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    Published on: July 18, 2013

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    Over the past few months, I've used this space to talk from time to time about customer service experiences that I've found wanting while dealing with companies like Timex and Rosina's Meatballs. The point has been to illustrate both where gaps in customer service can occur, and how, when dealing with one customer, your efforts often can be communicated to thousands, or more.

    Today, I'd like to talk about a transcendent customer service experience I've had while here in Portland.

    It took place at the Willamette Valley Vineyard, where we went one afternoon for a tour and wine tasting. Now, I'm a member of the wine club there, so I get shipments with some frequency. When I got to the Vineyard, they knew that I was already a customer ... it wasn't like they had to start from scratch to sell me.

    But I have to tell you ... the person who greeted us, and who spent well over two hours with us, was a young woman named Wende Bennette. On her card, it says she is a wine "ambassador." And that's not just some sort of affectation (like, say, "Content Guy.") She really is an ambassador ... not just for the wines, about which she was extremely knowledgeable ... but also for the brand experience as a whole.

    One of the things that Wende suggested, in looking at my history as a wine club member, was that she could save us money on shipping by moving from six to two shipments a year, and that she'd actually like to start customizing those two shipments so we'd get what we like and need, and not just the standard offerings to wine club members. And she did it all with a verve and personality that kept us laughing and engaged for the entire time, even arranging for Daniel Shepherd, the assistant winemaker, to come over and visit us and bring some straight-from-the-barrel wine that was getting close to being bottled. The afternoon was magical.

    Now, I'm not under any delusions here. We got this treatment because we were paying, regular customers. (I don't think she knew anything about MNB.) I fully anticipate that as a result of this visit, I'm to end up spending more money and buying more Willamette Valley Vineyard wines.

    But that's okay. In fact, it's the point.

    Sure, a vineyard is a somewhat rarefied experience compared to the average retail store. But what is precisely the same is the enormous role that an engaged ambassador for the brand - it can be a department manager, or a checkout person, or the person stocking shelves - can play in creating a connection, creating loyalty, and establishing a bond that is sustainable over the long term.

    That's what Wende Bennette did. It was one of the best customer experiences I've ever had.

    Funny thing ... the other day I was on the phone with Delta Airlines trying to make a ticket change, and I agreed to take the automated survey at the end. I was glad I did, because the person who helped me was terrific.

    But the last question they asked caught me by surprise. And on reflection, it was exactly the right question: "If you had a company or business, did you think enough of the customer service representative that you dealt with that you would hire them?"

    Great question.

    In the case of Wende Bennette, the answer is a resounding "yes."

    That's what companies should aim for. Hire the right people. Empower them. Create effective brand ambassadors. And then watch them soar, and generate all sorts of new business.

    Anyway, that's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    Drug store chains CVS and Walgreen, as well as c-store chain Tedeschi Food Shops, based in the Boston area, have refused to carry the new issue of Rolling Stone which features accused Boston Marathon bomber Jahar Tsarnaev on the cover. The reason: the cover photo has been seen by many as making the accused terrorist look like a rock star.

    In explaining its decision, CVS said: "CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect ... As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones."

    On its Facebook page, Tedeschi posed the following statement: "Music and terrorism don't mix!"

    Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out, with his brother, two separate bombings during the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 260. The brother was killed before being apprehended. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges related to the bombing.

    Advertising Age makes the point in its story about the controversy that the picture - a "selfie" that Tsarnaev took on his smart phone and used as his picture on social media sites- has been used before, by the New York Times, but in a different context. The NYT notes that "the cover of Rolling Stone has long been a sign for rock stars, celebrities and even politicians that they have arrived, and the sight of the bombing suspect receiving similar treatment has provoked strong reaction."
    KC's View:
    There is no question that the Rolling Stone cover does have an air of celebrity about it. I'd like to think that this was unintentional, but I think they should have thought it through more and considered the broader message they were sending. Looking at it, one has to wonder if anyone in the magazine's offices raised a hand and said, "Excuse me, but could we think about this one more time?" (The cynical part of me thinks that maybe the magazine is enjoying the controversy ... but I hope that's not the case.)

    When Rolling Stone commented on the controversy, it defended the cover, saying, “The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens." Pressed by USA Today, the magazine said that "the outcry is reminiscent of another polarizing cover, more than 40 years ago, on cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson."

    Probably not the comparison I would have gone for.

    At this point, there's nothing that Rolling Stone can do about the controversy, short of trying to get next month's edition out a little early. The magazine is out there, and the controversy is going to simmer until it doesn't.

    It will have to live with the reaction. The Ad Age story makes clear that social media has been alive with negative comments about the cover, with my favorite being the one that suggested the magazine would have been better served putting a victim or victims on the cover. A sentiment with which I heartily agree.

