Archive | July, 2011

Stop Trying to Sell me Shit While I’m on Hold

25 Jul

Nobody likes holding.

Nobody likes being force-fed muzak and told:

Your call is important to us.

{Experiencing Heavy Call Volumes}

But there’s an even worse fate that can befall your captive lugs.

Being told how important your call is and then being pitched to.

I’m on hold with Bell Canada when the voice tells me:

Streamline your business communications with Bell*.

But I’m in a bottleneck, on hold.

For your extra convenience you can contact us by email.

If I wanted to email you, I probably wouldn’t have called.

Bell offers a wide array of services and products including voice systems…

I’m on hold on your voice system, thanks.

To help you stay productive and minimize business down time.

Hmmn I’m not feeling very productive right now.

Who thinks this stuff up?

Let’s take the opportunity while customers are frustrated because they’re on hold…and sell them something!

What’s the logic here?

Engaging with the customer at every touch point?

Because I’m pretty sure the hold line is never a positive emotional experience for the holdee.

Once I was in a meeting with national Canadian brand when the subject of their hold line came up.

I suggested looking at things from a different perspective.

Maybe something like this:

Hi, we’re a really busy company and we can’t take your call right now.

And because we value your business, and know you can’t really hang up we are not going to try to sell you anything.

So here’s some entertainment while you’re waiting.

For jazz press 1.

For classical press 2.

For hip-hop press 3.

For stand-up press 4.

If you really want to find out more about our services press 5.

This suggestion was well received but sadly never implemented.

If it had been, I’m guessing less that 2% of callers would press 5.

Much less.

I don’t know why hold lines don’t work like this.

(If anyone knows one that does work like this, do let me know.)

I think it would generate a significant amount of good will and maybe some positive word of mouth.

Perhaps the problem is too many marketing people have actually never sold anything in person.

Never worked in a market or shop, sold door to door, or done telesales.

They may be great with strategies and metrics, but don’t know much about sales psychology and how to close a sale.

But the guys who sell hold line programming, are apparently stellar salespeople.

Because they persuade company after company to piss off 100% of customers on hold, for what I’m guessing, if it’s even calculable, is an infinitesimal conversion rate.

The other day I called Rogers to cancel my cable.

The cable box had stopped working for the third time in twelve months.

All they ever say is bring it in and we’ll replace it.

I tired of explaining that since it was their product that was habitually defective, maybe they should deliver a replacement.

The logic of this seemed to escape them, so they put me on hold waiting to cancel the account.

I got this:

Love to text message all your friends or stay in touch with an easy to use touch screen phone — Rogers has the hottest wireless devices. Check out*

Of course, as soon as I cancel my cable I just can’t wait to buy a smart phone from you. Wait I’ll take two!

This doesn’t seem like a great cross selling tactic to me.

Ironically for two companies in the “communications” business, both Bell and Rogers seem completely oblivious to the notion that communication begins with listening.

Rogers in particular confuses noise with signal, which is especially irritating because they own the cables, and play their own excruciatingly lame commercials at least ten percent louder than anyone else’s.

They always deny this, but everyone I know who has Rogers cable scrambles for the volume button the second one of their monstrosities comes on.

Even the government regulatory body, the CRTC,  has had to acknowledge the issue of excessive volume levels of Canadian commercials.

And the dinosaurs still don’t get it.

Noise doesn’t lead to sales.

Haranguing someone is not salesmanship.

And haranguing someone on hold, with no out option, is just as bad as spamming them.

Actually it’s much worse.

* Transcriptions may not be 100% verbatim due to my slow typing.


How Agencies Fool Themselves

11 Jul

I got hired by an agency that had a slogan: Creative First.

And as a creative person, I was delighted to join an agency that subscribed to this idea.

But it didn’t work quite like that.

One of their clients had absolutely no interest in creativity.

They were a bank and a rather stodgy bank at that.

Once in an internal meeting, I joked the agency slogan ought to be:

Creative First – Except the Bank.

Because when it came to the bank’s rather large slice of business, creativity was simply not required.

There was no real client agency fit and the work simply got ground out.

The agency didn’t like this.

But they put up with it.

In another meeting, I suggested that the agency fire the bank.

(I was a little naïve in those days in case you’re wondering.)

The way I saw it, firing the bank would send a signal that the agency was serious about: Creative First.

So serious they were prepared to live by it.

New accounts would arrive to fill the vacuum.

Better accounts.

More creative accounts.

Maybe this scenario would have transpired, but one thing was certain.

Firing the bank would hurt the bottom line.

Still, someone at the meeting was at least partially listening.

Because a couple of weeks later, instead of firing the bank, the agency fired me.

It was a blow at the time.

But a few months later I experienced a hit of schadenfreude when the bank fired the agency.

I still don’t really understand why the agency couldn’t acknowledge, internally at least, it was Creative First – Except the Bank.

True, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but what was so wrong with admitting they had to do some dull stuff to pay the bills?

{What comes first?}

Why adopt a slogan that was 70% true at best?

Why not reposition the agency, instead trying to live up to an unattainable ideal?

More recently I worked for an agency that didn’t have a slogan.

They swore by a somewhat long-winded version of account planning.

So instead of a slogan, they had a manifesto.

“We are extremists”, it commenced.

Seeing as they were based in the Middle East, it was funny.

It was ballsy.

It was also sadly untrue.

They were more like waiters.

And not even wonderfully polished waiters, the type who’ll gently steer you away from the three-day old fish, and towards the fresh lamb.

They just took orders from clients.

Admittedly the Middle East is not the easiest place to work.

When the Sheik says “Make the logo bigger”, you basically just suck it up and make the logo bigger.

But not every client was a Sheik.

In spite of which, this “serve the Sheik” mentality, seemed ingrained in the account people.

{Right away Sir!}

I wondered what Allan Kazmer, my old boss would have made of it.

Allan used to say, “It’s a service industry not a servile industry”.

That’s an important distinction.

Because recruiting people with the promise of extremism but a reality of ordinary work builds an atmosphere of frustration that doesn’t help the agency.

Why endorse a manifesto you can’t live up to, when you could just position yourself differently and live up to that instead?

We’re extremists disguised as realists or waiters or whatever.

Positioning is what we’re supposed to get isn’t it?

Agencies also fool themselves without the aid of slogans or manifestos.

I worked for a small agency in Toronto, that sometimes pitched against big agencies.

The big agencies would invariably mention to the prospect that they had bigger resources.

And that these bigger resources translated into bigger and better talent.

Well yes and no.

Big agencies may be able to lure established talent with big salaries, but they’re not necessarily any good at spotting talent.

A few years before I worked at the small agency, a guy was about to graduate from the University of Toronto.

He was interested in the advertising industry.

He wrote to the 18 largest agencies in Toronto asking for an interview.

He got 18 rejection letters.

So eventually he got a job writing for the New Yorker.

And then became a best-selling author recognized as one of the most original marketing minds of his generation.

{The Froracle}

His name is Malcolm Gladwell.

And not one of those 18 agencies could spot his prodigious talent.

Now, if an agency is fooling itself, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s fooling its clients.

But it’s almost certainly not getting the best out of the people who work there.

Which means it’s unlikely that clients are getting the best out of the agency.

And isn’t that the point?

What I’ve learnt from the good agencies I’ve been lucky enough to work at is, they invariably aren’t fooling themselves.