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Social media participants give Wal-Mart their 5-cents

It's a Wal-Mart world

I’ve said for a while now that ’social media’ (or all types of platforms) may not be right for your company without serious planning and effort. That doesn’t mean it may not be right for your customers, it is what they want it to be, but for some brands it doesn’t make sense to jump in and experiment. Wal-Mart for example.

People claim that Wal-Mart has a horrible record for labour practices and predatory pricing. Is it any wonder then that their journey into social media via Facebook was met with exactly the kind of conversation the company can’t afford? The kind of conversation that is now morphing into adding pictures like the one featured above to Wal-Mart’s group and veering into turning their marketing initiative into an activist group against them.

Of course Wal-Mart went into PR mode and released this statement:

“We recognize that we are facilitating a live conversation, and we know that in any conversation, especially one happening online, there will be both supporters and detractors,” she wrote. “We’re happy that so many of our customers are talking on Facebook about why they like Wal-Mart. Most of all, we’re glad that soon-to-be roommates are using our site to come together and make choices about their dorm rooms.”

Unfortunately the only thing missing from this statement is an acknowledgment that they should be participating in a live conversation, not just facilitating. They aren’t Facebook, they are using Facebook. And of course, most of the over 150 comments at this point are not talking about how much they like Wal-Mart.

‘Analysts’ may praise the endeavour and claim it will most likely increase sales. Perhaps. More likely is that customers, or potential customers, will find out more about Wal-Mart than they would like them to… and tell their friends. They’ll increase the activism against them in the long-term even if sales spike softly in the short-term. That’s the power of word of mouth, for good and for ill.

Personally, if I was parodied on The Simpsons for exactly these issues I’d probably stick to traditional broadcast media if I didn’t plan on changing my business model without a fight or actually listening and engaging with the public.

Does the three strikes rule apply in Web 2.0?

H/T – Kevin for the point to the Slashdot story

[photo credit: Dave Haack on Facebook - Wal-Mart Roommate Style Match group]

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It’s the little things ~ v1

The birth of water

As I’ve been not enjoying the hot, humid summer as much as I should as I’ve been slammed with work, pitches and personal life, I’ve been noticing the little things that make an experience a good one vs. one that makes you cringe. Since I’ve had such a hard time getting back into the swing of posting (it isn’t for lack of things to talk about… just too much writing for business and the words just don’t flow as easily as they did a couple of months ago), I thought a good way to get things re-started is a regular feature on the little things that make a difference in the way you experience a brand, company, or product – whatever that may be, good or bad.

As the old adage goes: the devil’s in the details… how much are you paying attention to the details that matter to your customers?

To start things off for this inaugural post I have two interactions to share, one offline and one online. The ‘little things’ that made a difference featuring Chapters Indigo and Lush:

Offline -

  • Walking into a Lush location is like a mini holiday. The sights and scents are overwhelming, but in a way that produces glee. A Lush store is like a candy shop for grown ups. Although wildly successful around the world, your experience is distinctly unique. What sets Lush apart in my mind is how their employees are encouraged to use the products, even at work. The woman who rang me up on Friday did so while wearing a fresh face mask. A bit weird, sure, but it’s a damn good endorsement of the product that is literally in my face. Each time I go into the store I find out something new: a new idea for mixing two bath products together, how two products combine to form the ultimate pedicure mixture, to why they had to change the format of my favourite product because of the way the fresh ingredients adhered to each other. They also give away stuff… a lot. I don’t know the last time I walked out of a store without a sample of a product or an actual product because of their on-going promotions. Sampling has always worked in retail and Lush has it down to a science. I can’t possibly use all of the samples I get because I just bought all the products I need. So I pass them on and my circle of influence gets to experience Lush products… and become customers. I also can’t tell you how many times I bought a product just because one of the sales reps handed it to me and told me to smell it based on the other products they saw me looking at. They have the details down.

Online -

  • First there was Amazon… I used to shop at Amazon.com when I lived in the States. Moving back to Canada was an unwelcome jolt of reality in terms of e-commerce and our bricks and mortars. Back in the day there were none and paying duty for shipments from the U.S. was not fun. Slowly but surely that tide is shifting and now I can even shop Canadian Tire online (next week’s “little things” post :) )! Now Chapters Indigo does everything for me Amazon used to, with the exception of recommendations, although Amazon’s system is far from perfect. I buy a lot of books. Business books, history, politics, and mystery. I’m an iRewards member and the fee pays for itself each year, no worries. I’ve never had a shipping or ordering issue with them before so the details weren’t on my radar. Until this last order where they got one thing very right and one thing very wrong. I ordered about 15 books a couple of weeks ago and they all shipped out fine and dandy. Except for one. It didn’t ship at all; just sat there all by itself in my order history saying “awaiting shipment” for a couple of weeks even though their system indicated all books would arrive by a date that was now long past. It was in stock when I bought it so what was the issue, and why did I receive not one update from Chapters as to the status? Finally I decided to contact them about it. This is where the customer service details kicked into high gear and what I received back was excellent. They explained the problem and after a brief correspondence with an actual person they placed a replacement order for me and shipped it out without additional charge. They didn’t make me cancel and then order a different copy of the book, they just handled it. Quickly (well, once I contacted them), painlessly, and with a virtual smile.

To me, details mean everything. If you know me in real life you’ll know that I never get lost in the weeds, but I know how many there are in the garden. I can be a real pain about it sometimes because I feel they are so fundamentally important and form the foundation of any business or interaction. To get them nailed you have to put yourself directly in the others shoes and care about the experience. It’s just that significant of a cornerstone in my books.

In our age of instant feedback loops, short attention spans, and CHOICES, sometimes the little details can make an experience extraordinary; or as Godin says – what’s your purple cow? Sometimes it can be as simple as making a routine interaction painless for the end user.

Do you have any exceptional experiences with details to share? I’d love to end up compiling the posts into a list of companies that ‘get it’ after a few months, so please share if you’ve got tales to tell!

[Photo credit: Pisco Bandito on Flickr]

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