March 26th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

Google always keeps it fresh, so it’s no surprise that the company is now revising its search algorithm to factor in Web sites’ mobile experiences. Does this finally mean that I won’t get stuck in link-loading purgatory after clicking on the top result in my mobile browser? I certainly hope that’s the case.

So, what does this mean brands that are guilty of having less-than-stellar mobile sites or companies that still refuse to incorporate responsive design into their Web pages? Soon, their pages will be on their way to the bottom of the search results unless they take the steps necessary for revamping their mobile look. But Google isn’t leaving brands that can’t afford expensive Web site overhauls out to dry–the search engine giant is inviting them to take advantage of the Google AdWords Premiere SMB Partner Program and work with partner companies to improve their mobile experiences.

Search Optics, for example, was recently named a Google AdWords partner. The company’s expertise is in paid and organic search, and it’s backed by more than 150 Google-certified employees—more than any other marketing firm in its industry, according to a company spokesperson. And, on average, customers capture more than 50 percent of their leads from mobile shoppers using Search Optics, according to the company. Brands like Ford, Land Rover and BMW rely on Search Optics for automotive and responsive web design, and work with the vendor to launch mobile-first campaigns that promise to be highly ranked by Google. 

“The Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner Program was created to help small- and medium-sized businesses who don’t have time or resources to manage their advertising campaigns,” Ben Wood, head of Google’s Americas channel sales partnerships, said in a company statement. “Our PSP partners like Search Optics offer expertise, experience and end-to-end customer service so business owners can focus on running their business,” he added.

Moving forward, there will be no avoiding an emphasis on mobile experience. A recent study from Duke University revealed some interesting insight on marketing budgets–mobile advertising currently takes up 3.2 percent of marketing budgets but will triple to about 9 percent in the next three years. Google is taking this trend very seriously, and so should brands.

March 23rd, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Those of you who follow this blog might recall my post about JetBlue just a few weeks ago. Well, I guess I’m not the only one who appreciates good snacks and television while he’s in the air. The company made the news recently, ranking as the number one rated airline in Temkin’s 2015 customer experience survey.

The survey drew from 10,000 respondents and asked them to comment on 293 consumer brands across 20 industries, with each participant rating the brands according to three criteria: success (ability to accomplish what they set out to accomplish), effort (how easy it was to accomplish), and emotion (how they feel about the company). Among the airlines, JetBlue scored the highest overall with 75% (70% being “good”, and 80% being “excellent”). It was reported as a great improvement over their score last year, 60%, which landed them in the middle of the table.

I can’t say this surprises me, since as I’ve already written, I think they offer an all-around great experience despite some occasional flaws.  I don’t know how great an indicator this is, but I think they’re the only airline I’ve ever flown with who I sometimes wish I could stay on for longer, just to avoid getting back to real life for an hour or two. I learned today that my colleagues agree, since similar sentiment came up in conversation at the CRM offices today during our weekly meeting (independent of my writings on the topic).

The company stepped up its offerings recently, allowing coast-to-coast flyers the Mint program. I don’t think I’ll be jumping at the opportunity to spend $600 for a ticket just yet, but it’s nice that the option exists. My colleague mentioned that she saw a couple of newlyweds using the service for some privacy during their honeymoon, so I suppose there are practical uses for it.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

2. Southwest Airlines 72%
3. Delta Airlines 69%
4. Alaska Airlines 69%
5. Virgin America 63%
6. American Airlines 57%
7. United Airlines 56%
8. US Airways 55%
9. AirTran Airways 52%
10. Spirit Airlines 47%

It’s worth pointing out that 70% of the companies on this list are not offering passengers a “good” customer experience, with those ranked 3rd or lower scoring 69% or less.

March 19th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

Let’s be honest: apartment hunting is basically hell. Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but after spending the last couple of days looking for apartments in a pretty specific area with a pretty specific budget and a pretty decent number of rentable one-bedrooms, I thought I’d be closer to signing a lease. But I’m not.

So far, I’ve mostly been using the apps Zillow and Naked Apartments to look for options, and I’ve been disappointed by both in different ways. Question number one: why does Zillow even bother having an app? At first I thought it was great because it was really easy to reach out to realtors using the app. All the information was pre-filled, and messaging brokers was literally a two-tap process. But the messages never went out–I didn’t get a single response from any of the realtors I contacted. At first I thought I was getting shunned, but when I tried to reach out to the same folks through Zillow’s Web site, I got responses from agents almost instantly. Long story short, Zillow, there’s something wrong with your app.

The bigger issue with my experience so far, however, has been that none of the apartment listings were updated in real-time. Many that have been rented for weeks now are still claimed to be “available,” and there’s no way to know whether that’s the case until you speak to a realtor. I fell in love with apartment after apartment only to learn, after contacting agents through Naked Apartments’ Web site, that they had already been rented. One agent told me it’s a pain to take listings off the site, and that it sometimes takes too long. Furthermore, he told me that even after certain listings are “taken down,” they sometimes still appear in search results. Annoying, annoying, annoying. Shouldn’t there be a way for the brokers to update this kind of information instantly? Why isn’t there an app that enables them to take an apartment off the market as soon as an application is received? Or better yet, can’t these updates be automated?

