Tuesday, July 31

Too Much Customer Service?



I was traveling recently in Southeast Asia, a week long trip for a couple of key meetings in the region.  Although I didn't get a chance to stay very long, I did get a taste of the incredible culture and plan to book some extra time on my next trip.

In my travels, though, I did make a strange observation that is so counter to anything I've written in my books that I just had to point it out.  Clearly it's cultural and something that we are just not used to here in the US.  But it did get me asking myself ...

Is there such a thing as too much customer service?


I flew Cathay Pacific airline and stayed at The Mandarin Oriental hotel.  Two travel and hospitality brands known for their outstanding customer service.  Best in class and I experienced it myself.

From the first immediate interaction, everyone addressed me by name and then never stopped.  They checked in with me constantly.  On the airline, they made sure I was feeling ok and had plenty of water.  And they wanted to know why (roundtrip) I wasn't eating very much.  They wanted to know why in case it was because the food was bad or I was not well.


At the hotel, they came around from the desk to greet me, escorted me up to my room, gave me a room tour, and then proceeded to ask me my food choices for room service and news delivery.  When I hesitated a bit, they asked me again.  They wanted to know my preferences!  When I checked out, they literally walked me out the front door to my car and closed the door behind me.

Now I hope that this doesn't sound like American snobbery, but it was almost too much.  Too much customer service.  When I travel, I like to be quiet and alone.  It's a little bit of "me" time in a world where I never get any "me" time.  So I don't like a lot of questions and I don't necessarily like being followed around, as secure as that might sound when in a new location.  Ok I'll say it ... I like a little anonymity.

So is there such a thing as too much customer service?

This is obviously a personal question and one that is partly culturally based.  Clearly the teams at these two companies are trained on personal customer service, much of which comes from their deep heritage as a region and culture.  I honor that and embrace that.  And truthfully I welcome it for the next trip.  It's just a little bit outside of my comfort zone, but truthfully we can never be cared for too much.

Which is exactly why it's so cool to experience the globe, and all of its nuances, all through the various cultures and experiences.

So what do you think?  Is there such a thing as too much customer service ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU

Monday, July 30

2012 Olympics

My favorite visual from the season's marketing
The big news in marketing last week was of course the 2012 Olympics in London.  You couldn't miss it even if you tried, and believe me I tried!  I've been traveling like a Mad Man (!) both around the States and the Globe, and I've been out of the fray for the most part.  Sleeping from plane to plane and running from meeting to meeting.  Such a glamorous life!


So I had to rely on my students from my NYU class this Saturday (it's the summer session) to get me up to speed on Olympics marketing.  So I guess you can say in a way that I am crowd sourcing this post!

The big buzz I suppose was that the Opening Ceremony was a bit of a dud.  Too bad, because I generally find them to be so inspirational since these amateur (ideally) athletes enter the Opening Ceremony as mostly unknowns and then many of them exit the Closing Ceremony as huge "celebrities" achieving greatness beyond compare.  That's inspirational!

In terms of the advertising, nothing seemed to really stand out amongst my students, which I thought was interesting too.  They did make one very astute comment though, which bears repeating.  When comparing the Olympics advertising to the Super Bowl, they noted that Super Bowl advertising is very product centric while Olympics advertising was very emotional.  I think the problem is that it's all the same emotion ... hence nothing stood out.

The students did reference one ad in particular ... from Nike, a brand that is not even a sponsor, who took a very clever approach to "greatness" with an Olympics theme that stretches the "sponsorship" line.


"Greatness isn't reserved for a chosen few!"  Right on!  So perfectly Nike and so perfectly themed and timed for how many people feel this "season."

One sponsored campaign that did stick out at me in my travels was the out of home campaign from United Airlines, the official airline of the US team.  The line "Before they move us, we move them," is just so cleverly written and had stunning photography to boot.  Made for great visual stimulation as I moved from venue to venue myself.  Make me want to go to the hotel gym when I got in each day.

I love the Olympics season.  I love the spirit and the camaraderie and the marketing.  This year I won't be able to participate as much as in prior years, but it's still fun to be a part of it in route.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU

Wednesday, July 18

The Ivy in LA

The Ivy in LA


I'm a big time foodie ... not the chef kind, the restaurant kind.  I love going to restaurants.  To me, restaurants are the epitome of the brand experience.  In fact, I chronicled the journey of one of my favorite restaurant brand experiences in my first book, and to this day it is my most asked question!  "Where is that Italian restaurant?"

I have my favorite restaurants in all my favorite places.  This little Italian place in NY.  Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, NY.  Boulevard in San Francisco.  Barton G in Miami Beach.  The Apartment in Paris.  And of course ... The Ivy in LA.

Every time I go to LA I have to go to The Ivy ... just ask my colleagues in our office there.  It's fabulous.  Always consistent, always amazing, and always an incredible brand experience.

But what makes The Ivy so The Ivy is that it's The Ivy.  Irreplaceable, like any amazing brand.  The food, the flowers, the dishes (I bought a set for my home), the wait staff ... all amazing and all very Robertson LA.

The funny thing is, though, that I decided to go to The Ivy in Santa Monica, just a few short miles away at the beach.  I figured that if The Ivy LA is awesome, then The Ivy Santa Monica must be too.  Not so much.

The Ivy Santa Monica
I have to say, that I really didn't like it.  Same food, same dishes, same wait staff ... but just not The Ivy.  No white picket fence, no cars driving up, no outdoor space with umbrellas.  I can't really put my finger on it, but it just wasn't on brand for me.  Oh, but I'll go back ... to The Ivy in LA.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America (including LA)
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU