My super awesome husband helped me assemble and decorate our new Christmas tree. That’s after I registered my new tree on the NationalTree.com of course.
Here’s what the new tree looked like before we added trimmings. Brian and I agreed that this is the most beautiful Christmas tree we have ever owned. I searched everywhere for a 9-foot tall, slim tree that’s got character. I finally found one that I liked at HomeDecorators.com. I never knew about that store until my search for the perfect Christmas tree began. Now I’m hooked.
Anyway, I love that my new tree already has pinecones and berries and has a snowy look to it because then I don’t have to buy as many ornaments.
This is a photo of Brian trying to figure out if there’s enough room between the top of the tree and the ceiling for my new Kurt Adler 20-Light gold rattan star tree topper. It’s a $30 tree topper that I got on Amazon for just $14. I love, love, love Amazon!
This is our tree after we added some ornaments. I found rattan stars that match my tree topper perfectly at Pier 1. I only got 10 of them and now wish that I would have gotten some more. Brian and I decided that it’s probably for the best as we wanted to keep this tree minimalistic.
Here’s a closer look at our tree.
The balls are not really ornaments. They are rattan vine glitter sphere decorations (also from Pier 1). Most people put them in a bowl or basket. The burlap eucalyptus leaf branches are another one of my improvisations. I think most of the time you’ll see these in tall vases. I had a vision of a natural-looking, woodsy, minimalist Christmas tree and I thought these decorations, though not really sold as Christmas tree ornaments, would look great in my tree.
The rest of my vision involved a burlap Christmas tree skirt and burlap ribbon. The tree skirt was perfect except for a small gash. I can’t tell if I got a defective item or if Brian damaged it while he was trying to open the package. He has this thing about using his knife to open packages and he’s not always the most gentle with it. I don’t ever return stuff so I guess I’m keeping it. I’m not happy about the tear, though.
As far as the ribbon, well, I miscalculated and ran out. I thought 10 yards would be enough. Wrong. I ordered some more ribbon, which should arrive in a couple of days because I caved and signed up for Amazon Prime. As much as I order from Amazon, you’d think I’d have a Prime membership already. I’m too cheap for that, though. I usually just take advantage of the free super saver shipping. However, running out of burlap ribbon in the middle of trimming the tree constituted an emergency. LOL.
Anyway, stay tuned because I’ll be taking a picture of the completed tree as soon as the additional burlap arrives. Check back soon.
It’s that time of the year. Whenever we start talking budgets at work, that’s our cue to do start working on our household budget also. Brian and I sat down and did our 2014 budget the other day. Hopefully we’ll actually stick to it next year.
We’ve had to deviate from our budget over the last couple of years. We planned on paying off my student loan by end of 2012 but got derailed and didn’t actually make the last payment until the beginning of 2013. Buying a house brings with it some additional expenses, which we expected, but didn’t really budget for in 2012 because we originally planned on waiting until our lease expired in May 2013. We were supposed to pay off my student loan first, then buy a house once our lease was up. We just ended up doing it backwards. Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but it all worked out in the end.
We wanted to put 20% down on our house last year but we closed on our house on our 10th wedding anniversary, which was a couple of months before our CD at Intrust Bank matured. It makes me sick that we’ve had to pay PMI over the last year so Brian and I and promised each other that as soon as we found a good time to do it we’d make a principal payment that will drop our mortgage balance enough so that we wouldn’t have to pay PMI anymore. I’m so happy that we finally made that payment the other day so I’m looking forward to slightly lower mortgage payments each month going forward. Hurrah!
For 2014 we’ve had to tighten the budget a little because we’ve got a couple of things that we’re saving for — a new car for me, which I plan on paying cash for in 2018, and down payment for our next house in 2016. That means no extravagant vacations and frivolous purchases over the next few years.
Brian thinks I have a shopping problem and I agree that I have a difficult time passing up a good deal but I think we can do it. We’ve tightened out belts before (when we were paying off all of our credit card debts eight years ago) and we got through it. We were actually completely debt-free within a couple of years. So I am completely positive that we can do this.