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    Advertising Age reports that Chobani, the Greek yogurt company, is under pressure from activists to stop labeling its products as "real" and "natural," because it uses milk from cows that are given feed made with genetically modified ingredients.

    Chobani's official response: "GMO is complex and weighs on the balance of our commitments, particularly affordability, as non-GMO ingredients are fewer and more costly. We are in the infancy of exploring how we as a company, together with our suppliers, will navigate this important issue. We have never made claims that our products are GMO-free."

    The pressure on Chobani marks a new front in the anti-GMO war. Until now, most of the attention has fallen on CPG companies, with activists calling for mandatory labeling of products containing GMOs. Opponents, however, say that products made with GMOs are the same as those without them, and that labeling would frighten consumers and raise costs.
    KC's View:
    I'm not sure what's wrong with labeling Chobani products as "real." I mean, as opposed to what?

    Once again, this story points to the need for transparency and for having clear, unambiguous rules about what things can be called. I do give props to Chobani for taking the objections seriously, and appearing to be willing to deliberate about what is right and wrong.

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    • In the UK, Retail Week reports that Tesco is preparing to introduce a fresh foods-focused ad campaign that will cut across numerous media. The initiative is being launched in the hope of undoing the damage to its reputation that was done during the horse meat scandal of several months ago, in which a number of retailers - including Tesco - were found to be selling beef products that contained horse meat.
    KC's View:
    Of course, it'll be interesting to find out how many people, while watching the ads, stop eating their Tesco lasagne and feel compelled to stomp their feet and whinny.

    Published on: July 18, 2013 and Forrester Research are out with a new study saying that retailers are investing in email and paid search as top priorities as they look to capitalize on the growth of mobile traffic. The investments are being driven by the fact that retailers say that, on average, 28 percent of emails sent to customers are first opened on a smartphone; the stakes are higher for small retailers who say that on average 42 percent of their emails are first opened on a smartphone.

    According to the study, "Nearly nine in 10 (87%) online retailers surveyed either already have implemented or are planning to implement mobile email optimization in 2013, and seven in 10 will optimize paid search for smartphones and tablets (71% and 73%, respectively)."
    KC's View:
    It isn't hard to imagine that we're quickly getting to the point where a much larger percentage of emails get opened on smartphones. Which is why retailers have to start building the relevant infrastructure now.

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    A new report from The NPD Group says that "home meal replacements or prepared foods from supermarkets, drug stores, and other retail outlets will continue to capture share of the meal/snacks market by stealing visits from restaurants," and that NPD’s recent foodservice forecast through 2022 "indicates that instances of prepared food purchased at retailers for at-home consumption will increase by ten percent over the next decade compared to a four percent increase forecast for commercial foodservice traffic."

    The growth seems to cut across generations, though for different reasons, the study says: "Adults 35 years and older are more likely than 18-34 year olds to use prepared foods from retail to meet their in-home supper needs.  Lunch-at-home interests are also met by these retailers, especially for seniors (65+).  Consumers 18-24 are more inclined than others to make purchases from these retail outlets to satisfy their interest in afternoon or evening snacks."

    And: "In terms of prepared foods purchased, younger adults are more likely than those older to purchase pizza, hot dogs, and burgers to eat at home.  Consumers 50+ years are interested in purchasing both fried and non-fried chicken. Younger adults are more inclined to order non-fried chicken than fried chicken. The home meal replacement entrees purchased most frequently from retail outlets include chicken, pizza, and macaroni and cheese.  Sandwiches are also popular take-home items."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    • In Canada, the Financial Post reports that Jean Coutu Group plans to sell its 7.2 stake in Rite Aid, the US chain drug store company. Two years ago, it owned 28 percent of Rite Aid, but has been steadily divesting its ownership.

    The question, according to the story, is what Jean Coutu will do with the money - estimates are that it will have close to $500 million in the bank, and no debt.

    Reuters reports that Nelson Peltz, a man usually referred to as an "activist shareholder," is calling for PepsiCo to acquire Mondelez International in order to "create a snack food powerhouse selling everything from chocolate to chips."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    I get requests from time to time, when I'm traveling, to offer a time when interested MNB readers can get together to have a beer or a glass of wine. I've always found these evenings to be tremendously rewarding, because I'm able to put faces and voices to the names of readers with which I have become familiar.

    So, since I'm in the Pacific Northwest for the month, I thought I'd schedule just such an evening in Seattle - on Friday, July 26, from 5-7 pm, at Etta's, located at 2020 Western Ave. I'll be at the bar, almost certainly enjoying a glass of wine while chatting with Morgan, my favorite bartender, and I hope to see you there.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2013

    ...will return.
    KC's View: