What Was “Old, Stale, and so 1990s” Is New Again!

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
February 24, 2015

The roar from our members had finally reached a crescendo that it was time to do something. I find Inaction under the guise of “not enough time” could no longer be an excuse.

And so it goes for

The “Ah-hah” Moment

Over the last two years I have received comments about our website. Comments such as: “The site looks old”, “you need to be mobile friendly”, “stale”, “so 1990’s” to name just a few. BUT we were busy, did not have enough time and really could not deal with it at the time. (A bit short sighted)

The “ah-hah” moment came when one of our members called me and flat out told me she was frustrated with the site and would not recommend any of her colleagues or friends to visit the site.

That simple phone call hit home. When your own member would not recommend your site your credibility is called into play and the logical assumption is you are not acting in the best interest of your members, whether intentional or not.

“For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.” Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs”

Your Website Is the Face of Your Company

A company website is many times the “first impression” one will have of your company. Since many people opt first to go to a company website to get information your website design needs to meet their needs. (Not yours) If the design of your website is unappealing, information is not readily available or hard to find, you most likely will lose a potential customer (or member).

• According to business2business community: (46%) of people say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining the credibility of a company.

• “94% of people cited web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website.” –

Getting it Done

Like any project you have to commit, come up with a plan, allocate resources and execute. An organization must also realize its limitations and sometimes look outside for a solution.

That is what we did. We committed and incorporated outside resources into the plan. Turning things over is a difficult thing for most organizations but looking back me getting out of the way was the best thing that could have happened.

Our Marketing Coordinator was tasked with getting it done. He worked with Deborah Corn of Print Media Center, who coordinated the project with our web designer, Elementary Digital.

A Statement of Work was created, reviewed and agreed to. Work began and as much as I would like to take you through the process, I received occasional updates and assurances things were going well, and continued to stay off to the side.

The site was launched last week, they still are doing a bit of tweaking, but I feel Xplor has arrived and our “face” to the industry is new, fresh, intuitive and serves our membership.

Things to Think About

• Listen to your customers, they know what they want (and what they don’t)
• No excuses, short-term savings equals long term loss. Commit.
• Get people involved that do it for a living, you don’t have to do it all
• Spend time on the Statement of Work. What the end product will be.
• Do your homework, there are a lot of web designers. They are not all created equal.
• Do it … and enjoy the results

Your plan needs to be forward thinking and include not only viewing on a PC but tablets and mobile devices.

“Only 22% of marketers say they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to responsive design. 29% say they have “average” experience level, 23% say they’re behind the times, and 4% say they’re hopeless. (Source: eMarketer)”

Special Thanks to Deborah Corn at PrintMediaCentr, Andy Holland of Elementary Digital, and Chad Henk of Xplor for making what was old, new again.

And a big thank you to you for stopping by! We would love to hear your comments on the new site! Sound away!

Dear Occupant, We Are Raising The Bar!

If you are old enough to remember receiving direct mail addressed to “Dear Occupant,” you will certainly remember the astonishment and wonder when you received your first piece of “personalized mail” – Dear (insert your name here).
Over time the level of text personalization increased to include things like the company you worked for, the city you lived in, etc., and we all felt connected in some way. We were not just an “occupant” but an individual.

That was the late 80‘s, early 90’s if I recall correctly.

Today, receive a piece of personalized mail and you are typically less than impressed. In fact, you probably may even ignore it unless it is something out of the ordinary, like your name spelled in the sand on a beach, or in the clouds against a blue sky. There is still a WOW factor to the innovative use of personalization. However personalization and the WOW factor have to be relevant. A catchy piece, plus a good offer to the right person, equals a winner for the Brand.

In 1999 Harry Quadracci of Quad Graphics wrote, “We are in the Age of Advertising. Baby Boomers, now in their peak spending years, have a lot of buying power, and there’s going to be a lot of advertising to get that dollar. The best way to harness that buying power will be through properly promoting the brand… and the most effective media for brand promotion will continue to be ink on paper. It’s The Brand, Stupid, it’s The Brand!”

Mr.Quadracci was right in 1999 and remains so today, “it is the brand” and the decision makers of the brands who require results. Sending out 100,000 pieces of direct mail to “Dear (insert your name here), hoping 2-3% produce results is no longer what the brands are looking for or need. Sending out 50,000 innovative pieces, to the right people with the right offer drives double digit results. If you are a printer I am not saying you need to be a “marketeer” – but you do need to understand what your customers may ask you to print. (Everyone familiar with augmented reality?)

So as a printer, what is interactive print? (I personally believe it could be the Renaissance of direct mail) What do the brands need? How can you be part of the opportunity?

There is a great deal of opportunity for those who get it. To get it you need to reach out to different places and spheres of influences.

I invite you to add Xplor to your sphere of influences and join us for Xploration 14, March 25-27th in Orlando Florida.


Are We Sacrificing Sales For Convenience?

A Mobile App or The Hot Dog Guy

One of the big joys in my life is attending sporting events whether it  baseball, football, hockey, arena football. There are some things I love and I hate about the experience.

Baseball• I LOVE to sit in the stands, do the wave, eat a hot dog and drink a beer
• I HATE to have to get up and stand in line for a hotdog and a beer
• I LOVE to sit in my seat and buy a hotdog and beer from one of the vendors
• I HATE when they pass my hotdog down the row and 10 people have their hands on it
• I LOVE not getting out of my seat, so I get over it them passing my hot dog

Throw the Hot Dog Guy Out

What if you had a mobile app that allowed you to sit in your seat key in your section and seat number and order whatever you want and it will be delivered to you right where you sit?  Payment is automatic, including the tip and posted to your account. No fuss no muss.

You don’t have to wait for a vendor to come by to remind you that you need another beverage or that your daughter wants cotton candy.

Would you download such an app? Well it’s currently being tested at Yankee Stadium in New York in Section 130 and is also being used in stadiums in Ireland and Australia. It seems just a matter of time to invade the US sports scene unless fans reject it …. which we should.  Click here to check out the whole story

Enough is Enough!

I know I said I hated to get up and stand in line but that is why they have the hot dog and beer vendors. These folks are going to lose their job. And what about the cotton candy guy making me look like a hero when she says “Daddy can I have some cotton candy, pleeeeaaaasseee” and she gives me a kiss on the cheek.

What are the owners thinking? How would I know I needed that second beverage, that bag of peanuts or a second hotdog if those wonderful vendors did not remind.

In my mind they are making a mistake and are going to lose money.  Am I going to download the app? I don’t think so. Are you?

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Addressing The Address Issue

No Address …. Really?

After coming back from Print13 I began my “post-tradeshow/event” ritual. It is the same for every trip I make:

  1. I go through everything gathering every scrap of paper whether it be business cards, receipts, brochures, etc. from my five day trip.
  2. I sort expense receipts by day, business cards with and without notes, notes from meetings and information that I want to read and review.
  3. Do my expenses
  4. Follow up on any action items I may have noted on business cards.
  5. Pass along business cards to be put in my database
  6. Follow up on any notes I have taken
  7. WRITE personal notes to people I met

I know personal notes are a dying tradition but I really think they are powerful and but I am starting to understand why fewer people write them.

I collected 31 cards from 16 different companies of which 12 individuals from six companies did not have a mailing address on their business card. That is 37% roughly of the companies.

Why do people do this? Do they save that much space?  So I go to their website and 4 of the 6 companies do not have their address under the “contact us” tab.

I sent them an email, requested their address and mailed them the note despite their best effort.

Can anyone tell me why you would not have your address on your business card or certainly some place obvious on your website?

The Future of Credit Cards …. Really!

I recently read an article on “The Future of Credit Cards” published as a result of a conference devoted to travel and credit card rewards.  Executives from Chase, Barclaycard, US Bank, Capital One and American Express were on hand to share their views on the future of credit cards.

My expectation was that they would simply predict the demise of the physical credit card, as mobile technology certainly can replace it almost instantaneously. In one of my February posts entitled “Remember Your Smartphone, Forget Your Wallet”, I addressed this.

However, these execs went beyond the boundaries of simply replacing the physical card. For many, these discussions are not an “epiphany,” individually you may be familiar with some if not all of their talking points. For others, who assume the evolution of technology, they make perfect sense and you ask yourself, “what is the big deal?”

The fact that banks are talking about this collectively is a big deal.

  • Big Data – One of the new buzz words certainly familiar within our community. We talk about it in webcasts and conference sessions but what was interesting in the article is the discussion of leveraging that data across multiple vendors. Can a free Subway drink at your local Walmart be in your future?  (Only makes sense if your Walmart has a Subway)
  • Mobile – Once again not a new concept, but providing realtime “offers” to cardmembers utilizing location and spending data. My wife would love to get a 20% off coupon while standing outside Justice with my daughter.
  • Budgeting Tool/Spend Smarter – This one seemed counter intuitive to me based on the concept of the credit card and habits of some people in using one.

Banks hope to offer cardholders not just deals and offers, but information to help manage spending  offering information to consumers about how they spend and how to spend smarter. This should be interesting to watch.