Anyway, I highly recommend sitting down once a year to create a budget if you’re not already doing this. Brian and I have done this over the last few years and it has really worked well for us. We set pretty high goals for ourselves so even when we don’t quite make it (such as in the last couple of years) we’re still in great shape.
Our annual budget gives us a good road map to follow for the coming year so we’re not all over the place. Having a plan also allows me to look forward to the coming year with less apprehension and much more peace of mind. This may not work for everyone but it works for us. So come up with a plan, stay focused on your goals, and best of luck to you in the coming year!
I pretty much followed Tony around on the final day of convention. On Sunday morning I had Ballroom Beatdown, which he and his wife Jessica presented. Then in the afternoon I had the warm up and cool down workshop.
Here are some of the bits I learned (or re-learned) that day…
For best results classes should begin with five to ten minutes of warm up. The warm up is designed to increase blood flow; raise the body’s core temperature; stretch your core or postural muscles; loosen the joints, ligaments, and tendons; and preview movements that will be used during the workout. By starting with a good warm up you can prepare class participants for the workout and decrease the risk of injuries.
A good cool down consists of five minutes of diminishing intensity and five minutes of stretching. Moderate to low activity in the cool down is designed to return the body to a normal state and create the ideal state for stretching the muscles used during the workout. Doing a proper cool down also helps to prevent muscular and cardiovascular injuries. Remember to stretch all of the muscle groups including neck, upper and mid back, deltoids, chest and arms, core, quads and hamstrings, gluteal and hip regions, calves, ankles, and shins.
- Some reminders…
- Don’t lock your elbows or hyperextend the elbow joint
- Keep core tucked in and spine in line
- Control or avoid any major twist or torque in the core
- Don’t let knees go over your toes when doing squats or lunges
- Avoid twisting your knees away from the direction of travel
- Select warm up music that is around 120-134 BMP
- Avoid “dancy” movements in the warm up until your body is ready
- Avoid long breaks between warm up segments
- While the Zumba formula is still very important, it may be necessary to repeat movements or keep the same types of moves for different parts of the music to ensure that all of the appropriate parts of the body are properly prepared for the workout.
I’m going to try and incorporate all of these tips beginning with my playlist for Fall 2013. Saturday Zumba classes at Evergreen Park Recreation center start on September 21. Be sure to register for the 10-week session if you haven’t already. The cost is $24, or you can drop in for $3 a class. What a bargain!? See you all soon!
Being single doesn’t mean you’re broken. This was the message last week at Riverlawn. Your single time is a time when you can really make a difference. Along these lines, don’t waste your 20s either.
The Christmas cards we’ve received so far have made their way onto on our Christmas tree! I think they are wonderful additions, don’t you?
Who needs ornaments when you can adorn your Christmas tree with the beautiful Christmas cards that people have sent you? Looking forward to getting a few more and filling our tree up with holiday greetings from all over the world.
Brian got his haircut at Great Clips yesterday. I normally don’t go with him because I like to do Group Power right before Zumba on Saturday mornings. However, I was being a slacker yesterday so I decided to hangout with Brian at the hair place.
The work stations at Great Clips are divided by these colorful sails. It makes me think of sailing. Don’t know whose idea that was, but it’s pretty creative.
Brian has been going to the same Great Clips location for several years now. He loves it because they know the kind of cut he wants and he says he always gets great service. The best part is their mobile app. Brian loves it because it keeps your place in line for up to two hours. He checks in on the mobile app and then gets right in at the salon when he shows up. There could be dozens of people waiting in line, but he doesn’t have to wait. It’s pretty neat. He usually gets lots of evil looks from the people waiting to get their haircut, but it’s not his fault they didn’t use the mobile app. LOL. We love, love, love businesses that embrace technology.
Here’s today’s tip: If you’re going to get a haircut and you’re not partial to a particular salon, consider going to Great Clips. Their mobile app works great!
I know a lot of people were still doing some last minute holiday shopping yesterday and possibly even today. Not us. We bought almost everything prior to and during Black Friday. Why? Because we are weirdos with OCD who don’t like to wait until the last minute to do stuff. We like to plan, plan, plan AND well in advance.
