Timeless Truth #10: It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know

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Timeless Truth #10: It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know
Timeless Truth #10: It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know

A few years ago Netflix closed my family's account. I inquired as to why. Netflix said that we hadn't returned a Disney Princess DVD. I checked with my then six-year-old daughter Ava. She insisted that she put the DVD in the mailbox. I sided with Ava and called Netflix back. I was ready for an argument. I stated firmly that we returned the DVD. I was sure that Netflix would say that if I paid $79.99, it would gladly reinstate my account. But that's not what happened.

The Netflix customer service representative checked my records quickly and responded, “Mr. Kimmel, it looks like you've been a good customer. These things happen. We will reinstate your account immediately." Netflix didn't interrogate me.  It didn't argue with me. It didn't ask for any money. I was pleasantly surprised. Smartly, Netflix followed that old marketing adage, “Do something remarkable that people will remark about”—and here I am remarking about Netflix.

Netflix is a Big Data company. It leverages cutting-edge technology. Yet for me—and many like me—it was Netflix's understanding of me as a customer that really mattered.

Today companies can leverage Big Data, capitalize on machine learning, deploy progressive customer engagement technologies, and live mobile first. But just like years ago, companies that want to last need to live “customer first.”

To me, this means taking many large and small actions:

Know me in the call center, on the website, and in person (where possible). I like it when Apple answers the phone, “Hello, Lawrence. How can we help you?”—even though it's an automated voice.

Listen to me in aggregate via social listening and individually. I appreciate being asked via live chat, “Can I help you?” when I'm obviously having trouble on a company website.

Remember me, including my name, address, preferences, and credit card information if I allow it. I like it when the Levi's website remembers the item I was considering when I had to abandon my shopping cart and come back another day. I love it that I don't have to give my credit card to the driver when I exit my Uber (car service) vehicle. 

Appreciate me when I shop, buy, and return. I appreciate that American Airlines gave me TSA status without me asking, which lets me zip though airports with my shoes on and my computer safely tucked away. I like that the Hyatt gave me a free adjoining room when my wife, two kids, and I were all crammed into one hotel room.

Empower those that deal with me. Empower employees on the phone, on the retail floor, and on your site. I appreciated that the drug store clerk let me in at 10:05 p.m. when the store closed at 10 p.m.  I love that the Netflix customer service representative didn't have to escalate our conversation to a supervisor when I called to complain that the company cancelled my account.

Every company worth its salt has brand advocates. Our job as marketers is to turn advocates into evangelists.  Like I said, “It's not what you know, it's who you know.” Hopefully what you know now is how important who you know is.

Lawrence M. Kimmel is executive director of hawkeye and a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences around the world. Follow him @KimmelsCorner.
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