  • Unbanked/Underbanked – At the conference it was reported that 8.2% of the people did not have a checking or savings account and were referred to as “unbanked.” They also referred to the “underbanked” as people who have a checking or savings account, but use non-bank means of credit, like payday loans. This group represents 20+% of the population and growing.

AMEX partnered with Walmart on the BlueBird prepaid card looking to the next generation who may not want a bank account. As mentioned in the article, it remains to be seen but the next generation might find bank accounts as relevant as land lines, compact discs, and print publications.

  • Less Junk Mail / More Social Media – Note was made that credit card marketing is changing. No surprise here. Rising costs of traditional mail coupled with the communication preferences of the next generation makes this a bit of a no brainer. Barclaycard was noted as leading the way in integrating social media with its credit card products by introducing the Ring card .

David Gold, General Manger of Partnerships for Chase Card Services noted that he wakes up every day worried about what will be written online about his products by bloggers who focus on how many cents they can get out of each point. Certainly something we need to watch today.

What does it mean for the stakeholders?

As a customer:  Some of it sounds pretty good and high tech. Who wouldn’t want great relevant offers, discounts and ways to spend your money smarter?

The credit card company: higher customer retention, decreased costs, increased revenue and more accounts.

As a vendor: Opportunity! These companies will need consultants, software and hardware to implement these changes.

Will be fun to look back on this in a few years.

To read the whole article go to:

Love Them or Hate Them, They Can Make or Break Your Business

Over the last several weeks I seem to have run into a barrage of good and bad customer service experiences. One, being a personal experience and a couple other examples involving an airline and a toy company.

(This kind of sounds like the making of a good joke: Once upon a time there was a digital document guy, a baggage handler and a toy maker. I digress, sorry)

Being a Customer Service Representative has to be one of the most difficult jobs that there is. No one calls to say “everything is great” and CSR’s have guidelines that they have to stick to. But can those across the board guidelines, hurt your company.

I am going to make these brief and change the names of the companies to protect their identities.

The Digital Document Guy …. I ordered a PC from SamsClubski’s. Received notification that the order was processed, then cancelled. After spending an hour on the phone, the customer service rep (and supervisor) said there was nothing she could do, as I got one digit wrong on my credit card and it had been more than three hours. The order was cancelled. BUT I could re-order at the higher price if I like. Thanks. (BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE)

Got ticked off, cancelled the order and bought a PC from BestBuy for $150 more. Got angrier, called back and spent 20 minutes trying to get an address to send a letter, vowing never to order from SamsClubski’s again. Sent a letter, received a call from a VP at headquarters and promptly had a credit issued for the difference of what I paid at BestBuy and the sale price at SamsClubski’s.  (GOOD RECOVERY) I may buy from there again.

The Baggage Handler …. Guy is travelling with his $10,000 1965 Gibson ES-335 vintage guitar. He asked Deltoids Airline to carry the guitar on the plane but was denied. After landing in Detroit, the case carrying his guitar became lodged between the mobile service elevator and a rail on the loading dock. The guitar was smashed and sustained almost $2000 in damage. Airline offered him $1000, which her refused, Yahoo published the story, Deltoids apologized and they paid the $2000 to fix the guitar and gave him two free airline tickets. (Isn’t that what they did for the Triumph passengers?) (BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE)

Meanwhile, Gibson contacted the guitar owner, offering repairs on the damaged 1965 ES-335 as well as a brand-new 50th anniversary reissue of a 1963 Gibson ES-335, free of charge. (GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE)

The ToyMaker:  A 7 year old boy does not listen to his father and takes his new Gego toy to the store and loses it. The little boy was so upset about the loss of his new toy that he decided to write a letter to the company explaining his misfortune. (The letter and reply from Gego are worth a read for any parent:

The 7-year-old was shocked when a reply letter came in the mail offering not only to replace the toy but extra goodies for being honest. (GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE)

The moral of the story ….

Customer Service IS the face of your company. They drive your corporate culture and are the front line to your customers. Sometimes customer service reps have to work by guidelines and rules but maybe those rules are a bit ridiculous. (Remember, “it has been more than three hours and we can’t change your order.”)

Some companies rise above it. I can’t imagine Gibson had a rule to fix a guitar and send a second one for free. Or Lego (oops that slipped) sending the lost toy for free along with additional goodies.

These companies obviously empower their people and allow them to humanize their interaction. The cost to these companies was minimal for securing two customers for life. PLUS Gibson and Lego received a great amount of good publicity as the stories were reported. (Deltoids not so much).

My advice, empower your people to do the right things and set the rule book aside when you should.

Any interesting Customer Service stories?