The presents have been wrapped for almost two weeks, but last week I asked Brian to organize them into “Christmas Eve” and “Christmas Day” piles so we know what goes where at a glance. Although, we did have to separate the gifts that we had for Kevin, Kasey, Kendra and Andrew because we found out the other day that we would not be seeing them at Christmas after all. We had to create an additional “For Delivery” pile. LOL. (Had I not delivered my work presents the week prior, we would have had a “For Work” pile also.)
The gift pictured below was one of the first ones to get wrapped and gifted. There were three identically wrapped gifts in different colors for Carmen, Tiffe and Sunni. I had them ready by the first of December because they were for people at work and some like to take vacation during the holidays. I never know when they’ll take off and then I miss the opportunity to give them their present before the holidays.
I was going to put the presents under my Mardi Gras Christmas tree as part of the decorations. You know how people put fake presents under their Christmas tree? Well, I wanted to do that. Except mine would be real presents. After talking my idea over with Amy, who suggested that the presents might disappear after others figured out they were real, I decided against it. I kept the presents at home until I was able to hand them out last week.
The gift piles were actually in the living room before they finally made their way to the dining room. After I finished wrapping everything, we decided to move them to the dining room because we were tired of having to step over and navigate around them. It gets so cramped in this little townhouse. I think I’m asking Santa for a house next year. I know it might be challenging for Santa to fit a whole house in his sleigh, specially with all the other presents that he has to deliver, but he’s magical so I’m sure he’ll figure it out.
I forgot to mention the Phelpi and Feifels pile. We saw the Feifels on Christmas Day last year so we had their stuff in the “Christmas Day” pile at first. However, we weren’t sure if we would see them on Christmas Day this year so we went ahead and gave the Phelpi and the Feifels the gifts for their kiddos when we took everyone out to dinner at PCP last week.
Brian hates that I try to remember who gets what present by size and shape and gift wrapping paper and bow. I must say that it’s easy to remember until it’s time to unwrap them. With the chaos and mayhem and multitude of presents to unwrap, I start drawing blanks. Then a guessing game follows. It’s kind of fun, unless you’re Brian. In which case, you just find it frustrating. LOL. So anyway, he made me tag all of the gifts this year. He did help me make these neat embossed gift tags. It’s hard to see from this picture, but there’s a snowflake in the middle and the words “SEASONS GREETINGS” and “BRIAN AND CHING” around it.
We had to save the bows and gift tags for last because I prefer to do real bows as opposed to the stick on kind (unless I’m feeling lazy or don’t have enough time to put my fancy bows on) and I didn’t want them to get smooshed. I’m actually not sure that “smooshed” is a word, but I’m using it anyway. I take that back. I’m pretty sure “smooshed” isn’t a valid word because a red squiggly line appears underneath it each time I type it, so let’s just say I didn’t want the bows to get flattened instead. Sorry. My OCD is kicking in real bad this morning.
I put bows and tagged the last remaining presents yesterday afternoon while Brian was playing video games. Check out the finished product below.
This is the “Christmas Eve” pile.
This is the “Christmas Day” pile.
I can officially say we are ready for Christmas. How about you? ¿Estás listo para la Navidad? I had to throw some Spanish in there because I try to practice every now and then. I got to practice with my friend Rene at Suede last night. He’s a regular and is always there. I asked him, ¿Que hiciste ayer? because I’m trying to practice using the past tense. He told me that he worked yesterday until he realized he actually had the day off. LOL. I speak terrible, broken Spanish, but I guess it’s enough to get by for ordering food at restaurants. I’m glad all the Latin American people I know are patient with me as I practice.
While we were dancing last night, I wanted to keep speaking Spanish but didn’t know what else to say so I said, Este zapato es tu zapato. Rene started laughing and nodded, Si – estos son mis zapatos. Whenever Brian and I are talking, I spit out random thoughts out of nowhere. It’s nice to know that my randomness has transcended the English language. LOL.
When we sat down on the couch, Brian explained that I’m trying to practice speaking Spanish every chance I get. I encouraged Rene to keep talking to me in Spanish so I can continue practicing. He talks really fast sometimes so I frequently have to ask him to slow down. He also has this habit of asking yes or no questions and I’m not really quick at coming up with responses yet.