There’s a lot of potential for a real-time solution here–one that doesn’t only trigger push notifications when new apartments are listed, but also one that alerts users when an apartment they’ve expressed interest in is no longer available. Until that becomes a reality, real estate apps are only half way there. As for me, I’m going to keep looking and praying that my next apartment viewing doesn’t involve stepping on a cockroach with no shoes on. (The last one did.)

March 13th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

health-insurance1Health insurance providers have had a rough couple of months. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) got off to a bumpy start, customers were uncertain what the changes would mean to them, plan premiums increased in many cases, and then came the Athena Healthcare data breach that potentially exposed the records of 80 million customers, former customers, and employees to hackers.

Through it all, though, member satisfaction with health plans increased significantly, according to the J.D. Power “2015 Member Health Plan Study” released earlier this week. J.D. Power notes that plan administrators have taken a customer-centric approach, which it says accounts for the gains. The approach has helped insurance providers build member trust and loyalty, it concluded.

According to the annual rankings, overall satisfaction with health insurance providers averaged 679 on a 1,000-point scale. That represents a 10-point jump from 2014.

Satisfaction with customer service from these providers climbed 11 points, driven partially by matching communication methods to customer preferences for mobile and text.

What I found significant was the amount of communications that providers receive by mobile apps, and how effective they have been. Satisfaction was 108 points higher among consumers who have contacted providers via mobile app at least once in the past year.

Not surprisingly, consumers under 40 contact their providers via text and mobile app at a higher rate than older consumers. Phone, though, is still the top channel among all consumers.

Also key to the higher scores this year was a growing importance on trust. Among consumers who strongly agreed that their healthcare insurance provides were trusted health partners, satisfaction was 201 points higher. Those same members, who made up 19 percent of the total survey pool, said they were less likely to switch service providers as a result.

But, as J.D. Power points out, healthcare insurers shouldn’t go crazy patting themselves on the back just yet. “There is still a lot of work to do,” Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Health plans need to take a more customer-centric approach and keep their members engaged through regular communications about programs and services available through their plan.”

NoHealthInsuranceIt’s a fair point, but I don’t know how much that plays into it. When I get mail from my insurance carrier about programs and other services, I usually give it a cursory glance before tossing in out. All I want to know from my insurance provider is that when I go to a doctor for a procedure, I’m not going to have to shell out thousands of dollars from my own pocket. And then I also care about how much is coming out of my check every two weeks to pay for it.

My coverage costs went up again this year, so I was rather surprised to read that overall consumer satisfaction with providers on the cost issue went up 13 points. Apparently, fewer consumers reported increases in their premiums this year, and there was an overall decline in out-of-pocket expenses for both individuals and families.

Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones. Maybe that’s why I’m not regularly asked to participate in these kinds of polls.

March 12th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

With the exception of the fact that after hours of fruitless searching, I was still not able to find a Coca-Cola hug machine, this year’s Adobe Summit didn’t disappoint. Executives fired off announcement after announcement during the day one keynote presentation, and updates were being shared so quickly that even the most nimble live-tweeters lost track. But the rest of the conference was solid too–there were plenty of customers on site to vouch for Adobe’s solutions, and many of the vendor’s new partners like Accenture Interactive were around as well to provide context for the companies’ joint efforts. Here are a few of biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s presentations.

1. “Gone are the days when marketers came up with a unique value proposition that could be broadcasted so often and so loudly that it could change behavior. That doesn’t happen anymore. Customer experience has become the brand of your organization, and the gauge for your success. Marketing has been leading this transformation.”
-Brad Rencher, senior vice president at Adobe.

2.”Marketing is on a reinvention journey. More people are connecting to the Internet from something other than a computer. We’re in the era now where the product is the marketing.”
-Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe.

3. “You have to surprise people in this world with new experiences.”
-Lorie Buckingham, chief development officer at Coca Cola.

4. “It’s all about transforming concept into customer experience.”
-Jody Giles, senior vice president of product integration and commercialization at Under Armour.

5. “[The rate of change in] digital marketing is getting crazier, and it’s getting crazier quicker…We are all change agents…We all have the opportunity to inspire change, but this requires taking risks.”
-John Mellor, vice president of business development and strategy at Adobe.

6. “Time is the currency of experience.”
-Todd Copeland, general manager of digital at the National Australia Bank.

7. “In 2011, we had to start thinking about mobile. By 2012, 2013, it was mobile first. Soon it’s going to be mobile only.”
-Rob Roy, head of e-commerce and digital marketing at Time Warner Cable.

8. “[By selling online,] we’ve been able to track cookies like never before.”
-Sarah Gormley, CMO at the Girl Scouts of America.
Side note: Pun intended, I think.

9. “We [couldn’t] pick…point solutions from different providers anymore. We had to invest in a full cloud solution…because for us, it’s all about the integration.”
-Chris Norton, vice president of CRM, loyalty, and business intelligence systems at Starwood hotels.

10. “It’s impossible to get what you want without hard work. Go after the opportunities.”
-Michael Keaton, actor.


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