money. It's easy to get limited or unknown benefits. Say you spend on golf, lunches and traditional advertising. You can see the expenditures but can you measure the value?

James spends on what you see. He's made the most expensive film ever four times:
  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991); the first $100M budget
  2. True Lies (1994)
  3. Titanic (1997); the first $200M budget
  4. Avatar (2009)
Remember Terminator 2? At the time, ticket prices jumped from $7.50 to $8.00 to help cover the costs. Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped that audiences were getting $10 of entertainment for their $8. He didn't mention the $15 million he got for his 700 words of dialog.

Spending more money here means spending less money there, where "there" may be
  • client materials
  • your lobby or washroom
  • your business cards
  • your website content
  • client appreciation events
Some items may not matter to you. What if they matter to your clients and your sales?

Establish A Track Record
You can't establish a reputation by hiding or with promises. James' string of successes masked the less popular films like The Abyss (excellent and underrated). His history helped him get future funding and enticed top people to work with him.

Our history may be hidden like the submerged base of an iceberg.

Is what you do visible to your prospects and clients? You can do this easily online so that someone meets you for the first time, they aren't meeting a stranger. You become a less risky choice.

Stick To Your Standards
James Cameron wrote Avatar in 1994 but delayed filming until technology improved. You may not have the luxury of waiting 15 years between major projects. You can continually hone your skills and take smaller steps towards your smaller goals. Without compromising, you can create, launch and modify. This iterative process gets you to market quickly while improving.

Having standards does not mean rigidity. James intended to release Avatar only in 3D but relented. A wise move since very few theatres can currently show that format.

Following the lessons from James Cameron doesn't guarantee that you'll succeed but you're more likely to leave your mark on your universe.

Links to Earlier Lessons

January 4, 2010


Welcome to 2010. Let's start the year by looking at what you read in 2009. We'll compare with 2008 to see trends.

Overall visits increased by 50.2% and 78.1% of visitors were new. The average length of a visit grew by 19.7% and encompassed 1.6 pages.

Visitors arrived from 91 countries but primarily Canada, the United States (tied) and the United Kingdom. Canadians read 0.47 more pages and stayed for an extra 1:35 minutes, compared with Americans.

The Top 10 Posts
Here's what you read
Canadian visitors came from 123 cities ranging from Whitehorse to St. John's. Most of you are in Ontario. Here are the top cities:
  1. Toronto
  2. Ottawa (was #4)
  3. Vancouver
  4. Calgary
  5. Ottawa
American visitors again came primarily from California (San Francisco), New York (NYC) and Texas (Houston).

The top three posts of 2009 were also in the top five for 2008. They continue to attract readers for free. Conventional interruption advertising ongoing costs and questionable benefits. Putting content online for search engines to find, gives you ongoing benefits. Isn't that a great one-time investment?

For other marketing tips, check out Marketing Reflections, the new monthly eNewsletter started in July 2009 started for you and my LinkedIn connections.

Thanks for continuing to visit and read.