While the three of us were sitting there, he asked me something that one could answer with yes or no so I replied, Si. He said something else and I said, Si, again. Then he said something else and when I replied with Si again, he started laughing. He was like, “So if I asked if you would like to jump off a bridge, you’d probably say yes too?” LOL.
That reminded Brian and I of a tip we heard from the cruise director during our honeymoon cruise almost ten years ago, so we shared it with Rene. The cruise director said that it’s better to book excursions through the cruise ship as opposed to venturing out on your own because things can go wrong sometimes. He knew that people want to do their own exploring and want to go shopping for deals in town so he shared some valuable advice about how to select a cab before we arrived at our first port in Cozumel. He said, just ask them three questions and if they answer it correctly then you know it’s safe to get in the cab. You’ll likely ask, “Do you speak English?” and they’ll say yes. Then you’ll ask, “Can you take me to town?” and they’ll say yes. If you ask, “Is the sky green?” (or some other similar question which you know that the proper answer isn’t yes) and they say yes again, move on to the next cab. We all got a kick out of it because I was that cab driver last night. Fun times!
Anyway, ¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo! to all of our Latin American friends. To everyone else, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Flip and Ching
For those of you who wanted to know how to send SMS from your email, here’s how you can do it for most of the cellular carriers. If we missed any carriers, please post them in the comments.
AT&T MMS: phonenumber@MMS.att.net (for picture mail)
Boost Mobile: email@example.com
Centennial Wireless: firstname.lastname@example.org
Centennial Wireless MMS: email@example.com
Metro PCS: phonenumber@MyMetroPcs.com
Mobi PCS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sprint MMS: email@example.com
US Cellular: firstname.lastname@example.org
US Cellular MMS: email@example.com
Verizon MMS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Virgin Mobile: email@example.com
Where phonenumber represents the recipient’s 10-digit phone number.
[update] Added Cricket. Thanks, Misty! [/update]
Several weeks ago, Ultimate Electronics ran a promotion where they were giving away a limited number of $25 gift cards at the door. They advertised it in their regular insert in the Sunday paper. Now, Brian and I subscribe to the Wichita Eagle, but we actually heard about it first from our friends Cory and April. (April is the goddess of deals. If there’s a deal to be had, she probably knows about it.) Cory said there was barely a line. I think he said there were five people, counting themselves, when the doors opened. I can think of several reasons for the poor turnout: (a) Wichitans like to sleep in on Sundays and don’t read their paper until later in the day, (b) people don’t subscribe to the newspaper anymore because you can get your news online, (c) those who do subscribe and read the news tune out all the junk/inserts, or (d) they only care about the RedPlum and SmartSource coupons and discard everything else. LOL.
The following weekend, Ultimate Electronics ran the same promotion and there was actually a line before the doors opened. We would have made it, but I didn’t want to give up my Sunday morning workout. Brian could have made it, I suppose, but he’s not as enthusiastic about deals as our friends and me. Anyway, I don’t have to survey the people in line that morning to conclude that they didn’t read about the offer from the ad in the Sunday paper, they likely heard about it from a friend. Just as Brian and I did. Word of mouth rocks. That’s a given. You can’t beat word of mouth advertising.
I’m not going to tell you that print advertising is dead because there is a time and place for it. However, if you want to reach people and get them in the door, you have to go where they are… Social media. People aren’t reading newspapers as much. They’re spending more and more of their time on Facebook. Yes, even the older generations. Shoot, my mom probably spends more time on Facebook than anyone I know. And, Facebook and Twitter posts are digital equivalents of word of mouth. (There’s many others, but these are the two big ones.)
With traditional word of mouth, I could probably tell a dozen people about your product/service/promotion before I lose my voice, but with social media I can tell about 600 Twitter followers and 800 Facebook friends how much I love/hate you without much effort. If my message gets re-posted and re-tweeted by a handful of people, the reach grows exponentially. See how powerful that is? (For more on social media, read my previous blog post about the summit I recently attended in Arizona.)
So back to Groupon and why I love, love, love it. You all know how much I love coupons and deals. With Groupon, coupons and deals go social. This is where we are headed people, just accept it. =P
Most of the time I pick up Groupons from companies that I love or already do business with (or at least am familiar with). For instance, some of the Groupons I’ve picked up in the last year are for Lucinda’s, Pink Boa, Pacific Coast Pizza, LaMars, In the Bag etc. etc. As I grew more comfortable with purchasing and using Groupons, it’s actually allowed me to try companies I’ve not heard of or done business with before. For example, I’d never been to the Kellogg Clinic (where I’m going for laser hair removal) or Fresh Spa Market prior to getting their Groupon offers.
I think the best example is probably my most recent Groupon experience, which was the catalyst for us switching dentists. Wichita Family Dental is a dental office located on the East side of Wichita. They’ve been at their current location for about a decade and yet we’d never heard of them or thought to try them. That is, of course, until their Groupon offer: take-home teeth whitening that’s regularly $230 for only $69.
I purchased the Groupon last month, but we’d been so busy that I didn’t get to use it until recently. (I had Veterans Day off so I came in on that day, remember? I’d written about it previously.) I was so impressed and had such a wonderful experience that I told Brian about it (followed by telling the rest of you about it through our blog). I told Brian, “I love, love, love Dr. Mendoza but I think we might consider switching dentists. Come with me to my follow up appointment, and you decide.” Brian went with me to my follow up appointment and was just as impressed. He doesn’t look it in the photo, but he was impressed. Trust me.
It doesn’t always work out this way. I mean, I tried Fresh Spa Market and didn’t switch. I still go to Beau Monde and Skin Essentials for facials and Serenity for massages. Groupon will get you new customers for your business, but you have to offer something that is better than your competitors in order to keep them. So why the switch to Wichita Family Dental? Let me give you our top five reasons.
- Reason #5: One-Stop Shop
They do everything from regular dental work to orthodontics to cosmetic dentistry. We wouldn’t have to be referred to another dental office. This works out great because I’m thinking of getting Invisalign next year.
- Reason #4: Hi-Tech Everything
They have very modern equipment like digital x-rays. Every dental station has a computer work station. There’s computer monitors mounted to the wall/ceiling so you can see your x-rays while you’re laying in your chair. They use really cool mouth cameras so you can see your teeth magnified on the screen. They don’t just tell you that there’s a potential issue with your tooth – they show it to you! The office is well on its way to being completely paperless (e.g. they use iPads instead of paper charts). I could go on and on and on. Of course, most people don’t really care about this stuff. However, for a couple of nerds like Brian and me, we think this stuff is awesome!
- Reason #3: Location, Location, Location
Their office is conveniently located within our little comfort zone. They’re so close to our townhouse that I could actually walk there! I know we won’t live in our townhouse forever, but we really like this part of town and will likely stay in the area when we’re ready to be homeowners again.
- Reason #2: Saturday Hours
They’re open every other Saturday so Brian and I will not have to miss work for dental appointments anymore. This is really a plus for me because I hate missing work for any reason.
- And the #1 Reason for the switch: Dr. Begnoche is Hot!
I saw him the first time that I came in. That’s another thing. Everyone seems really friendly. Dr. Begnoche and Dr. Pierson actually both came by and introduced themselves (not at the same time) while I was sitting in the dental chair. Except, Dr. Pierson said his name quickly (or I wasn’t paying attention because my mind was still on Dr. Begnoche and how young and good looking he is) that all I got was Chuck. When Brian came with me to my follow up visit, Dr. Begnoche was at some training for the Galileo (their neat x-ray machine) so Brian didn’t get to meet him. I introduced Dr. Pierson to Brian as Dr. Chuck because that’s all I could remember.
Anyway, I failed to mention the good looking dentist to Brian in my original sales pitch, but he discovered first hand when he went to his dental appointment yesterday. Brian said, “I had a different dentist.” So I asked, “Which one?” He replied, “I don’t know, but he’s cute.” LOL. Dr. Begnoche doesn’t even look old enough to be out of college. He must be like Dorian Gray or something.
Oh, and it didn’t hurt that they were running an iPad promotion on new patient referrals this month. Basically, if you refer a new patient then your name gets entered in a drawing for an iPad. I figured that I would refer Brian. That’s at least one entry. So anyway, this is my word of mouth way of telling you all you should schedule a dental appointment at Wichita Family Dental and tell them that I, Cherrie Brubaker, referred you. I could use a few more raffle entries because with the kind of luck I have, one raffle entry ain’t gonna cut it.
Until next time,
I had the opportunity to attend the Social Media Customer Response Summit held at the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, Arizona a couple of weeks ago. There were several great presenters, namely keynote speaker Robert Lamb (AT&T) who wrote Improving Your Bottom Line Through The Contact Center, Marianne Curran (Go Daddy), John Belanger (Yahoo!), Steve Kaay (US Auto Parts), Keith McArthur (Rogers Communications), Garry Schultz (Sonic/Roxio), John Hernandez (Cisco), Eve Mayer Orsburn (Social Media Delivered), and on and on and on…
Lessons from AT&T’s
Social Media Journey
- be responsive
- be empathetic
- map out processes ahead of time
- know and communicate the necessary commitment
- never rest
- offer a clear means of accessibility
- ask your community for ideas and feedback
- measure twice, cut once (something that Lamb mentioned several times during the presentation)
In his keynote presentation, Robert Lamb shared the potential benefits that businesses stand to gain by engaging in social media: [a] competitive advantage, [b] market with targeted demographics, [c] enhance company image and customer loyalty, and [d] increased customer satisfaction. Lamb also pointed out that only 14% of consumers trust ads, while 78% trust peer recommendations. In today’s society, our peers include our social media connections.
As someone who relies heavily on web reviews and recommendations, I can relate to this. While I wouldn’t consider strangers on a review web site as peers, I will carefully consider web reviews of a product or service I’m buying prior to pulling the trigger. We usually do this as part of our pre-purchase reconnaissance whenever we buy anything, specially electronics items like TVs, cellphones, DVD players, etc. We also did the same thing when we were looking for an apartment earlier this year. We were ready to sign a lease at this new apartment complex in Derby, Kansas (where my parents live) until we read some horrible reviews of the place at Apartmentratings.com. We looked up reviews of two other complexes that made the short list before settling on the place where we currently live. Rent is actually considerably higher here than the two other places we considered, but the rave reviews were the biggest factor in making our final decision. This proved to me how powerful customer recommendations truly are… And now with the increasing ubiquity of social media, the impact of “word of mouth” is significantly amplified. When someone complains on social media, it has a huge impact on the company brand/image — which is exactly why companies can no longer ignore social media.
The second presenter, Marianne Curran, talked about the three main areas of focus: customer service, marketing, and public relations. There is no substitute for real-time human interactions so her advice is to listen and engage, be proactive and timely, and be prompt in your responses. She also shared some of their guidelines at Go Daddy of when not to engage such as when there is nothing actionable, when the comment is simply taunting or baiting, or if legal action is threatened. In these situations, it’s best not to engage in the social media interaction.
Social Media Tools Used by Go Daddy
Social Visibility – for broadcasting messages to multiple social networks
x.co – their URL shortener
CoTweet – for managing tweets
TweetReach – to analyze reach and impact
The interesting part for me is that in visiting with the corporate communications and public affairs rep who handles everything that relates to social media in our organization, I found out that he has established similar guidelines for himself when deciding whether or not to respond to social media mentions. He has actually created a decision tree. This is something that is easy to take for granted, but is important to establish so that there is consistency in how social media interactions are handled.
Curran’s keys to embracing social media are as follows: be open to engaging, respond promptly, know when to listen and when to engage, don’t avoid complaints, and work to turn critics into “super fans.” At Go Daddy they’ve seen an increase in their fans/followers and referred orders and were able to attribute these to their social media endeavors.
Steve Kaay mostly talked about AutoMD, a “comprehensive automotive repair resource designed to empower car owners with the best way to repair their vehicles” that is owned and operated by US Auto Parts. What is brilliant about this do-it-yourself automotive repair portal is that it’s helping to grow the DIY market. Rather than stealing market share from its competitors, US Auto Parts is actually making the pie bigger by educating customers through the AutoMD web site so there’s more than enough for everyone. I think it’s great because their efforts not only benefit consumers, but also their competitors. It reminds me of the “Got Milk?” and “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” and “Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives” campaigns.
Social Media Customer Care Maturity Model
Level 5: Proactive Engagement
- proactive customer care
- proactive sales
- social media business intelligence
Level 4: Social Media Customer Care
- scalable engagement process
- managed process
- work queues
- teams activity reports
Level 3: Social Media Marketing
- social media strategy
- engagement marketing
- brand dashboarding
- minimal customer care involvement
Level 2: Social Media Broadcasting
- facebook page and twitter presence
- broadcast standard marketing via social media
Level 1: Listening (or Ignoring)
- occasional reporting
- reactive/surprised by social media
John Hernandez talked about being able to achieve “proactive engagement,” or what seems to me as the holy grail of social media, where a company is able to provide proactive customer care and harness social media business intelligence. By looking at chatter on your products/services and that of your competitors, you can connect with customers and target real-time opportunities. I think those few companies who have reached Level 5 have considerable strategic advantage over their competitors.
Hernandez also spent some time talking about and demonstrating SocialMiner, Cisco’s robust, scalable social media customer care solution (which you can learn more about by clicking on the link). It looked really cool, but was also a bit pricey. Unless you already use Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise, in which case I think they throw it in for free.
John Belanger talked about the movement toward customer advocacy, which made me think of what US Auto Parts is doing with AutoMD — members of the community answering questions from other members, helping and supporting one another. He shared with us the case of Piper of Love and how Yahoo! handled the situation. Yahoo! has adopted a customer centric view where the value proposition is focused on servicing all of the customers’ (and therefore, the customers’ buy decision dictates who the vendors will collaborate with). They’re using the See : Act : Learn social support models to further their customer advocacy mission.
Keith McArthur showed us this interesting video produced by Rogers Communications. It depicts the human connections empowered by rapid changes in communications technology in Canada and around the world. McArthur shared with us the Rogers social media journey and gave us the ten commandments of engagement:
1. Make it easy for customers to do business with you.
2. Respond to all direct questions within an hour.
3. Don’t replace customer care/support.
4. Try to divert calls from care/support.
5. Take it offline, when possible.
6. Always view the customer profile and recent discussions.
7. Ask yourself, “Will my reply help or make things worse?”
8. Be human — not sales-y or PR/marketing-like.
9. Treat all customers the same, but
10. Don’t feed the trolls!
Besides the ten commandments, McArthur also stressed the importance of transparency.
In talking about social media ROI, Garry Schultz said you have to consider the cost/risk to your organization if you do not take any action. It’s tough to put an exact dollar amount on that. You can talk about system costs, personnel costs, cost per contact of various communications mediums, but in the end fear is the best way to get the attention of company leadership — or so says LinkedInQueen, Eve Mayer Orsburn. We all had a good chuckle about that during the panel discussion, but it’s true.
By the way, Orsburn (author of Social Media for the CEO) recommends the following update frequencies: 7 to 10 times per day for Twitter and 1 to 3 times per day for Facebook. Also, the two largest social networks require different strategies. What works for Twitter won’t necessarily work for Facebook and vice versa.
I could probably go on and on and on about all the little morsels of social media knowledge I picked up at the conference, but I think Brian is ready for bed. Probably the best part of the conference, besides listening to each speaker’s account of their social media journey, is hearing from the other conference attendees and knowing that you’re not alone. Everyone is trying to figure this social media thing out and thinking about how to proceed. Some companies are much further along than others, but we’re all in this together and we can all learn from one another’s experiences and ideas. The sessions were interactive with good participation from the audience. I think that even the speakers learned from the audience and other speakers. It was a great conference and I’m glad that I was able to attend. I think there is another summit planned for spring 2011, though the date and location have not yet been announced. I highly recommend attending.
So sorry about the long blog entry. I promise the next post will have lots of pictures. Good night all!
Until next time,